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Hugh Grant’s War Against the British Media

Caitlin Hoyland

Emphasising his longstanding campaign against irresponsible and unscrupulous and aggressive tactics practised by British tabloid press, actor Hugh Grant expressed his outrage on US show, The View. In 2011, Grant took the Murdoch-owned popular tabloid, The Sun, to court after suspecting them to have broken into his flat in order to obtain insights into his private life. 

Grant is not the only celebrity to speak out against British Media – think, for example, the Duke of Sussex, whose childhood and adulthood have been altered by British media invading his, and his loved ones, privacy.   

However what is particularly interesting in listening to Grant’s recent polemic against British Media, is that he accosted the undisputed power of media moguls in influencing everyday British politics. That is, not only has the media proven to have impunity in invading celebrities’ privacy to obtain sensational headlines, but certain outlets also have the capacity to capture the political class and harbour political influence for their own gains.   

Good media is essential for democracy. Good media should cultivate trust with its audience, providing credible facts and information whilst leaving space for the audience to apply their own knowledges, experiences and critical reasoning to form their own opinions and responses.

Britain’s media falls far short of this. 

In a recent survey with twenty-four countries, Britain ranked second lowest for trust in the media. Quite abysmal for a country that likes to present itself as a beacon of democracy, really. 

Instead of good media practice, British tabloids habitually use divisive and hateful rhetoric predominantly to mislead and exploit economically and socially insecure members of the population and exacerbate social tensions in Britain. Going together with this practice of public deception is the systemic aversion and suppression of critical thought amongst the majority of the UK population. 

The state education system in Britain quashes critical thought. Its reverence for science and disapproval of the arts fosters a culture of passive acceptance of facts rather than a creative inquisitiveness. Furthermore, the organisation of labour for the working class in Britain steals the wealth, time and energy of workers leaving little money, time, and energy for working people to critically engage with the material published in the media. 

This is how false, sensational headlines spouting oppressive rhetoric get taken as fact.   

As noted by Grant, no more so can this poor practice be found in the media outlets owned by Rupert Murdoch. 

Murdoch is an Australian-born multi-billionaire and notorious - but unpunished - tax avoider, who has successfully built a global media empire that has worldwide political capture. Through his company, News Corp, Murdoch is at the helm of a toxic matrix of media outlets including in the UK The Sun and The Times, and in the US, Fox News, The Wall Street Journal and the New York Post.  

Whereas some newspaper outlets have turned to using paywalls to keep afloat, billionaire-owned outlets can afford to account for losses so long as their media outlets retain their influence over the general public. In a transformation akin to Frankenstein’s Monster, media in the UK no longer serves to apolitically inform the public. Instead, it has leveraged and enabled media moguls to buy political capture and use this for their own gains, to live above the law, escape repercussions for tax evasion, and to secure their power for the foreseeable.  

Because of this power, these tabloids can wantonly make or break the public perception of the character of not only celebrities like Hugh Grant but politicians too. Think of the media campaign carried out against former Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn. The obloquy of Corbyn in the mainstream media is a testament to how socially transformational his politics is, and how much of a threat his manifesto was to the power and influence of the wealthiest people in (and outside of) Britain. 

Simply, the success of politicians is determined not by their prowess at politics, or by their social intentions, but by their allyship with newspaper barrens. Rupert Murdoch and his clan can, and do, install puppet leaders so as to go on ruling their media empires unchallenged. 

So long as the power of billionaire-owned British media goes undisputed, no true democracy can exist in Britain.

Image: PA Media

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