The title is deliberately misleading but consciously provoking. I am taking the part for the whole.  My excuses for the synecdoche: I am just replicating what Rupert Murdoch‘s papers did to catch your eye.

My British summer fellows’ were also caught by News of the World and The Sun  in “Cousta Blanca” ‘s Torrevieja (Spain). I saw them year after year in my childhood and teenage never-ending school holidays. Before even realising it, I walked Bandera’s Englishmen’s Road (El Camino de los ingleses – Summer rain in UK, 2006) and started to learn how deceitful its horizon of liberty and civilization was: British national image of moral impeccability was broken at every turn of the page, at every mocking comment on the locals’ inability to master the Empire’s language,  at every outburst after a surprisingly cheap alcoholic meal. 

Facts: phone hacking in News of the World took place at least since 2002 and were first made public in 2005. But News Corp’s paper has continued to lead circulation figures, despite the year-on-year declining trend and the qualification that circulation (printed and distributed copies) is not the same as readership.

Facts: News Corp’s leadership in dailies’ and Sunday papers’ circulation is a fact. Its readers have made it a social phenomenon. And sometimes with political consequences. As The Guardian put it in a wonderful article by Roy Greensdale on the occasion of 2010 election, it is not possible to conclude a one-way cause-effect relationship between newspaper allegiances and election results. But The Sun has aligned with the winning party since 1979.

Facts: in 2009 David Cameron blatantly supported Rupert Murdoch’s bitter criticism of Communications regulator, Ofcom, on the grounds that press regulation constrains independence. Surprisingly, he also derided it, called it a quango (semipublic administrative bodies… Conservatives were so fond of in the 1980s!) and attacked it on its lack of democratic accountability . The next year, Cameron’s Tories won the elections. Yes, I am being simplistic. Again, my excuses: Britons did not choose their vote after consulting The Sun‘s Berlusconian page 3 on the day of the election. They were surely more concerned with Labour’s corruption and the economic crisis. And even their electoral will was not straightforward but definitely complex, as the ensuing coalition government proves. But in a country where public scrutiny of the media is strong, through an array of reputed accountability mechanisms, and that takes big pride in the BBC self-regulation model, media scandals are definitely important.

Here, I don’t admit an unnuanced comparison with Mediaset’s Telecinco TV audience figures in Spain, renowned for the gossip profile of its programme schedule. Arguments are related to the inaccuracy of equating TV and newspaper markets.

First: state-wide TV markets, despite DTT’s coming and the digital dividend left by digitisation, continue to be smaller than print press ones. Audience concentration persists, and even more so after recent ownership mergers in the Spanish television market, as we will soon prove in a report on Spanish digital media for Open Society Foundations. Less to choose from, then. Second: TV audience measurement through audiometers and statistical projections is less reliable (or, at least, real) than a paper’s account of actual copies sold. Third: though Telecinco’s trash TV audience figures remain high, the main public service state-wide broadcaster RTVE is the audience leader . And, if I have to be consistent with my second argument despising audiometers’ reliability, then I am able to balance it with public opinion polls data: RTVE is gaining reputation, thus giving evidence that 2004-2006 legal reform process to achieve independence from the government is having a positive social response.

Don’t get me wrong: I am not playing the Spanish national chauvinistic part in here. I am just repeating Hallin and Mancini’s founded argument in their landmark study on media and political systems’ correlations (2004): British media codes of conduct are highly regarded and taken as a reference worldwide. But they are an ideal and, therefore, on empirical grounds, one cannot take the part of the Anglophile in the dispute on which journalistic model is the best. I am just trying to counteract the chauvinism of others: British well-known feeling of superiority some of their nationals are so fond of showing off abroad. The same I saw year after year in my own summer walk on the Englishmen road.

And having said that… I will go on sipping at my beloved English black tea, speaking my pretentious RP* English, loving my scrambled eggs in the morning and enjoying my BBC and Channel Four TV series… as everyone that is a little bit familiar with me certainly knows… Indeeeeed!

*RP stands for Received Pronunciation, the one of the high, educated classes and traditionally linked to Oxford and Cambridge universities.

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