Wordle: UntitledThe Inforrm Blog today returns to regular publication after our summer break.  Although the legal vacation continues until 3 October, there is no shortage of media and legal news – and stories which we need to catch up with from the hectic days of June and July.  We had a “Summer break update” the week before last and we will resume our regular round up next week.

It has not been a quiet August.   The phone hacking saga has continued to generate headlines – with the release of important new documents and yet more arrests.   On 20 August 2011, the Wall Street Journal disclosed that

“The News of the World published more-detailed voice mails from Milly Dowler’s phone than the police, lawmakers and the public have until recently believed. The Wall Street Journal obtained copies of two early editions of the April 14, 2002, News of the World. A review of those papers found that early versions contained detailed quotes from voice mails“.

The earlier version can be read here – with other voicemails referred to in the Scottish Edition, here. Meanwhile, the “Sunday Telegraph” reports that the fitness trainer at News International’s gym has been told that his mobile telephone was hacked while he worked for clients including Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson.

Meanwhile, in Australia, PM Julia Gillard has reportedly said that there is no evidence of phone hacking by the Murdoch company, News Limited.  The Wall Street Journal reports that US investigators have not found any evidence of phone hacking of 9/11 victims but that “U.S. authorities have expanded their query to see whether they can establish a broader pattern of more recent misconduct“.

The biggest domestic news story of the past few weeks is the riots in England over a period of a 5 days in the second week of August.  Some of the media coverage of this was very good and informative – the Guardian has an interactive map which shows exactly where the incidents happened and when.  However, much of the coverage was sensationalised and slanted with the predictable ahistorical explanations based on “moral breakdown” which were also favoured by the Prime Minister.

There has been little historical analysis of these issues.  A welcome exception is the “Economist” piece entitled “Civil disorder and looting hits Britain: We have been here before” – this draws on “Hooligan: A History of Respectable Fears” the 1982 history of moral panics that have gripped England over the ages by Geoffrey Pearson to show that the “breakdown in values” over the “past 30 years” have been with us since at least the eighteenth century – with “poor parenting”, popular music and modern technology often getting the blame.  We were particularly impressed by the social dangers apparently presented to youth by silent films before the First World War.

The media coverage of the riots is discussed on the “Greenslade blog”: he discusses the way in which the press headlined the riots and the failures of the London local press.  He also dealt with the international coverage and commented on the fact that “National newspapers united in their backing for police to regain order“.  On 11 August he posed on “What the papers say about riots aftermath“.  He also posted on the notorious Newquest newspaper editorial arguing that the death penalty – accompanied by bringing back corporal punishment – would be the “simple solution” to dealing with rioters – and also urged the arming of pensioners.  The Regional Newsquest later explained that this was a “bit of fun” – although, apparently, only the bit about arming pensioners.

And finally in a development which will not surprise our readers – but may not please them all – the media intelligence company Mediatel reported last week that Associated Newspapers Limited has now replaced News Internatiional Limited as Britain’s largest newspaper publisher.  With the inclusion of “The Metro”, Associated Newspapers now has the biggest cumulative circulation total of any national newspaper publishing group.  The groups’ total weekly circulation of 21,423,551 and has a market share of 29.95% in contrast to News International which sells 20,570,706 newspapers a week and has a market share of 28.76%.