Exam date

When's the 2016 exam? Wednesday 8th June, am.

Monday, 30 April 2012

Free market = free press?

We'll say much more about this, and you can already read MUCH more in the pack you got before Easter.
Remember, the basic point is that a so-called 'free market' is linked in with the concept of a 'free press'. In both cases they are defined as free from government interference/regulation. The events of 1694 (ending press licensing) and 1851 (scrapping stamp duty) are seen as creating a free press by marking the end of government interference. C&S argue this is simply tosh, but it remains a hugely influential factor in the light-touch, laissez faire regulation of the press today. RCP1's explicit statement is a very useful quote (and we'll see that the 1985 Peacock Committee (on TV) argued that the free market-created free press was a good model for broadcast regulation):
free enterprise is a prerequisite of a free press

A free market, in theory, produces a press industry which is:
  • diverse: reflects the range of opinions held by the public
  • competitive: in contrast to state monopoly, a free market ensures we get a wide number of competitors in newspaper publication
  • democratic, fourth estate: free from political control, the press exists to hold politicians and public servants to account. No issue with proprietorial intervention
This is plainly not the case. RCP1 noted this, but felt that the free market would reassert itself after the necessary state intervention during WW2 had ended. RCP2 noted the failure of the free market to correct the issues RCP1 highlighted; there was a continuing (1) lack of diversity (2) concentration of ownership (by 1961 just 3 conglomerates controlled 89% of circulation) (3) long before Murdoch invented The Sun and radically dumbed down the entire press, press standards were poor on many counts, leading to a 2nd regulator. C&S argue that advertisers were given a de facto licensing power, helping ensure a right-wing view dominated, while the notorious era of the press barons seems not to be a historical footnote given what we continue to learn about Murdoch and his access to political power.

When we study broadcast media regulation, we'll see a clear long-term trend towards deregulation, with the BBC a partial exception...

Press Council PPT

As promised, this is the PPT we've used in class. Web was down when I created it, so its not the most attractive - but it is rammed with useful points...
Press Council
We'll be looking at how to link egs from the PC/PCC/OfCom...

Regulators too close to politicians?

Unlike Roy Greenslade, I wouldn't strongly recommend Peter Preston as a source, but he is a senior journalist (and ex-editor of Guardian) and has written many interesting, insightful articles on this ongoing saga of media regulation, Hackgate and Leveson.

Series: Peter Preston on press and broadcasting

Here's one which is particularly useful; OfCom Chief Ed Richards is seen by the Tories as a Labour place-man ... one example of the arguable closeness between regulators and politicians. In this article, Preston tackles this issue:

The great and good shall inherit the media regulators
All the watchdogs seem to be led by ex-politicians or mandarins. Many of them do a splendid job – but are they really independent of government?
Leveson Inquiry
The career of Lord Patten, above left arriving at the Leveson inquiry with BBC director-general Mark Thompson, has been underpinned by his life as a Tory MP, minister and party chairman. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA

The word of the moment is "independent", signalling a wondrous purity of heart and intent. But watch lead counsel at the Leveson inquiry curl a sardonic lip when told that prospective members of a self-regulatory press body (ie, the PCC) can be asked if they believe in self-regulation before they are appointed. Independence or built-in bias? And here comes Ed Richards, chief executive of Ofcom, laying out the basic requirements of his business: "Independence of political influence, independence from those regulated in governance and decision-making and clear, transparent processes" (among other necessary virtues). Now scratch your head.
If you have read Lord Rees-Mogg's autobiography, you may remember a scene where Sir Ian Trethowan, Tory-friendly BBC director-general, asks William to be the new deputy chairman of his governors. No, says Mogg, it's chairman or nothing, and off Trethowan trots to consult with the Iron Lady – who privately promises Mogg the top job once the then chairman, George Howard, packs up. Fortunately for William, the Arts Council slides his way before Howard's term ends, so the private pledge isn't redeemed. But ponder that episode on the Richards or Leveson sanctity scale. Transparency? Independence of political influence?
Of course, things have changed since 1983. The committee on standards in public life has given the whole appointments scene a dusting. But it's still interesting to examine the candidates who receive a final nod. Chris (now Lord) Patten, chairman of the BBC Trust: a man of many jobs and talents, but the underpinning of them all is his previous life as a Conservative MP, minister, then party chairman. Richards himself: former senior policy adviser to Tony Blair, plucked from No 10 as the great governance game rolled on. And remember whom Ed succeeded at Ofcom: Stephen Carter, transferred to Downing Street by Gordon Brown as chief of strategy before becoming Labour's minister for broadband dreams (and member of the Lords). Sir Michael Lyons, Patten's (Labour-appointed) predecessor at the BBC Trust, had been a Labour councillor. Gavyn Davies, last chair of the (doomed) BBC governors, spent long evenings waiting for his wife to come home from running Gordon Brown's office in the Treasury.
Over at ITV, you'll find Archie Norman, ex-Asda, ex-Tory MP, at the helm. At Channel 4, Lord (Terry) Burns, most ubiquitous of retired civil servants. At the Advertising Standards Authority, Lord (Chris) Smith, once Labour's arts minister. At a PCC striving for survival, Lord Hunt, former Tory cabinet minister, who succeeded Baroness Buscombe, former Tory frontbencher in the Lords, who succeeded Sir Christopher Meyer, once No 10 spokesman for John Major, who succeeded Lord Wakeham, the grandest of Tory fixers.
Is there a pattern here? Of course. Not one, for the avoidance of doubt, in which any of the named above are political puppets. They sometimes (see Davies) walked the plank when Whitehall pushed too hard. They could never allow considerations of HMG policy towards a threatening Tehran to influence their decision on dumping poor Press TV. The announcement that Patten is taking recruitment agency advice on how to appoint a new DG must be taken at face value.
But there is a sense of where the media regulators of UK plc look to instinctively as they ponder what comes next. They're all retired politicians or civil servants. They are appointed, then appoint for themselves under quasi-civil-service rules.
They often do a splendid job. Let's praise Patten again. Add how diligently Hunt has embarked on his task. But independent, in Richards's full sense? Statutorily installed or not, they are there because they know the system, perhaps wield residual influence, understand which levers to pull. Their very existence often hints at jobs to come for today's ministers or mandarins.
It's an informal system, then, whether statutory or independent. It involves only a certain kind of player, with predictable attributes. Those players may be – indeed, often are – good hearts and true. But their eyes are automatically turned not outward to the public waiting at the door, but inwards towards Westminster and Whitehall, where lobbying behind closed doors begins. "Is this 'independence'?" you can almost hear learned counsel demanding. Up to a point, my Lord Justice Copper.

PCC case studies

PCC case studies
Pcc Case Studies

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

James Murdoch + Jeremy Hunt

Here's the C4 News report from 24th April 2012:



See new links list.
The following were ordered today for holding as Ref. Only copies in the Lib:

Delivery estimate: 1 May 2012 - 3 May 2012

"Media Regulation: Governance and the Interests of Citizens and Consumers"
Lunt, Peter; Paperback; £19.35
In stock

"News and Journalism in the UK (Communication and Society)"
McNair, Brian; Paperback; £17.28
In stock

"Media and Democracy (Communication and Society)"
Curran, James; Paperback; £21.99
In stock

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Defence of Mail, PCC + Jan Moir

Just noticed this useful article defending the PCC: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/feb/18/pcc-jan-moir-stephen-gately-brave-ruling

Essay1 egs

Here's a couple of your essays, with annotations added to two (the 3rd was marked off a printout); all feature some good passages and examples of how to tackle parts of such an essay well (nobody quite managed an A-grade essay, which I wouldn't expect from your 1st essay on this topic):
Will 1PCCgood

Rich 1PCCgood

Tom 1PCCgood

PCC 2010 Report ripped apart

I've frequently cited the usefulness of PCC reports + the defence of their work on their own website, but also direct critiques of these, and here's a good example. Remember, the best essays tackle the pros/cons; positive/negative; praiseworthy/critical arguments side by side in one paragraph, not as separate points:
PressBof 2010 Annual Report Skewered by Peter Kirwan

Monday, 23 April 2012

PCC Essay1 pointers

In my written comments + docs, I'll use various abbreviations, eg 'para' = paragraph; EAA you should know (EX + TY for the other main assessment criteria); ctee = committee
Some quick points leading off from today's lessons:

Make an initial assessment of what the Q is asking; what sub-topics/themes/elements it includes
Do an initial brainstorm of what points you might explore to answer this Q
Consider what resources you can access: lesson notes, blog (its archive, links lists etc), handouts (prompt Q handout is huge - use it), books, Guardian themed sections (PCC, press + privacy, Leveson etc), googling [if you come across useful resources that you've not seen linked on my blog please pass on a link/info]
Start reading + annotating/note-taking
Reflect and decide on the 4/5 (maybe 6) major points you'll explore (you can squeeze some more into a final para or 2)
Take a separate sheet for each, add your sub-heading + review your notes, adding/pasting relevant points from each of your sources into each point. There will be some overlap here - which is good: this helps to plan out a flowing essay structure
Make sure you've got some positive and negative points
Make sure you've got specific, detailed example(s) to back up your argument (EAA)
Have you highlighted any TY in each point? Will your notes be sufficient to score highly on this? Look at your long handout for MANY egs of TY, and how to apply it
You may already have spider-planned. Even so, I generally find it useful to write out a full plan as brief bullets, identifying points I'll explore in more detail (eg, simply 'Desmond' would denote the whole issue of his withdrawal from PCC). Again, try to organise your major points so that one leads logically onto another

Discuss the Q set
Explain/define any terminology (or bodies: PCC) in title
This may require some context (or you may keep this for 2nd para)
Vitally, set out, very concisely, the structure you will follow for this essay (your main points/themes, stressing that you will explore pos + neg/supportive + critical arguments)

you could break any one of these down into many further points
PRESS DISDAIN PCC (Murdoch apologised to Morgan for having to bother him with PCC ruling; Desmond; simple repetition of breaking EdCode)
PRIVACY (Assange eg; caused Calcutt; backbench 80s bill leads to Calcutt; web issues; superinjunctions + wider law; Press Council's poor record)
PCC's COMPLAINT CRITERIA (espec on 3rd party: Moir case; PCC user stats + opinion polls)
COURT/LAWS (libel law; privacy; superinjunctions; PCC failing if these laws used?)
ACCURACY/POWERS [2 big points that could be split] (routine inaccuracy on EU, Islam, single mums, immigrants, benefits claimants, immigrants etc: DMail cancer song; weakness of punishments - correction prominence policy; compare to OfCom - leads to self-reg v statutory reg)
PCC FUNDING/MEMBERSHIP (funded by press = bias? BUT also zero cost to taxpayer [contrast to OfCom]; Desmond; MUST cite PressBOf; 1963: PC just 20% lay members, PCC now majority [BUT who chairs key ctees?])
OFFICIAL REPORTS/RESPONSE (Leveson!!! rem: MUST include some speculation on FUTURE reg; Tom Watson MP + his book: initimdation of MPs by NewsInt; Calcutt's 93 review + 3rd RCP 1977 ignored: why?)

Tom Watson MP says News Corp acted like a shadow state;
Tom Watson's new book: summary of his key claims;
Short but devestating analysis of Watson's claims;
How Watson was pressured to stop pushing on NewsInt;
50 new claimants against NewsInt in past 3 months listed;
Consider why convergence makes PCC insufficient: M.Moore argues Fox News will be caught up in Hackgate eventually;
Murdoch's decline by Dan Sabbagh;
DPP line on public in defence? Use your common sense (ie, vague + ambiguous; subjective + open to interpretation on a case by case basis) [by Peter Preston];
Latest ABCs, incl pic of Sun on Sunday front page: footballers + prostitutes story;
Those Feb 2012 PCC stats - look closely at clause cited + summary (eg many just tagged as '3rd party' + so ignored)
Satire report on allegations on P.Charles' sexuality (+ how it can't be reported openly);
Sky on 'From Squidgy' to 'Camillagate';
Squidgygate [wiki];
Camillagate + Qs it raises for Murdoch;
David Scarboro: vid tribute to actor who committed suicide after press hounding (during PC era);

HISTORY: Press Council: Jempson+Powell 2012

I've not added sub-headings etc to this, but thought you'd want this asap, so you can access below
What we've been discussing is to try and match up 1 or more past eg with a current (ie PCC) eg within a single paragraph/major point
Here you can see clear points about general ineffecivesness, and accuracy/privacy more specifically...
Jempson and Powell 2012 on History of Weak Press Regulation

Thursday, 19 April 2012

PCC guidelines on Public Interest

The public interest
There may be exceptions to the clauses marked * where they can be demonstrated to be in the public interest.
1. The public interest includes, but is not confined to:
i) Detecting or exposing crime or serious impropriety.
ii) Protecting public health and safety.
iii) Preventing the public from being misled by an action or statement of an individual or organisation.
2. There is a public interest in freedom of expression itself.
3. Whenever the public interest is invoked, the PCC will require editors to demonstrate fully that they reasonably believed that publication, or journalistic activity undertaken with a view to publication, would be in the public interest and how, and with whom, that was established at the time.
4. The PCC will consider the extent to which material is already in the public domain, or will become so.
5. In cases involving children under 16, editors must demonstrate an exceptional public interest to over-ride the normally paramount interest of the child.
Extracted from The Editor's Code.

PCC scenario1: reporting on children


SCENARIO 1: Under the headline "Pupil reduced to tears after teacher tells her: That short skirt makes you look like a slut and does nothing for your cellulite", the Daily Mail online carries a story ‘accompanied by a picture of the named 13 year old from a named school, modelling the skirt in question. Here are some of the comments left below the picture by the Mail's online readers:

"What on earth is wrong with this country? The child DOES look like a slut"

"None of this would have happened if the student had done what the teacher said. By the way, with that short skirt, she does look like a slut"

"Well, the skirt is far too short for school and does make her look slutty and dumpy too."

"Actually, she does look like a slut with her skirt so short."

With reference to the PCC’s Editor’s Code, on which it bases all judgements, assess what the outcome might be if you, as an outraged reader (and thus 'third party'), and not the girl herself, complained to the PCC.
Can you think of/find other examples where the PCC have been embroiled in controversy over press coverage of children?


The article remains on the Mail’s website: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1139238/Pupil-reduced-tears-teacher-tells-That-short-skirt-makes-look-like-slut-does-cellulite.html As well as the CU shot of her thighs, you can click to enlarge the LS of the girl. The PCC didn’t excel themselves here. (google ‘daily mail pupil reduced to tears’)

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

P.Morgan says Murdoch scorned PCC

I read about this recently in The Phone Hacking Scandal book by Keeble & Mair (2012), though I can't recall which chapter - so I googled and found an account of the same point here.
Morgan chimed in: “Having been one of his editors, I know that whenever we tripped up over what are, by these standards, relatively minor indiscretions, in terms of breaching the Press Complaints Commission Code or whatever, he was always incredibly quick to be publicly censorious of me or whoever the editor was … and remind us forcefully, personally, ‘You’ve got to abide by the rules of the game.’”
Morgan’s on-camera testimony deviated significantly from his account of Murdoch’s attitude in The Insider, Morgan’s memoir of life on Fleet Street—in which Murdoch is portrayed as privately dismissive of all such rules. “I’m sorry about all that press complaining thingamajig,” Morgan quotes Murdoch as apologizing after publicly taking him to task, in one instance of misbehavior, for appearance’s’ sake. “He doesn’t really give a toss about it.”
The 1st paragraph above was Morgan on TV in July 2011; the 2nd quotes from his own book (which I've read - its entertaining and informative about the press generally, even if it is probably inaccurate on many counts) and shows the utter contempt Murdoch held for the PCC. He's publicly go through the motions of treating it and its rulings as a serious matter, but privately simply shrugged off and ignored (according to Morgan) it. In the book chapter I read, Murdoch went on to ask about his strategies for boosting circulation/profits; economics (and influence?) are the press baon's priorities this would suggest, not probity or quality, fair, responsible or accurate journalism. Hardly a ringing endorsement of the PCC.

Weds 18th April lesson

Consolidation + development of work yesterday + on your 1st MediaReg essay.
Follow these simple steps...
  1. Get together with your fellow pro- or anti-PCC researchers from yesterday
  2. For the 1st 5-ish mins, each quickly run through your main findings from yesterday
  3. Following this, pick out FIVE specific arguments for or against the PCC, depending on which you researched.
  4. Your main task now is to further research these 5 arguments (using books, blog, googling, Guardian, PCC, PCCWatch, TabloidWatch, HackedOff etc) + gather sufficient detail + evidence to enable you to present a case in which you meet the 3 exam assessment criteria: Explanation, Analysis, Argument; Use of Examples; Use of Terminology. Examples would include quotes, but especially PCC rulings, with specific detail on which clauses of its Editors Code it based its ruling on. The Editors Code is viewabe on my blog and on the PCC website. PCC rulings are detailed on my blog, other blogs such as PCCWatch, many Guardian articles, the PCC site itself and can be additionally googled.
  5. The final 25 mins of the lesson will see you present these 5 arguments, which potentially will take us a big step forwards on addressing at least 1 of the 4 prompt Qs for this exam.
If you want to pass on any materials as email or as a comment to this post feel free, but this is one case where the visual nature of any work presented is irrelevant; this task is about working together; picking out the most pertinent points from a range of sources; working quickly to do so; and avoiding the temptation to simply copy/paste - an option not available in your exam, so of no more use or help here.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Tues17th: 13C task

Today YOU will be researching and delivering the lesson, which ties into our 1st practice MediaReg essay on arguments for/against the PCC

You will each have up to 9.15 to research at least 1 source (which you identify to me so I can confirm that everyone is using a unique source/article), type up your notes (keep them BRIEF + to the point; only quote where absolutely necessary - we have just 30mins to get feedback from each person AND discuss these findings) either for or against the PCC. Reflecting the balance of the arguments, 3 of you will research the pro-PCC arguments, the rest of you the anti- lines.
The quickest way to do this is to type into Word, then copy/paste into a blog post comment at the end.

If you quickly get through one source, make a start on another!

By 9.15, deliver your findings as a comment to this post, starting this comment with your name, the URL of the source/s you used (+author/organisation name + publication date if thats not already obvious from the link + is stated on the web page), + then a list of points (each on a separate line).
After discussing the overall findings I'll compile all of these (+ those from the other class) this evening into a Word document, and embed it here. [unfortunately several of your colleagues in 13A couldn't follow the complex task of posting comments to the 13A post; I've deleted the comments they posted here]

and here are your findings (collated commen ts from below):
13C PCC Research Tues 17th April 2012

Tues17th: 13A task

Today YOU will be researching and delivering the lesson, which ties into our 1st practice MediaReg essay on arguments for/against the PCC

You will each have up to 9.15 to research at least 1 source (which you identify to me so I can confirm that everyone is using a unique source/article), type up your notes (keep them BRIEF + to the point; only quote where absolutely necessary - we have just 30mins to get feedback from each person AND discuss these findings) either for or against the PCC. Reflecting the balance of the arguments, 3 of you will research the pro-PCC arguments, the rest of you the anti- lines.
The quickest way to do this is to type into Word, then copy/paste into a blog post comment at the end.
If you quickly get through one source, make a start on another!

By 9.15, deliver your findings as a comment to this post, starting this comment with your name, the URL of the source/s you used (+author/organisation name + publication date if thats not already obvious from the link + is stated on the web page), + then a list of points (each on a separate line).
After discussing the overall findings I'll compile all of these (+ those from the other class) this evening into a Word document, and embed it here.

...and here it is!
13A PCC Research Tues 17th April 2012

Sunday, 8 April 2012

BBC R6 saved by social media

The BBC had decided to scrap parts of its media empire to help make cost savings required by the license deal struck with the Tory-led government, and Radio 6Music was one of those BBC brands set for the scrapheap ... then a Facebook campaign was launched ...
Read all about it at http://www.radiotimes.com/news/2012-02-02/6-music-saviour-was-very-close-to-stopping-the-whole-campaign

Friday, 6 April 2012

James Murdoch humiliated + pushed out

You'll find pretty much all you need to know from this article by the author of a biography of his old man: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2012/apr/04/james-murdoch-news-corp-scion
You can find much more at www.guardian.co.uk/media/jamesmurdoch
(As I've previously noted:
Michael Wolff's The Man Who Owned the News: Inside the Secret World of Rupert Murdoch (look at the 'Customer who bought this also bought' list for more useful reads - this one has the 'Look Inside' feature meaning you can preview some content for free and take notes).
If you're doing business, Murdoch/NewsCorp makes for a great case study - including the current moves to shift him out of NewsCorp by shareholders.)

NEW Phone Hacking book

This has been extensively previewed in The Guardian through Roy Greenslade's column if you're feeling too fiscally challenged to purchase a copy; contains chapters on the history of press regulation, takes things up to date, and includes proposals for the future of press regulation - rather neatly spanning the ground you have to cover for your exam...
You can find the Guardian previews by googling 'guardian the phone hacking scandal: journalism on trial*'

This book on Amazon;
Guardian short book on hackgate;
another hackgate book;
Michael Wolff's The Man Who Owned the News: Inside the Secret World of Rupert Murdoch (look at the 'Customer who bought this also bought' list for more useful reads - this one has the 'Look Inside' feature meaning you can preview some content for free and take notes).
If you're doing business, Murdoch/NewsCorp makes for a great case study - including the current moves to shift him out of NewsCorp by shareholders.

Hacked off campaign

Original logo
Lest you're unaware, Hacked Off is a useful source: a campaign group formed in response to the inadequate response of the Met Police (the subject of multiple inquiries and increasingly likely to lead to court cases), with Hugh Grant now their most prominent spokesperson.
Look closely at their logo, which reflects their distrust of the actual purposes of Leveson...

Here's how the Media Standards Trust describes them:
Can you spot the difference now...
Hacked Off was founded to campaign for a public inquiry into illegal information-gathering by the press and into related matters including the conduct of the police, politicians and mobile phone companies. Only a full public inquiry, we argued, could put the truth of the hacking scandal before the public and ensure that necessary lessons were learned. The Milly Dowler revelations on 4 July convinced the public and the political world of the need for such an inquiry, and the campaign is now focused on monitoring the Leveson Inquiry and pushign [sic] for press reform.
 Their own website: http://hackinginquiry.org/

btw, you add [sic] where a source contains a spelling error, denoting its not YOUR error

Sky email hacking: Public Interest Defence

The following is an example of how you can combine Use of Examples (a case study of this instance of hacking), EAA + Use of Terminology (in analysing the pros/cons of the concept of 'public interest defence', and citing specific law which may overrule this: the Computer Misuse Act). Below you'll find differing lines from Sky, Guardian, Indie, Hacked Off and Reuters, plus a linked Roy Greenslade article on the wider concept.
Huge story breaking 1st week of April 2012: Sky has admitted to using email hacking for at least two stories it ran ... but claims there is a public interest defence. Sky trumpeted about 'obtaining' emails from the faked-death John Darwin in 2008; his wife pocketed a fortune from life insurance and they went to Panama to live it up (then rather foolishly posed for pictures with an estate agent).
Here's how The Guardian broke the story. An excerpt:
Making only a minimal effort to hide the basis of the story, Tubb's report said Sky News had "discovered an email" from John to Anne dated 31 May 2007, in which he says changes to visa regulations meant he could no longer stay in Panama, where he was hiding on a tourist visa. The report cited evidence from several emails between the couple, including a "final email" from Anne that was not, "as suggested in court", evidence of a "massive row" between them, an email that Tubb said had been "handed to the police by Sky News".
The story displayed a picture of "John and Anne Darwin's masterplan", showing a detailed diagram that had apparently been produced by Darwin, and claimed to have obtained detailed financial accounts prepared by Darwin. In another story, published in November 2009, Tubb quoted directly from an email written by John Darwin to his wife in 2007, explaining that their property in Panama had been valued at $1m and adding: "You're a filthy rich gringo". But a link to copies of the couple's emails is now dead.
The broadcaster also published a voicemail message on its website, dated 19 May 2007, in which Anne Darwin is clearly heard leaving a message for her husband. The voicemail, part of an interactive graphic, ends with her saying "I'll try and catch you tomorrow. Love you," which the broadcaster said showed "she was doing as much of the running as he was".
Sky News said this was not obtained by phone hacking and a spokesman said: "All of the material obtained by Sky News was via the Darwins' computer-based email accounts. As we have said previously, Cleveland Police were made aware of the source of the material when Sky News shared it with them. We stand by our editorial decisions, which were justified in the public interest."
Sky News responded today by accusing the paper of double standards; here's an excerpt:
Some of the most important stories have involved breaking the rules in some way. For example, the Daily Telegraph's exposé of the MPs' expenses scandal was very clearly in the public interest, but only happened because the newspaper took the decision to pay for stolen data. They have been widely applauded - deservedly - for doing so.
Indeed, if it was looking for further examples, the Guardian could have found them much closer to home. Its respected investigative reporter David Leigh has admitted hacking a phone in pursuit of a story. The Guardian's sister paper, the Observer, was found on more than 100 occasions to have commissioned information from a notorious private investigator, who was convicted in 2006 of illegally obtaining private data. In each case, a public interest justification has been claimed.
The story has lead headlines for days now. The Indie was one of several to flag up a key point of law which potentially undermines Sky's line that there was a public interest defence:
Although no one has been arrested for the computer hacking, there is no public interest defence in the Computer Misuse Act. The development follows the revelation that The Times, another part of the Murdoch news operation, was found to have hacked into the emails of the blogger Nightjack, who the paper outed as the serving police officer Richard Horton.
“Hacked Off today renews its calls for a public interest defence in law after Sky News confessed to hacking into emails, claiming it did so ‘in the public interest’.
“Yet because there is no public interest defence in law for the Computer Misuse Act, Sky has to rely on the discretion of the prosecution services not to prosecute.
“This is unsatisfactory. If Sky News believes there is a clear public interest to hack into emails then it should have a clear and consistent legal defence for its actions.
“Journalists would feel confident to speak openly about the methods they use to discover stories in the public interest if they knew there was a proper defence for their actions in law.
“Hacked Off hopes that the Leveson Inquiry will recommend the introduction of a formal public interest defence in law for the protection of journalism.”
If you want an ostensibly neutral (I don't think such a thing exists) news source, here's how news agency Reuters reported the story.

Final word from me on this: NewsCorp has been guilty of flagrant abuse, and intrusions into the privacy of 1000s, but don't dismiss Sky's line of argument just because the source is arguably tainted; consider the merits of the argument, not just the source. Read more on the public interest defence in this book extract from the Roy Greenslade column.