Editor’s Note: To commemorate PRSA Ethics Month, PRSAY is running a month-long series of posts on important ethics issues facing the public relations profession. This is the sixth post in the series. An archive of ethics-related posts can be found here.
Fundamental change sometimes comes from the utterly trivial. And that certainly appears to be the case with regard to trust in the U.K. media at the moment.
The trivial being most people were unaware that their cell phones had an automatic code that allowed access to their voicemail, easily changed, but only if you’re aware of it. And if unchanged, then all of your voicemails are accessible.
The fundamental change is the media regulation, trust in it, wider implications for the political classes and lessons for our industry, too.
Two years earlier, trust in British MPs fell lower even than trust in real-estate agents, as The Daily Telegraph obtained the grisly detail of MPs’ expenses — from second homes purchased to moat cleaning, all charged to the public purse. Consequently, several U.K. MPs and Peers have gone to jail.
Parliament had its revenge, though, when the true extent of journalists hacking into the voicemails of celebrities and normal people alike became clear. Hauling Murdoch senior and junior before them, MPs took pleasure in their witnesses’ humiliation. Now they lead the calls for the self-regulatory structure of the press to be overhauled with distinctly more regulation and distinctly less emphasis on “self”.
“You brought it on yourself” might well be our response. An easy and understandable reaction. However, it is also a dangerous one because media regulation, its ethics and its legal requirements is intimately linked with the future of our industry.