This is a full(-ish) transcript of the discussion on phone hacking from episode #12 of C4's 10 O'Clock Live, first broadcast on Thursday 7 April 2011.
Participants: David Mitchell (DM), former News of the Word journalist Paul McMullan (PM) and former Deputy Labour Prime Minister, John Prescott (JP).
The video of the discussion is available officially from YouTube.
DM: Paul. Surely, people in the public life, like John Prescott, have a right to privacy?
PM: Um, but then you could argue the electorate have a right know that people they're voting for are not lying, not cheating and not stealing.
DM: Well, they have a right when their, in terms of their jobs that they're paid to do but not, people are allowed to lie about all sorts of things in their private life. I delight in lying to all of my closest friends.
PM: Okay. But then maybe it's the job of someone, a journalist to expose that, so that people at least have a fair taste of the hypocrisy and the corruption that many of our politicians indulge in.
DM: But it's not just politicians is it? It's a lot of people, who are famous for being actors, or popstars, or not famous for anything other than being famous. These aren't all holders of high office that are getting snooped on.
PM: No, there's no public interest defence when, with someone like Sienna Miller, umm, but then, uh, on Tuesday she's prancing around in front of a camera, it's why on Wednesday should she complain about it because, you know, she happens to be [caught/called ?] by a pap who maybe listened in to her messages to see where she's gonna go.
JP: But you go much further than that. We're talking about a criminal acts here.
PM: [It's not being?] criminal by MPs who are nicking their money from their expenses and shagging their secretary.
JP: I didn't take a penny from anyone and I'm taking that charge from you as a typical journalist. You're throwing out this line. Let me stick with the real point.
[talking over each other]
JP: Wait up. Let me just give you your article today. Hugh Grant did an interview with you, and you actually said, according to him- is this true - that phone hacking was an essential part of free society. Do you believe that?
PM: Uh, I believe that catching out corrupt politicians presents ...
JP: Do you believe that general principle? That's what I'm asking you.
PM: Yeah, all right, if you like.
JP: Let's follow that. The phone hacking isn't just the individual you might say, as you said in your article, if you're successful you should then be open to phone-hacking. A lot of young people here deciding might be a politician, might be a scientist, might be successful in their life. According to you, that is your entitled right, then, to go and hack their phone and make a message about it and then sell it to some editor and some paper. Do you think that's right?
PM: Um, yes, maybe for a fair amount of money.
JP: Well, let's just follow it through because he's being honest enough to say what it is.
[talking over eachother]
JP: But it doesn't just involve the celebrity, if you like, or the successful person, it now involves all those people around them. You ring all the family friends.
PM: I've sat at the desk at the News of the World and the phone rings all the time. Celebrities ring every single time, desperate to get, to be in the paper, any kind of coverage. Making up silly stories about Jordan getting married, you got cancer, I've got this, that or the other. Which bit's true, well we don't know.
DM: The point is, that's not true. Obviously there are celebrities who just want to be in the paper for nothing. But that's not true of everyone who's come to prominence.
JP: He says if they're successful, it's [as?] sufficient.
DM: At what point do you become fair game? I mean, if you done, say, presented the weather once?
JP: If you're on telly, yes, for him.
DM: I mean are you fair game now because you're on TV now?
PM: Well, I mean, Hugh Grant got me the other day clearly, so, umm.
JP: Do you think it was wrong of him, recording you?
PM: No, I thought it was hilarious.
JP: You think that were terrible?
[comments about not paying for beer]
PM: Fundamentally, privacy is the place where bad people do bad things.
JP: I'm not defending bad people.
PM: I mean, if you're perfectly open. If you say "I never lied to my wife. I never cheated on my wife" and I stand open in front of the electorate "this is how I am" and you still got elected then that's a fair point. But you didn't. You pretended, you pretended. You lied to the electorate to present an image of yourself.
JP. I didn't lie. Tell me the lie I gave to my electorate.
PM: Well, all the little old ladies up North, umm, Mr Brown called bigots, for example. Now, they might be a little bit cross.
DM: He only called one of them a bigot.
PM: Well, indeed.
JP: There's only one bigot at this table and it's him.
[talking over eachother]
PM: But why do you not want to know that the people you elect - Deputy Prime Minister - have lied and cheated?
[talking over eachother]
DM: It is a fair point, is it not, that investigating, that journalists have to investigate. If it's a scandal about corruption, then we would be happy if it was found out in whatever, by whatever means neccessary?
JP: Okay, there has been some very good investigative journalism that has shown that. I'm not against that.
[talking over eachother]
JP: Today, you admit, if they're successful, as I'm saying, take these young people, whatever career they choose, if they're successful and they enter the stage - these [are] your words - they are open to phone hacking. Not only them, their family. A message from an individual - who somemight be some you say [proper?] to do it - you connect the family, repeat their person messages and then sell 'em to the damn press. That's what you do for the bloody living.
PM: Having said that, that paper was selling five million copies, you know, that's twenty million people in the country were buying what we were up to. We were up to exposing people like you who because, you can't put yourself above the normal...
JP: Committing criminal acts. Committing criminal acts to get the information.
PM: You made it criminal because you were sick and tired of getting caught tapping your secretaries and nicking mo - not you - and stealing ...
JP: The News of the World admitted that ...
PM: You changed the law in 2000 because you were falling like flies, you were getting caught out.
JP: It wasn't like that at all. It was changed because of the Union rules, something else you got that wrong. The European Union changed that. It wasn't governments that did it. They did it because Europe made [our?] a condition. But basically you've got to recognise - the News of the World, god blimey, what a paper. We know what it sells for. [?] people like you. The News of the World, said it was one rogue reporter. Two have gone to jail, two have been arrested; we have a Chief Executive, Rebekah Brooks, saying that she pays the Police for information,
DM: At that point, Rebekah Brooks is not here to defend herself, I have to say that. And she denies all those allegations.
JP: She said it to a Party [?] Committee. She committed a criminal act.
PM: Everyone here has a mobile phone. Fifty million people in Britain have a mobile phone. How many times and how many of you have thought "oh, I'll just check to see if my boyfriend's been up to anything" and you just press zero. Or press nine, actually, then four zeroes and you might get into his message system.
DM: I'm afraid we have to end wind up there.
Other Paul McMullan transcripts:
- "People keep saying 'phone hacking' as if it's a big deal" [ 5 July 2011]
- "Privacy is the place where bad people do bad things" [7 April 2011]
- "The bugger, bugged" by Hugh Grant [@ The New Statesman] [April 2011]