NEWS: Time for big business to stand up to the bad news bully boys

‘It’s the media, isn’t it?’ a Hanson executive asked me, seeking to explain our current passion for disclosure, after I had presided at a recent City seminar on corporate governance. Earlier I had claimed that the media believed that only their wits stood between the public and a rapacious Government or business. They were determined to hold power publicly to account. We had better learn to live with it - and them.

‘It’s the media, isn’t it?’ a Hanson executive asked me, seeking to

explain our current passion for disclosure, after I had presided at a

recent City seminar on corporate governance. Earlier I had claimed that

the media believed that only their wits stood between the public and a

rapacious Government or business. They were determined to hold power

publicly to account. We had better learn to live with it - and them.



Sadly, it isn’t all down to the media. Too many people have encouraged

the view that power and authority are up to no good. But debased

standards, combined with the media’s negative concept of news, their

innate suspicion of government and their passion to disclose, mean that

our clients live in an age of accountability policed by conspiracy

theorists who presume guilt.



I told the Hanson chap it was not much good complaining about the media

to me. I was one of their severer critics - from within. Business should

start speaking up if it felt the media were damaging the nation. And lo

it came to pass that I picked up the latest Spectator and found Lord

Hanson, large as life, deploring media cynicism and the nationally

damaging attitudes it engenders. I should be astonished if I were the

catalyst. But there is scarcely a blade of grass between Lord Hanson’s

views and mine, which are documented over the past decade in published

speeches.



My cup runneth over. I would like to think it has something to do with

the effortless superiority of Yorkshiremen. We are both from West

Yorkshire. But I would be in raptures if Essex, Northumberland, Devon,

Notts and even Lancs tycoons took up the cry. The truth is that Britain

is far from perfect. Where wrongdoing occurs, it should be exposed and

punished. But it is a far, far better, richer, more successful and more

decent place than you would ever imagine from the media. Given their

motivation, the mirror they hold up to society has always been

distorted. But now, thanks largely to their attitudes and self-righteous

witch-hunts, they offer a grotesque picture of decline and fall.



It would not be so bad if we knew that the White Knights of the

Independent Order of Eternal Truth were paragons of virtue themselves -

and modest with it. But we know different. Or if they had - as Lord

Hanson, like Lady Thatcher before him, reminds us - much experience of

running the country or a successful business. Instead, Fleet Street was

going to the union dogs before the Government’s labour laws saved it.



But it’s no use privately crying into our beer about their insufferable

hindsight and piety. The damage which their excesses do should be

exposed, too. Who will advise their clients to stand up and be counted

like Lord Hanson?



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