Blair chose not to tackle 'unhealthy' power of UK press
Mr Blair insisted that he had not been asked for political favours by News Corporation’s head, Rupert Murdoch, during his time in power, and he argued that Labour “had more often decided against it than for it”.
He acknowledged, however, that his views about the British press were hardly objective: “So, in my case, the Murdoch media was broadly supportive; the Mail group was violently hostile. For other leaders, it will have been different.”
In a speech in 2007, just before he left Downing Street, Mr Blair described the British press as a “feral” beast that was now out of control: “Rereading the speech . . . it still represents my view and it at least pinpoints the issues,” he said.
The “unhealthy nature” of the ties between the press and politicians are not the product of an individual but of a culture, he said, adding: “It is the draining of the poison from that culture that is the real challenge, a challenge deepened by the arrival of social media.”
Some elements of the British press are among the finest in the world, he accepted, but some newspapers will viciously penalise politicians in their news columns, not just in editorials or columns, because they disagree with them on some matter.
The “almost uniquely deep penetration” of tabloid newspapers in Britain “influences hugely the agenda of the broadcasters who tend, in my experience, to default to the print stories”.
The genre of a certain part of the UK print media is defined by a style and culture of writing that is very aggressive and designed for maximum shock and impact, sometimes more than a genuine desire to inform and debate, he said.
“Most important of all, certain of the newspapers are used by their owners/editors as instruments of political power, in which the boundary between news and comment is deliberately blurred – ie they do not report political news in a carefully objective way; but rather to promote a point of view.
“This is not confined to the tabloid press. So if you combine this genre of writing with this use of the media, the effect is very powerful,” he wrote, in a detailed opening statement to the inquiry.