THE following points were sent to various ITV communication and press executives earlier today with the intention of allowing them a right of reply. As of publication of this article at 6.30pm Tuesday there had still been no response from ITV, not even an acknowledgement. I was asked on Twitter earlier on Tuesday if I thought ITV cared what people thought about them using Kelvin MacKenzie on their programmes. Perhaps the lack of response from ITV answers that question, at least in terms of how much the executives care.
Mary Fagan, Group Communications and Corporate Affairs Director, ITV plc
Mike Large, Director of Communications, ITV plc
Caroline Cook, Head of Press, Corporate, Online & Commercial, ITV plc
On Monday evening, October 17th 2011, a historic debate took place in the House of Commons. The subject was the release of all government documents relating to the Hillsborough disaster, the debate initiated after a government e-petition was signed by almost 140,000 people. The debate was historic in that it was the first debate to be initiated following the introduction of the e-petitions and also historic because of the words that were spoken and the undertakings that were given.
For 22 years Liverpool supporters and people across the country and around the world have seen the bereaved families of the 96 victims and the hundreds of survivors mistreated by authorities that set out within hours of the disaster to blame the dead and injured for their own fate. For 22 years we’ve watched families fight the justice system and time and again hit walls and obstacles that make it seem there must be some awful secrets that somebody doesn’t want to allow to come out.
The weight of public opinion has grown increasingly in favour of the families and survivors being given access to the truth they ask for. It isn’t a lot to ask. They want to see the correspondence that was exchanged, the notes that were scribbled, the minutes of the meetings. They’ve done nothing wrong, other than lose their loved ones or live through an ordeal completely unimaginable before finding the establishment wanted them blamed for that ordeal.
In short, certain establishment figures briefed certain reporters with claims – wholly untrue – that were both ludicrous and frankly sick. Some newspapers ran the claims, one newspaper ran it as the front page story and ran it as fact, as opposed to allegations. Other outlets apologised, but not the one that went biggest on the story. That The Sun, the decisions it made to run the story that way came from its then editor, Kelvin MacKenzie, who was reported recently as seeing nothing wrong with running that story.
The claims were false but mud stuck and so began a battle for justice that still goes on today.
I trust that none of this is news to ITV’s senior executives. After all, ITV owned a significant percentage of Liverpool FC shares prior to it changing hands in 2007. ITV also owned half of Liverpool FC’s website business for some time after that takeover.
Yet ITV’s attitude towards Liverpool FC, its supporters, the bereaved families and the survivors is one of contempt if the ‘This Morning’ programme is any kind of indication of company policy.
Kelvin MacKenzie, the man who chose to not only run those lies in his paper but chose to do so under a large banner headline of “The Truth” is one of the people paid by ‘This Morning’ to appear on the show. Quite what his role is on the show isn’t entirely clear – having been told of his presence on the show some time ago I, like many others, began to avoid watching it.
Even setting aside his callous attitude and the attempts to profit from those deaths and all of that suffering it’s difficult to come up with a reason why he might be paid by ITV to appear on one of its show. It’s a struggle to think what exactly it is he offers, why ITV would see fit for a man who so deliberately hurt so many people to appear on its shows. Perhaps ITV want to be known as the channel that desecrates the graves of the dead, the channel that wants to be a platform for heartless, vindictive liars.
I’m told he even appeared on the programme today, the day after his name was mentioned repeatedly in Parliament by MPs still incensed at not only his smears but the fact that powerful media organisations still use him. The tears were still not dry in the eyes of those who watched last night’s debate yet there was this man in the comfort of your London studio.
Does anyone at ‘This Morning’ remember where the programme was based before it moved to London?
Perhaps you didn’t see last night’s debate, perhaps you were planning the next stage of ITV’s dumbing down, perhaps MacKenzie is your consultant for that too. In case you didn’t see it, here are some of the words that were used to describe MacKenzie in Parliament last night.
I defy you to read these words and respond with a remotely acceptable reason for employing or using MacKenzie at all, let alone to use him today of all days.
Steve Rotheram (Liverpool, Walton) (Lab):
“Just a few days later, before people had even had time to arrange funerals for their loved ones, The Sun newspaper infamously printed the banner headline, “The Truth”, on the personal instruction of its editor, Kelvin MacKenzie. It claimed that drunken fans had forced the gates open because they did not have match tickets, stolen from the corpses lying around the pitch, assaulted police officers and the emergency services, robbed cameras and other equipment from press photographers, and urinated on police officers who were helping the victims. That was one of the cruellest blows.
“It beggars belief that certain sections of the media still give air time to this most despicable man to vent his bile and mendacity. Given what he said about the Prime Minister the other day, even some Tories may now agree that this man is a pariah, as we on Merseyside know him to be. This is a man who preaches about free speech, but who dehumanised the deaths of 96 people for a cheap headline—what an absolute hypocrite!
“Months later, the rag that that man edited admitted that the allegations it had made were totally false, but the damage had been done. To this day, the people of Merseyside do not buy that paper. It has taken the hackgate allegations about Murdoch’s News International for people to at long last sit up and take notice of the claims that we made 22 years ago and to think that there may be some truth to our allegations of collusion between the press, certain politicians and the police.”
John Pugh (Southport) (LD):
“The people were, however, let down by the powers that be: the national media, including The Sun, about which much has been said today…”
Mr Dave Watts (St Helens North) (Lab): [Addressing John Pugh]
“The hon. Gentleman may be aware that I lost a close friend, David Hawley, in the Hillsborough tragedy. I have something to say about the fact that someone in the media, Kelvin MacKenzie, said what he said and then repeated it. The general public have severe doubts about whether the press should allow such people to continue to follow their profession. Does the hon. Gentleman feel that special attention should be given to dealing with journalists who do these sorts of things?”
John Pugh: [in response]
“I am aware from books written on this topic that certain people in the offices of The Sun questioned Kelvin MacKenzie about his decision on that day.”
Andy Burnham (Leigh) (Lab):
“Clearly, however, there are other private organisations that will have material that might help the panel’s work. The first is Hammond Suddards, the solicitors for the South Yorkshire police. It was involved in the preparation of police officers’ statements, and, indeed, the amendment of them, and the handling of the inquest. The second is News International. In The Guardian today, Margaret Aspinall, chair of the Hillsborough family support group, has called on the company to reveal the sources of the deeply hurtful front page of Wednesday 19 April. It was claimed that Liverpool supporters—my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton mentioned this—pick-pocketed victims, urinated on police officers and attacked an officer giving the kiss of life.”
Derek Twigg (Halton) (Lab):
“Imagine finding out that your loved one had died in that terrible disaster, or been badly injured, and reading or hearing shortly afterwards that that person and his fellow supporters were being blamed for it. It is almost unimaginable that, notwithstanding the grief and trauma that those families were going through, those reports should unfold in the next few days. As has been said, several newspapers were involved, but I think that a headline in The Sun caused the most distress and upset. It is difficult for those who were not personally affected to appreciate the impact of that headline. The fact that police officers were involved as well was disgraceful. The distress caused by all that cannot be overstated.”
Maria Eagle (Garston and Halewood) (Lab):
“Inexcusable police behaviour continued on that day. Police refused to allow ambulances that might have saved lives into the ground because they were treating it like a riot, not a disaster. They treated families who arrived on the scene to look for missing relatives as if they were criminals. They blood-tested the dead for alcohol—even children—but there was worse to come. South Yorkshire police briefed The Sun that the victims had caused the crush and that fans who merely sought to assist the injured and dying were stealing from them and urinating on them—vile and untrue smears that heaped appalling distress on top of unbearable sudden bereavement. It is about time we knew who gave those stories to The Sun and I join the families today in calling on News International to tell us.”
Bill Esterson (Sefton Central) (Lab):
“Why did The Sun vilify the dead and show them and their families such disrespect?”
Angela Smith (Penistone and Stocksbridge) (Lab):
“The lack of rigour at the original inquest, coupled with the appalling attack on Liverpool fans by The Sun, means that the appalling loss suffered that day has been made immeasurably more difficult to deal with for the families of those who died. It is little to be wondered at that so many members of the families affected are here today, for they feel that justice has not been done, in the sense that those responsible for what happened that day have still not been held to account. That is why we must have full and unredacted disclosure of all the documents held by the Government relating to the tragedy. We must know what briefings were prepared and delivered to Margaret Thatcher and her Government at that time, and we must know precisely who briefed The Sun with information that was not only grossly inaccurate and untrue but deeply damaging and offensive to the families of the 96 who died.”
Mr Frank Field (Birkenhead) (Lab):
“The families I represent in Birkenhead, and those represented by other Members who have spoken today, have been denied that closure by two indescribable acts of horror that have been inflicted upon them. The first act was the press campaign. To have to cope with members of one’s family going off to a football match and coming back from the undertakers is an event that most of us—thank God—will never have to deal with. Trying to grapple with the immensity of what has happened to one’s family while constantly having to read attacks in the press almost on them, and certainly on their mates and more widely on their mates in the football club, is an unspeakable horror.
“Although the House has at long last come to a mind on what we and the Government should be doing, we do not have the power to compel one of the other big players in the event similarly to make a public apology for what has happened. I hope that one of the messages we send out tonight will be a clear one to News International that it too has a part to play if we are to draw a line in the sand for those families. That seems to me to be the first indescribable horror that was inflicted upon those families.”
Stephen Twigg (Liverpool, West Derby) (Lab/Co-op):
“I echo what my right hon. Friend the Member for Birkenhead (Mr Field) said in issuing a challenge to News International, The Sun and Kelvin MacKenzie, which I hope will come from all parties. We want to see a real, credible apology for what they and other newspapers said and did at the time. Having to endure truly appalling and vile coverage in The Sun and some other newspapers made the tragedy so much worse for the bereaved and the people who were suffering.”
Tom Greatrex (Rutherglen and Hamilton West) (Lab/Co-op):
“The undercurrent was obvious: it was the fault of fans—violent thugs who knew no better. The most infamous manifestation of that was the disgraceful reporting in The Sun that week, which we have heard about. As others have said, there were made-up quotes, invented incidents and fictional accounts designed to blacken the name of people who were in Sheffield to watch a football match. That is absolutely disgraceful.”
John Mann (Bassetlaw) (Lab):
“I have been listening in appropriate awe to the brilliance of the speeches, particularly from the Members from Sheffield, Liverpool and around Merseyside, which is highly appropriate to the subject. They have delivered in terms of the quality of the argument and the eloquence with which they have put it. I trust that those who edit and those who own The Sun will be listening in to the debate and will be preparing their front pages in anticipation.
“I am one of those who, for the past 25 years and more, has never allowed a copy of The Sun into my house. Whether I will or not I do not know, so perhaps I will not see the apology that is due, but it is due because the evil committed by that newspaper shocked any decent person in this country.”
Andrew Miller (Ellesmere Port and Neston) (Lab):
“…I want to contrast that—the truth of the sport of football and the passion there is on the terraces—with what was said by the police, by The Sun, and by several other commentators. The contrast is so stark that we need to sit back, reflect and ask ourselves what drove the police leadership to get things so wrong—to encourage people to amend their statements. These are very serious issues. I am delighted that the Home Secretary has given such a positive response and that, I hope, we are going to get to the bottom of those issues.
“We should contrast that with the way in which newspapers such as The Sun got it so wrong. What gave them the right to publish such disgusting filth when people had died? That is no way for responsible media to operate. Whatever happens at the end of Bishop James Jones inquiry, we have to reflect on this matter as a House. How can we ensure that the media take a more responsible view when they report on tragedies?”
Alison McGovern (Wirral South) (Lab):
“…because of two terrible processes that happened straight away, both in the immediate aftermath and in the years that followed, we are still frozen in those early stages of grief in the awful horror of it all, unable to come to terms with it. That is why we need the truth now. The first awful process was the appearance of stories in newspapers which took the good names of fans who were at Hillsborough on that day and threw them in the mud. One newspaper in particular made untrue allegations of specific behaviour by fans that had simply never happened. Those newspapers took people who were suffering in a manner that few of us here can imagine, let alone have experienced, and ripped apart their dignity. Not only did those affected have to suffer physical and mental injury; they had to witness their honour being attacked as though they were the lowest of the low.
“People may recall the pictures of newspapers being burnt in Liverpool at the time, but what they may not know is how those lies have echoed down through the years, and how they continue to be spread. I moved to London in 1999, fully 10 years after the disaster, and I was shocked then by how many people still believed the lies told about Hillsborough. They did not believe those lies out of malice, but no one had ever corrected them before. On many occasions I have had to explain what actually happened at Hillsborough, why the calls for justice still ring out, and why people will not “just let go”. Even today, we still see horrible claims repeated online, on websites. Those awful lies, which have been corrected any number of times, are still perpetuated. Often the people whom we correct are quite shocked, having simply assumed that football supporters were to blame.”
Mr Dave Watts (St Helens North) (Lab):
“Nearly all the media outlets now accept that their stories were irresponsible and untrue, but there is one man who still has not made that apology: Kelvin MacKenzie. Quite frankly, he should make that apology tomorrow, publicly, and if he does not every media outlet in this country should ban him completely and never give him time again.”
I hope you read all of those words from all of those MPs. I hope you didn’t choose to skip through to the bottom of email ready to forward it onto the department that sends out stock answers in response to emails on issues ITV doesn’t really care about.
For the sake of the good people that still work at and for ITV I hope you have the decency to take a personal interest in seeing that the wishes of those MPs, those families, those victims and those viewers of yours are taken seriously.
I look forward to your reply.
Anfield Road and The Anfield Wrap