Centre for Media Research

Hillsborough, the Media and the Independent Panel Report

In wake of the Hillsborough disaster of 1989, in which 96 football fans lost their lives, sections of the media were accused of misinforming the public and on occasions telling blatant lies. Twenty three years later, how did the same media cover the Independent Panel Report into the Hillsborough deaths and injuries; a report that vindicated the campaign for justice pursued by the surviving victims and their families, and made uncomfortable reading for the authorities and the media? Dr Greg McLaughlin of the CMR reviews the coverage.


The Hillsborough Panel Report (12 September 2012) has finally told the truth about the Hillsborough football disaster in 1989. It has told us that 41 of the victims could have been saved had the ambulance services and police handled the disaster better. It has told us that South Yorkshire Police tried to cover up the decisions and mistakes that directly caused the disaster and it told us that they then conspired with a Tory MP and a Sheffield news agency to smear the victims and survivors, all of them Liverpool fans. Not that the families of the victims – the Hillsborough Family Support Group – or the fans of Liverpool FC (including myself) or the people of Liverpool needed to know what the truth was. Like the families of the Bloody Sunday dead, the HFSG campaigned to force the state to admit it publicly.

Even after 23 years, during which we have had three inquiries, all of them vindicating the victims and survivors, much of public opinion (beyond Merseyside) has been misinformed by the lies and smears disseminated by the South Yorkshire Police in the immediate aftermath of the disaster. But that could not have happened without the connivance of some sections of the British media, most notoriously the Sun newspaper. So how would the media respond to the findings of the Hillsborough Panel Report, particularly those concerning the conduct and failings of the police? Would they see them as isolated aberrations from the bad old days of the 1980s, aberrations that could never happen today? Or would they interpret them as part of a wider malaise in the relationship between the police and the public? These questions matter because the answers might determine the impact of media coverage on wider public opinion and belief about what happened at Hillsborough.

To read more click on the following link:The Media and the Hillsborough Panel Report


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