Here’s something you will virtually never see in Australia. A mainstream newspaper (in this case, the London Observer) taking on the Murdoch empire, front and centre, calling it out for its smears and lack of rigorous ethics (to put it mildly):
The Observer understands that executives at NI, which owns the Times, the Sun, the Sunday Times and the News of the World (NoW), are actively discussing sponsoring a school in east London, close to the company’s headquarters in Wapping.
The idea, which is being spearheaded by Rebekah Brooks, the former editor of the Sun, who is now chief executive of NI, has been under discussion for several months but is still at an early stage, according to sources.
The plan will alarm Murdoch’s critics who claim the tycoon’s media empire, which spans broadcasting, publishing and internet interests around the world, already wields formidable influence over the UK’s political system and society.
And this commentary, from the same paper today:
When Rupert Murdoch appeared on his own Fox News Channel last week and was, astonishingly, asked about the News of the World phone-hacking scandal – “the story that was really buzzing around the country and certainly here in New York”, as the anchorman put it – Murdoch cut him off with the words: “I’m not talking about that issue at all today. I’m sorry.”
Seen against the background of Sun Valley, Idaho, and in short sleeves and sunglasses, Murdoch appeared more like a gangster fighting extradition proceedings than the attendee of a media conference. For some reason, the vicious agility of the elderly Hyman Roth in The Godfather, Part II came to mind. Naturally, the Fox News anchor didn’t challenge the man he called Mr Chairman and the matter of the mass hacking of phones belonging to MPs, public figures and celebrities was dropped as Murdoch moved to praise his own organisation for its robust criticism of the Obama administration, delivering one swift jab at a competitor, the Financial Times, in the process.
Murdoch is a problem for British society and the News of the World phone-hacking story – given further impetus over the last 10 days by the New York Times and the Guardian – is a symptom of the chronic malignity of his power. In the last 40 years, we have grown used to News International (NI), so that it is difficult to imagine Britain without Murdoch’s occupation, without, for instance, the leaders of the main parties humiliating themselves and our political system to gain his endorsement, or News International journalists and executives treating the law, national institutions and Parliament with disdain.
Murdoch has become one of the political issues of our time, as menacing in his own special way to democracy and conduct of politics as many other threats our society faces, only we do not see it, because his power is used behind the scenes to extend his commercial influence and so his grip on the flow of so much of the information in Britain. He and his equally unappealing son, James, (probable salary £1.3m) may bellyache about the BBC, but when you set the advertising spend and income of BSkyBnewspapers and websites into the equation, you realise that Murdoch is by far the greatest force. alongside those of ITV and the BBC and add his
In February, I evoked the nightmare of Berlusconi’s Italy when commenting on the fact that News International had concealed the truth about the extent of the phone hacking and that people such as Rebekah Brooks, formerly editor of the Sun and News of the World and now chief executive of NI, had refused to turn up to answer questions from the Commons culture, media and sport select committee. This is wrong in one respect. Berlusconi is at least an Italian operating in his own land. As an American citizen, Murdoch appears to have scant interest in the plurality of information in Britain and therefore the health of British society.
His overriding concern is that the government remains covertly in step with his plans for expansion and that the flow of profits to News Corp remains uninterrupted. It is as though we had handed over a huge chunk of British agricultural land or given up our food distribution networks to a relentless foreign corporation.
But the amazing thing about Murdoch’s power is that it is maintained even though we owe him absolutely nothing and he is, theoretically, at the mercy of laws and regulations that can be activated to control him. His power is in a sense illusory, maintained because people choose to believe it.