How corporate media aims to protect Murdoch empire

A serious media and political culture would always oppose concentration of corporate interests. Alas, that does not happen and hence the Murdoch empire has accumulated ridiculous amounts of power over the last decades. It should be challenged, including here in Australia.

So it’s unsurprising that the corporate press, which lives and thrives by maintaining a monopoly, would often defend the Murdoch rules.

Here’s the Washington Post editorial from Sunday:

It goes without saying that law enforcement on both sides of the Atlantic should aggressively pursue any evidence of criminal conduct — and investigators must determine why British police failed to pursue evidence of phone hacking after an initial case four years ago. Though News Corp. will suffer, Britain may benefit from its failure to take control of BSkyB and an overall diminution of its influence. More so than in the United States, concentration of media ownership in Britain — where News Corp. controlled some 40 percent of newspaper circulation — is a concern.

It would be easy, however, for the reaction to the scandal to go too far, driven by the long-standing antipathy among the media and political left for Mr. Murdoch and his rightward-leaning organs. Calls by some Democrats in Congress for the Justice Department to investigate News Corp. for violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, for example, are premature at best; Britain has good bribery laws and is perfectly capable of following up allegations of payoffs to its police or others.

Similarly, suggestions that Britain should replace the newspaper industry’s self-regulatory body with official regulation are misguided and dangerous. Britain’s biggest media problem is not too much freedom but too little: Onerous libel laws deter critical reporting about public figures and arguably drive journalists to measures such as phone hacking to obtain lawsuit-proof stories. That’s obviously no excuse for the inexcusable. But once they are done flaying Mr. Murdoch, the country’s political leaders would do well to address that larger issue too.

And then there’s the sorry sight of the Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal editorial defending the company and explaining how essential is the empire for democracy, freedom, human rights, food production et al:

At least three British investigations into phone-hacking and payments to police and others by the now-shuttered News of the World tabloid are underway, with 10 arrests so far. News Corp. and its executives have apologized profusely and are cooperating with authorities. Phone-hacking is illegal, and it is up to British authorities to enforce their laws. If Scotland Yard failed to do so adequately when the hacking was first uncovered several years ago, then that is more troubling than the hacking itself.

It is also worth noting the irony of so much moral outrage devoted to a single media company, when British tabloids have been known for decades for buying scoops and digging up dirt on the famous. Fleet Street in general has long had a well-earned global reputation for the blind-quote, single-sourced story that may or may not be true. The understandable outrage in this case stems from the hacking of a noncelebrity, the murder victim Milly Dowler.

The British politicians now bemoaning media influence over politics are also the same statesmen who have long coveted media support. The idea that the BBC and the Guardian newspaper aren’t attempting to influence public affairs, and don’t skew their coverage to do so, can’t stand a day’s scrutiny. The overnight turn toward righteous independence recalls an eternal truth: Never trust a politician.

We also trust that readers can see through the commercial and ideological motives of our competitor-critics. The Schadenfreude is so thick you can’t cut it with a chainsaw. Especially redolent are lectures about journalistic standards from publications that give Julian Assange and WikiLeaks their moral imprimatur. They want their readers to believe, based on no evidence, that the tabloid excesses of one publication somehow tarnish thousands of other News Corp. journalists across the world.

Text and images ©2023 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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