The Great Debate UK
from The Great Debate:
On the night Queen Elizabeth scampered back from her Scottish castle to address an angry crowd outside Buckingham Palace – the crowd protesting she hadn’t paid enough respect to the memory of Princess Diana, killed in a car crash the week before – Rupert Murdoch was in the newsroom of the London Times. “There’s your headline,” he told the editor in charge. “Queen Saves Neck!” It was a perfect tabloid headline for a perfect tabloid story.
That Diana, named after the goddess of hunting, should die hounded by a pack of snap-happy paparazzi added a vein of irony to the story of her tragic life. A similar irony informs the scandal engulfing Murdoch. The biter has been bit, a fact clearly on display when Rupert and his son James, arm in arm with their flame-maned employee Rebekah Brooks, were shoved and jostled in a London street by the newshounds of Fleet Street. Hauled before a House of Commons committee, the usually unrepentant mogul looked dented when he uttered the phrase that will litter his obituaries: “This is the most humble day of my life.”
His sense of humility didn’t last long. Nothing has gone right for Murdoch since that day of shame, yet he quickly regained his old pugilistic self using a medium that perfectly suits his headline-writer’s gift, the 140 characters of Twitter. Too cocky to hide behind an amanuensis, Murdoch is back on the attack, railing against “enemies many different agendas, but worst old toffs and right wingers” and vowing revenge. “Seems every competitor and enemy piling on with lies and libels,” he tweeted. “Easy to hit back hard, which preparing.”
While Rupert fiddles on his iPad, his empire burns. Scotland Yard – which, according to the police themselves, had become a News Corp. subsidiary, leading to the resignation of the police commissioner, the head of counterterrorism and the communications chief – is conducting three parallel investigations into bribery, corruption, phone hacking, computer hacking and witness intimidation by News Corp. employees. Senior policewoman Sue Akers has uncovered “a culture of illegal payments” to police and other public servants, meaning News Corp. may technically have broken the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act that deems bribing foreign officials a criminal act.
By Hugo Dixon
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.
James Murdoch shouldn’t be kicked out of BSkyB. Some observers want to use the Murdoch clan’s troubles at News International, their UK newspapers company, to run them out of town completely. But BSkyB, the pay-television group, is a separate business. And Murdoch Jr has done a good job first as its chief executive and now as its chairman.
- Steven Barnett is professor of communications at the University of Westminster, and a writer and commentator on broadcasting issues. His first book, published in 1990, was on the relationship between television and sport. The opinions expressed are his own.-
Today is a historic day for British television: the first time in its brief six-year history that the supposedly uber powerful Ofcom has been prepared to flex its muscles to tackle the brute force of BSkyB’s overwhelming dominance in pay television.
- Steven Barnett is professor of communications at the University of Westminster, and a writer and commentator on broadcasting issues. He is finishing writing a book “Just Wires and Lights? The Rise and Fall of Television Journalism” that will published by Sage in 2010. The opinions expressed are his own. -
I was in the audience for Murdoch senior’s MacTaggart lecture 20 years ago, and was shocked –- as were many others –- by the ignorance and shallowness of his analysis. It wasn’t just the blatant self-interest of promoting his newly launched Sky channels; it was the sheer incomprehension of British television’s achievements in broadcast journalism compared to its manifest failure in the United States. Murdoch senior pretended it was the other way round, a strange distortion of the empirical evidence.