MediaFile

Rupert Murdoch’s traffic jam

It hasn’t been a great year for Rupert Murdoch. There was the phone-hacking scandal; the Parliamentary committee declaration that he was “not a fit person to exercise the stewardship of a major international company”; The Daily, his iPad publication, laying off a third of its staff over the summer; and a confession that, when it came to MySpace, “we screwed up in every possible way.”

To his credit, Murdoch started making bold bets on the Internet back when other media barons were timid – starting with his purchase of MySpace. The Daily was, at least in theory, an effort to “completely re-imagine our craft,” as Murdoch claimed.

There was also Murdoch’s resistance to Google, a contrarian wager that he could succeed in the Web era without Google’s help. In many ways Google (for better or worse) is the Internet’s most potent market maker, connecting eyeballs with websites as a mighty driver of traffic. But to Murdoch “Don’t Be Evil” Google was evil incarnate. Even though Murdoch has other papers that are indexed (including his U.S. flagship, the Wall Street Journal), he put the Times of London stories completely behind a paywall, blocking them from Google’s spiders, and likened what Google argued was the fair (and mutually beneficial) use of teaser-like snippets as theft.

The strategy: If some have to pay to read the Times, all should have to pay – there should be no exception to the rule. If no one could get anything for free, then they’d be willing (forced) to pay.

Murdoch wanted to be on the Internet, but not of it. He wanted to have it both ways – that’s the Murdoch way.

Content everywhere? More like content nowhere

Will Big Media and Big Tech companies ever stop punishing their biggest fans?

Like many people, I woke up yesterday and reached for my iPad for my morning hit of news, entertainment and information, so I could start my day. (And like many, I’m embarrassed to admit it.) Padding to the front door to get a newspaper still sounds more respectable, but my iPad gives me a far more current, rich and satisfying media experience than a still-warm printed Times could ever produce.

Except, lately, it doesn’t. Yesterday morning, I saw the exciting news that Bill Simmons, ESPN’s most popular, profane and controversial writer, had secured an interview with President Obama. Simmons published his interview in podcast, text and video form on Grantland, a longform sports journalism website he founded last year under the ESPN umbrella. I clicked over to the story from my Twitter feed and saw three YouTube excerpts of Simmons with Obama. And that’s all I saw. When I hit play on the videos, I discovered ESPN had set them to be “unavailable” on mobile devices.

Moving on, I tried to read a New York Post headline that also found its way into my Twitter feed. But when I tapped in, the Post webpage that loaded was not the story I wanted to read. Instead it was a notice, which I took as an admonition, that to read New York Post content on an iPad, I would have to download the app, which retails for $1.99.

How long can Murdoch keep it up on Twitter?

You can say what you like about Rupert Murdoch, and most people have, but he doesn’t do things halfway. His decision to join Twitter on New Year’s eve has set the Twitterati and blogosphere alight not just because the 80-year old media baron joined but because unlike every other CEO or executive who’s joined Twitter, he’s actually expressed some real opinions — some of which are controversial given who he is. When Reuters asked CEOs at its Global Media Summit last fall most felt tweeting wasn’t for them.

In Murdoch’s first 24 hours he started off relatively gently praising an op-ed on Ron Paul in his Wall Street Journal, extolled the benefits of vacation, praised the founder of original founder of his New York Post and championed two of his Fox studios’ movies ‘The Descendants’ and ‘We bought a Zoo’.

He seemed to stick to some sort of neutral script for his first 24 hours but by Monday (Jan 2nd) he had praised President Obama for being “very courageous – and dead right” for his decision on terrorist detention, taken a poke at Glenn Beck’s old Fox News show and effectively endorsed Republican presidential candidate hopeful Rick Santorum: “Only candidate with genuine big vision for the country”. He also called on the “courageous” Obama to address what Murdoch sees as the United States’ biggest crisis, its education policy.

Rupert Murdoch sells A shares, but still in control

Rupert Murdoch (Photo: Reuters)

News Corp  Chief Executive and Chairman Rupert Murdoch sold off the bulk of his common shareholding according to a regulatory filing but, have no fear the 80 year-old mogul is still very much in charge both in terms of management and financial control.

According to the filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, from Nov 16 to Nov 17 Murdoch sold a total of 3.6 million News Corp A shares for between $16.76 and and $17.07 each for a total value of some $62 million. This means Murdoch”s A shares holding went down to just 381,000 from around 4 million. The elder Murdoch had made the disposals for “financial planning” reasons, according to a source. Back in February Murdoch had bought 2.8 million A shares for between $17.19 to $17.53.

News Corp shares got battered through the summer dropping as much as 25 percent as the parent of Fox, Wall Street Journal and Twentieth Century Fox reeled from an escalating phone hacking scandal at its UK newspaper arm. Murdoch did undertake some relatively minor buying and selling of A shares over the summer.

Murdoch backs progressive U.S. immigration policy

News Corp Chief Executive Rupert Murdoch on Thursday said the United States should work harder at making itself a more attractive country for people to emigrate to, as an important route back to enabling economic growth.
Murdoch, 80, who was born in Melbourne, Australia, became a naturalized a U.S. citizen in 1985.

“We have in our DNA the most entrepreneurship,” said Murdoch speaking at a conference on immigration sponsored by the Partnership for New York City and Partnership for a New American Economy. “It’s no accident that people over all over Europe want to come here…and from China. This is a great country.”

Other speakers like New York City Mayor Bloomberg, former Toronto mayor David Miller and New York Times writer Thomas Friedman all supported reforming the immigration system.

from Breakingviews:

Rupert Murdoch’s sham governance on full display

By Jeffrey Goldfarb
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Rupert Murdoch still gets a kick out of the “fair and balanced” slogan used by his Fox News channel. He had a good laugh about it only last week at News Corp’s annual shareholder meeting. The results of a vote conducted at that gathering, released Monday, show that everyone’s now equally in on the joke about the company’s shameful corporate governance as they are the conservative bias of his TV news operation.

A majority of stockholders who don’t share the media mogul’s last name snubbed the nomination of his children, James and Lachlan, to the board. Without the support of Rupert’s nearly 40 percent control, three more directors also would have received less than a majority vote, meaning minority holders strongly rebuked a full third of the News Corp board. Strip out another 7 percent backing from Murdoch pal Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, and the sons, each of whom has at one time been considered a potential heir apparent, suffered a roughly two-to-one defeat.

News International loses top PR exec

News Corp exec James Murdoch

If we were at Rupert Murdoch’s daily UK tabloid The Sun we’d probably have a headline today that reads: Will the last person to leave News International please  turn off the lights?

Oh wait, The Sun already did that — but with Britain as its subject.

But we can’t help ourselves as News International executives drop like flies following the terrible phone voicemail hacking scandal which has rocked its parent company News Corp right to its core. Nearly 20 executives or journalists have either resigned, been fired or arrested since the hacking scandal escalated.

The Guardian today broke news that Alice Macandrew, the much liked, much respected senior communications executive at News International handed in her notice after falling out with News International top brass including James Murdoch about the handling of the communications strategy once the proverbial good stuff started to hit the fan this summer. We’ve since confirmed the news from our sources.

The future of journalism in the UK

By Mark Thompson
The opinions discussed are his own.

In the UK we are going through an unprecedented crisis in journalism, a crisis with the boundaries and techniques of investigative journalism at its heart.

We don’t yet know what will emerge from this crisis and from Lord Leveson’s Inquiry, but any recommendations about new laws or regulation will be studied with interest by Governments around the world.

Before the phone-hacking scandal, conventional wisdom suggested that traditional investigative journalism faced two threats:  the first economic, the second related to the impact of the internet and new forms of journalism and disclosure it has enabled.

Who stands for the public in Murdoch vs the government?

Editor’s introduction: In this essay, Geoffrey Robertson QC, who has extensive experience representing media companies and free speech cases, explores the role of the Leveson Inquiry, established by UK Prime Minister David Cameron in July to conduct a “judge-led inquiry into the culture, practices, and ethics of the press and the extent of unlawful or improper conduct within News International and other newspaper organisations.” Robertson places the inquiry in the historical context of media regulation in the UK. He casts a skeptical eye on the prospects for meaningful media, especially given the failures of past similar attempts and the low credibility of the UK’s Press Complaints Commission (PCC) in either protecting privacy or enforcing its ethical rulings.He then explores various proposed alternative structures to media regulation. Since the essay deals with UK-specific material, British grammar conventions have been preserved.

By Geoffrey Robertson
The views expressed are his own.

The wide-ranging remit of Leveson I is to inquire into “the culture, practices and ethics of the press”, its relations with police and politicians, and to make recommendations for “a new and more effective policy and regulatory regime” which upholds freedom of speech and media independence “whilst encouraging the highest ethical and professional standards”. This is a Royal Commission on the Press by another name: it is the fourth since the Second World War, and its terms of reference are much wider than Sir David Calcutt’s 1991 and 1993 enquiries into privacy and press ethics. Its Report will have more clout than recent reports on the subject by Parliamentary committees. Leveson II – specifically into unlawful or improper conduct by News International (or other news organizations), and by the metropolitan police, must await the conclusion of trials and appeals resulting from “Operation Weeting” and so will not get underway until 2014 at the earliest. At the first stage, recommendations will be made for legislative and policy changes in a year’s time, possibly to be introduced in conjunction with the government’s Defamation Bill.

In choosing Lord Justice Leveson to report on press discipline, the government opted for a sitting judge in the mould of Lord Hutton, from a criminal (mainly prosecution) background and with no evident empathy towards the media. Sir David Calcutt had some free speech credentials, as did Sir Hartley Shawcross (who chaired the second Royal Commission) whilst the third and most recent Commission was chaired by media-friendly Lord Macgregor (assisted, in understanding media law, by Leonard Hoffman Q.C. ) Leveson is to be “assisted” in understanding media issues by six expert “panelists” whose role and power (e.g. to append their own, or dissenting, reports) is unclear. Their “expertise” in the sharp end of news gathering is questionable – two are former political editors who were members of the discredited “lobby” system, together with a former Chief Constable, the Director of “Liberty”, an ex-head of OFCOM and a former chairman of the Financial Times. The omission of any distinguished practitioner of investigative journalism is notable. It does not mean that Leveson will not be supportive of public interest journalism, but it does mean that the press will have to make a convincing case for its own freedom from the kind of statutory restraints requiring ‘due impartiality’ and “good taste” that better-behaved (and less investigative) broadcasters have long had to endure. The demands for statutory regulation, for more criminal laws and for a new civil wrong of invasion of privacy will be difficult to resist, and already there have been siren calls to subject editors and journalists to “professional” regulation – including fines and disbarment – of a kind that have long been visited upon errant doctors and lawyers.

What Rupert did

By John Lloyd
The views expressed are his own.

The crisis at the News of the World broke in July 2011. It had been gathering for five years, since the first public intimations surfaced in 2006 of a culture of using private investigators to hack into the mobile phones of those the newspaper wished to investigate. Two ‘rotten apples’ were thrown out by News International, the parent company: these were Glen Mulcaire, the private investigator employed by a number of papers to find out secrets of the objects of their investigations; and Clive Goodman, the News of the World (NotW ) reporter who covered the royal family and whose stories had used material gleaned by Mulcaire from interceptions of the royal princes’ phones. The rest of the barrel, the paper and the company said, was unblemished: as evidence of purity of soul, the then editor, Andy Coulson, resigned, disavowing all knowledge of the hacking but shouldering responsibility as the one on whose watch this had happened. A few months later, he was employed as director of communications by David Cameron, the leader of the Conservative Party and of the opposition; when Cameron moved, in May 2010, into Number 10 as prime minister, Coulson retained his post and moved with him. It was reported that several of those who met Cameron at this time warned him against employing Coulson. The latter’s claim, that he had not asked a senior reporter about the source of stories which would be among the most important published in any given week, astonished those who had any acquaintance with journalism. However, Cameron said he accepted his word, that Coulson deserved a ‘second chance’ and that he had skills which the leader of the opposition needed.

From these quite modest beginnings grew a scandal whose revelations have laid bare journalistic practices which were not confined to phone hacking, nor to the NotW, and involved issues even more serious: the assumption by leading journalists working for the most widely read section of the British press that the private lives of anyone in whom they wished to take an interest should be open to their gaze and use; increasing subordination of the political class to tabloid pressure; and the possible (as yet unproven) corruption of officers of the Metropolitan Police.

This is written as the News International scandal, and others associated with it, roll on. The issue is sufficiently mature, however, for there to have appeared a substantial minority of voices which dissent from the chorus of condemnation which has attended these revelations, and assert that, even if the scandal is shocking, it has been grossly overblown – as a Wall Street Journal editorial had it, overblown because of left-wing hostility to right-wing newspapers. These voices point out that more important matters face the world; and that, even if Rupert Murdoch, chairman of News Corporation (whose UK subsidiary News International is, and which also owns Dow Jones, parent company of the Wall Street Journal) presided over an organization in which such things were winked at, he has also been a force for good in the newspaper trade. He smashed the anarchic Fleet Street print unions which were a barrier to development and growth, invested mightily in an industry from which others were and still are exiting, kept alive (among other titles) The Times at a large loss, provided millions of readers in three Anglophone countries – Australia, the UK and to a lesser extent the USA – with newspapers which they freely and often chose to buy, and ran an efficient and entrepreneurial company. More, as Ros Wynne-Jones argued in the Independent, at times his tabloids did revelatory and campaigning journalism on issues that mattered to a working-class readership: ‘holiday rip-offs, the loan shark thugs, the tawdry parasitical underclass that preys on the poor and elderly’. One could add to her list an appetite for exposing racial extremists: the Sun vividly reported on leading members of the British National Party, which had sought to give a more moderate image of itself, giving Nazi salutes and glorying in racial hatred.