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Saturday, November 24, 2007 

Murdoch in his own words.

On occasion, stories which prove much of what you argue about just sail straight out into the open:

The media mogul Rupert Murdoch has said he wants Sky News to become more like his rightwing US network Fox News, and revealed the extent of his editorial grip on his British newspapers to a House of Lords committee.

The communications committee, chaired by Lord Fowler, toured the US in September to meet media executives, regulators and consumer groups as part of an inquiry into media ownership. Their conversations were made public yesterday in detailed minutes.


The minutes, available in this .doc file, are mostly full of the usual self-aggrandising bullshit from Murdoch about how wonderful his companies are and how, despite all the evidence to the contrary, he doesn't interfere with editorial independence, except when it comes to the Scum and News of the Screws.

Most amusing are the following claims:

They [the regulatory authorities] kept investigating his purchases on the grounds of plurality but he had invested in plurality by keeping the Times alive and putting 200 extra channels on the air through Sky.

Ah yes, keeping the Times afloat, meaning that his own politics are given the necessary veneer of "centrist" broadsheet gloss, is a sure sign of plurality. Thank the Lord for Rupert: he's given us 200 more channels of pure unadulterated shit.

He stated that “the BBC has a unique place in British life”. People were very hostile to any challenge to the BBC.

Which certainly hasn't stopped him from bashing the corporation at every opportunity in both the Sun and the Times. The reporting from both during the Hutton inquiry was a case in point: the government had done very little to nothing wrong while the BBC were the true villains of the piece, guilty before they had even stepped inside the court. The leaking of the final report to the Scum the night before it was published only highlighted how deep inside Number 10's rectum the paper was. The reporting from the Sun over the BBC fakery "scandals" was gleeful, gloating and delirious at being able to shoot into an open goal; when ITV's far more serious defrauding through its phone lines was exposed the coverage was cut to the bone and nowhere near as condemnatory.

News Corp was the first organisation to bring proper football coverage to the UK. Their investment led to better football grounds and other benefits. However it had been a real struggle.

Or you could of course argue that Murdoch's money and its effects have never been more apparent than following Wednesday's catastrophe. Murdoch created the "golden generation", the "bling generation" or whatever you want to call it, and has poured money in while the real football fans themselves have never been so priced out of the game.

He believed that Sky News would be more popular if it were more like the Fox News Channel. Then it would be “a proper alternative to the BBC”.

How true. You could watch the BBC's best efforts to be impartial, or you could watch open propaganda for Murdoch's politics on Sky News.

Mr Murdoch stated that Sky News could become more like Fox without a change to the impartiality rules in the UK. For example Sky had not yet made the presentational progress that Fox News had. He stated that the only reason that Sky News was not more like Fox news was that “nobody at Sky listens to me”.

This is also completely untrue. Sky News gave Richard Littlejohn two chances to make the "presentational progress" that Fox News had, one before Fox News had even been set-up in 1994 and then again in 2003. Both were miserable failures, with Littlejohn the first time complaining that the impartiality regulations were the reason.

Mr Murdoch believed that the role of the media is “to inform”. Reporters are there to find out what is going on and editors are there to invest in those investigations if they uncover something.

You can more than make up your own mind on what Murdoch's real view of journalism is by the example set by Fox News and by our own Sun.

He distinguishes between The Times and The Sunday Times and The Sun and the News of the World (and makes the same distinction between the New York Post and the Wall Street Journal). For The Sun and News of the World he explained that he is a “traditional proprietor”. He exercises editorial control on major issues – like which Party to back in a general election or policy on Europe.

It is of course then just a coincidence that the Sun and Times share the exact same view on both Europe and which party they backed at the last election. The reality of Murdoch's editorial control over the Times and Sunday Times is far more complicated. As what happened when Murdoch first gained control of the Times showed, he made the same platitudes he does now at the Wall Street Journal over editorial independence, only for Harold Evans to resign within a year because of Murdoch's constant meddling and disagreements with him. Andrew Neil, most certainly not a left-winger, and a former Murdoch editor has for instance also said:

Rupert Murdoch was an enormous presence in my life. Even when he wasn't there he was this sort of looming presence....I think that's how he does control things. He leaves you in no doubt that if he's not there in person he's there in spirit and he's watching what you are up to and you've got to stick to the parameters. The idea that he doesn't interfere is nonsense.

Neil hits the nail right on the head. Murdoch editors know full well what is expected of them. If they deviate from his well-known line, they get sacked. As a result, they don't, and so there's no need for him to leave huge calling cards which would make clear his gross editorial interference. Why else would every single Murdoch owned major newspaper around the world have supported the Iraq war?

Mr Murdoch insisted that there was no cross promotion between his different businesses. He stated that The Times was slow to publish listings for Sky programmes. He also stated that his own papers often give poor reviews of his programmes.

Any reader of Private Eye will be more than aware of the numerous puffs and cross-promotions that frequently feature in both the Times and Sun for his other media interests.

Of course, if you were looking for a report of Murdoch's evidence in his own papers, you'd be searching for a long time. Neither the Sun (which has only mentioned its owner 10 times this year) or the Times have published any article on the Communications Committee's release of the notes of the meeting. Then again, how could he possibly tell Sun readers that what they're consuming every day is exactly what he wants them to?

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