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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

blocking a media inquiry « Previous | |Next »
July 20, 2011

Events have moved swiftly for News Corp. In a little over two weeks, News Corp has closed News of the World and shelved its $US12 billion ($A11.3 billion) takeover bid for British Sky Broadcasting. The company has come under sustained criticism from both sides of British politics. In the US, it is under investigation by the FBI on speculative allegations that newspaper reporters have targeted victims of the September 11 attacks. New Corp's shares have fallen more than 16 per cent since the scandal broke this month.

The irony is that Murdoch's papers have always feasted on scandals like this, picking over the bones of their victims. Now the Murdoch’s are the ones whose bones are being picked. Murdoch deserves his humiliation given the way he has treated others, exploiting fear and engaged in a “flourishing criminal conspiracy”.


Murdoch remains the most powerful media baron in Australia--- he has 70 per cent of the newspaper readership, plus operational control of monopoly pay TV provider Foxtel. News Ltd uses its corporate muscle for political and commercial advantage and to pursue its political agendas (NBN, carbon, mining tax, Iraq War, regime change etc) aggressively. Economic power is political power.

The standard defence of News Ltd in Australia takes the form of opposing any media inquiry on the grounds that News Ltd is entitled to its media bias because of the freedom of the press. Any attempt to regulate bias represents a stifling of critical comment and extensive scrutiny.

The inference. A media inquiry is an elitist attack on democracy and populism because it is designed to stifle Murdoch's populist challenge to the smug group-think of the anti-democratic Left.

The problem with this defence is that it ignores the extent of media concentration in Australia, which is the real issue; not political bias against the New Class, even if it is offering political propaganda services, disguised thinly as journalism. There are liberal and conservative media outlets and the right to build a noxious empire like Newscorp is an indispensable consequence of freedom of speech. The price that is paid is Murdoch's power being used to shape and empower the culture of tabloid journalism--- venal, voyeuristic, reality-show-obsessed premised on untruths, mass deceptions and blurring the lines between news and entertainment. Murdoch's corporate culture is one of bullying, conformity, manipulation and toadyism.

However the freedom of the press defence is an evasion, because it separates content from structure. Something does need to be done about that 70% print media concentration in Australia. What is of deep concern is the very fusion of politicians, journalists and media owners that govern us - the political class. The collaboration between the executive (ministers) unelected advisors, civil servants and privately owned media at the centre of the state is what needs to be prised open. Too often the political class work together in pursuit of the creation of public consent to policies which benefit them but are against the public interest.

Murdoch's standard business practice is to run roughshod over cross-ownership rules meant to prevent one man or company from having too much power — and then used his lobbying might to get those rules diluted. The Labor and Liberal parties in Australia allowed it to happen--ie, Murdoch fixing deals with government, permitting him a market advantage. As Anthony Barnett says at Open Democracy:

This was the malevolent dishonesty at the heart of Murdochism. He was a close ally of state power who advocated hostility towards it. Worse, he was an ally of the most baleful and threatening aspects of state power, its police and security and the database state, while he attacked its best aspects, regulation, welfare, investment in and defence of the public interest.

Though Murdoch is still a traditional press baron in Australia (unlike the US) his long term strategy is to increase his television interests via Foxtel. He requires considerable influence over the political elite that ultimately takes the decision to grant or withhold licences and concessions in order to do this. The loss making Australian is sustained because it is read by everyone 'whose opinion matters'.--ie., the political class (the fusion of politicians, journalists and media owners).

The hostility to a media inquiry can be seen as the political class not wanting a deep seated inquiry into itself. They are going to defend the integration of media and politics. Their politics consists of an economic agenda based on ‘opening up’ media markets, growth, innovation and promoting ‘light-touch’ regulation. It assumes that deregulation is the sole, or even preferred, route to ensuring growth and innovation whilst avoiding the fusion between politicians and the media.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 11:29 AM | | Comments (9)


Rupert Murdoch represents global capitalism in its Anglo Saxon or neo-liberal version: its a ruthless advocate of the market system, an opponent of regulation and the welfare state of social democracy.

It aims to dismantle regulation and the welfare state. The poor are to punished because as victims they deserved what they got.

Hey... wait a darn minute!!!

Isn't it the tories who always bang on about accountability and responsibility? So why wouldn't Newscorp be accountable for it's actions?

Mars, accountability and responsibility are for the masses. CEOs and their friends and family are above all that mucky stuff.

Proponents of neo-liberalism are all fine with social Darwinism, right up to the point where it applies to them.

"....accountability and responsibility are for the masses..."

Oh indeed , you've got that right! It's the masses that have to be protected... from themselves apparently.

In today's SMH:

"Internet censorship machine quietly revs up"

Jay Rosen in The Guardian advances an interesting theory about News Corp. He says that:

Here's my little theory: News Corp is not a news company at all, but a global media empire that employs its newspapers – and in the US, Fox News – as a lobbying arm. The logic of holding these "press" properties is to wield influence on behalf of the rest of the (much bigger and more profitable) media business and also to satisfy Murdoch's own power urges.

He then adds:
Fox News and the newspapers Murdoch owns are described by News Corp, and understood by most who work there as "normal" news organisations. But they aren't, really. What makes them different is not that they have a more conservative take on the world – that's the fiction in which opponents and supporters join – but rather: news is not their first business. Wielding influence is. Scaring politicians into going along with News Corp's plans. Building up an atmosphere of fear and paranoia, which then admits Rupert into the back door of 10 Downing Street.

But none of these facts can be admitted into company psychology, because the flag that its news-related properties fly is journalism. Its editors pledge allegiance to the values of good journalism.

Some here will know of Margo Kingston (Alcorn) the former Fairfax journo who helped pioneeer current affairs blogging in oz, at the SMH, then the independent Web Diary. More than that, she has set up a site on FB, calling for a Campaign for an Inquiry into Murdoch in our Parliament, also. There are some good minds up and running there already,
people like Lindsay Tanner and Catherine Lumby, for a start.
Kingston has suggested that WDers approach other reputable and progressive sites and individuals, to develop support for this concept of Murdoch being examined in our parliament. Is our society not sick enough that we are due for a look at tabloid media?

According to The Australian the pressure for increased privacy protection for Australian citizens is because of Bob Brown and the Greens are pushing for an inquiry into the media--- into journalistic behaviour and media ownership.

According to them a privacy tort is clearly aimed at intimidating the media, particularly News Limited, publisher of The Australian, the newspaper Brown loves to hate.

Murdoch should be blocked from owning any more media in Australia---the ACCC should block the 2 billion takeover of pay TV operator Austar by rival Foxtel, part owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp, because it decrease competition in the media market.

The proposed merger would effectively create a near monopoly subscription television provider across Australia.

Off topic, Annabel Crabb has written a sensible article.

Tony Abbott hasn't believed an expert or a public servant since Godwin Grech left. Will he dump the CSIRO when he wins? If he doesn't trust Treasury, will he get Barnaby Joyce to do the national accounts?