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News Corp on the defensive « Previous | |Next »
October 16, 2011

News Corp continues to be on the defensive as more evidence is emerging of the anything goes attitude--the schoolyard bully?-- that seems to pervade Rupert Murdoch’s the disinformation and populist tone of his papers.

The anything goes attitude is giving rise to a revolt by shareholders who have the Murdoch's in their spotlight. They are opposed to the re-election of Rupert Murdoch's two sons, James and Lachlan, at the News Corp annual meeting next week because of the phone-hacking scandal.

PinnIMurdoch.jpeg

The more evidence emerging refers to Nick Davies of The Guardian outlining the circulation scam at News Corporation's flagship newspaper, the Wall Street Journal.

Davies says:

The Guardian found evidence that the Journal had been channelling money through European companies in order to secretly buy thousands of copies of its own paper at a knock-down rate, misleading readers and advertisers about the Journal's true circulation....The Journal's decision to secretly purchase its own papers began with an unusual scheme to boost circulation, known as the Future Leadership Institute. Starting in January 2008, the Journal linked up with European companies who sponsored seminars for university students who were likely to be future leaders. The Journal rewarded the sponsors by publishing their names in a special panel published in the paper. The sponsors paid for that publicity by buying copies of the Journal at a knock-down rate of no more than 5¢ each. Those papers were then distributed to university students. At the bottom line, the sponsors enjoyed a prestigious link to the Journal, and the Journal boosted its circulation figures.

Boosting circulation figures is standard practice in Australia--witness all the free Australian newspapers at airports and universities. Presumably these freebies are accepted as legitimate, rather than a circulation scam. Circulation equals revenue from ads.

However, the Murdochs know their voting strength makes it difficult for investors to unseat the family members or other directors who have close ties with them. The dual-class share structure of News Corp gives the Murdoch family almost 40% of the voting rights in the company despite owning only 12% of the equity.

In Australia News Ltd doesn't give the Coalition money to spend on political propaganda and then demand business favours in return, Murdoch's papers provide the political propaganda free of charge. No money changed hands. But the briber expects and will receive business favours--it's what has happened in the past--- and the bribed politicians get puff pieces. Even the ALP treads carefully---its media inquiry carefully avoids the issue of media ownership and so News Ltd dominance of the newspaper market.

Ownership matters given the media's relationship with democracy. The media matter because they are historically seen seen as a forum for democratic politics. Martin Wolfe of the Financial Times says:

Diverse media require diverse ownership. But economic forces may generate a degree of concentration incompatible with desirable diversity. Politicians will then find themselves grovelling before proprietors who control their communications with the public. At worst, the proprietor may so twist and distort this needed communication as to transform public life. I would argue that the Fox network’s rightwing populism has done just that in the US. This should not happen in the UK.

Nor Australia.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 1:44 PM | | Comments (7)
Comments

Comments

Thats an interesting comment by Wolfe you cite.
Interesting in that he has carefully worded it to escape overly strong criticism of Murdochia.
Firstly he has used a hypthetical tone eg 'may', 'will then' [rather than 'do now'], 'at worst ... may', 'I would argue [rather than 'it is clear'] and secondly he has restricted the application of these muted criticisms to the US with his last line which implies that Murdochian misinformation and propaganda is not already a clearly observable reality in the UK [he probably is not aware of the situation in the southern antipode].

It seems Wolfe is very tentatively dipping just the tip of his toe into the water to test how hot it is just in case he gets a violent reaction.
He deserves some credit for his article, it involves a degree of courage, but I do wish he had called a spade a &%HKU^&!

It occurred to me the other day that all newspapers have a problem that I haven't seen discussed anywhere. I am referring to the fact that nobody at the retail level seems very interested in selling the damn things any more. If this is true, discussion about their content will become academic.

Once upon a time there were newsboys or news-stands on every street corner in the cities. In the suburbs there were newsagents who actually delivered newspapers to your house if you asked, and even after they closed on the weekend there would be placards (remember them?) outside a milk bar or whatever telling you where to get your news fix.

These days it can be a challenge to buy a newspaper even if you really want one, at least around these parts. I only bother on Saturdays, and frequently find that the newspapers are in a hard-to-find shelf somewhere at the now-inappropriately-named newsagent's. Occasionally they are still tied up with plastic twine because the staff are too busy selling various kinds of lucrative gambling items to find a knife to liberate them. News Ltd has tried to tackle the problem by bribing supermarkets to sell their rags but this usually amounts to a pile stuck on a shelf somewhere near the checkouts. They don't exactly walk out the door.

Newspaper sales have been in apparently irreversible decline for decades but if they have reached the stage where retailers just couldn't be bothered with them, their problems will rapidly become terminal.

The post says:

the anything goes attitude is giving rise to a revolt by shareholders who have the Murdoch's in their spotlight. They are opposed to the re-election of Rupert Murdoch's two sons, James and Lachlan, at the News Corp annual meeting next week because of the phone-hacking scandal.

Its only the small shareholders in revolt, and they are hardly likely to force change. The Murdochs will do what they've always done --ignore their critics.

The freedom of the press that the Murdoch's defend has already been threatened by the narrowness of ownership, the debasing of culture, and a decline in standards (all those invented stories).

The Press Council should be empowered to name and fine dodgy journalists in response to the culture of debasement and denigration in newspapers. Self regulation isn't working.

Reporters rewrite press releases partly out of laziness and partly because they have to fill papers.

'Gotcha' journalism is now the norm in Australia.

The Murdoch journalists have regarded themselves as preening courtiers, who aligned themselves with the conservative gang in power under Howard. Now, with the Coalition in opposition, we have their foolish sneering and mockery of Gillard’s personal appearance, mannerisms and method of speaking coupled with the obsessive concentration on matters of overwhelming triviality.

Jeffery Sachs on Murdoch's media machine:

Murdoch's News Corporation, the owner of the Wall Street Journal and Fox News, is the opposite of a true news corporation. It is news as in Orwell's newspeak. Its major role is to peddle corporate propaganda, frighten politicians, and make lots of money. In those roles it has been successful. Yet the more we learn about Murdoch's methods, the more we discover a lack of rudimentary ethics and a corporate culture that invites even criminality. The U.K. hacking scandal and the repeated lies of Murdoch's associates (and even Scotland Yard) in that scandal have opened a new window on how Murdoch's world really works.

In Murdoch's media the pursuit of money and influence takes precedence over the fate of the planet.