Citizen Murdoch’s vote

Rupert Murdoch gave a speech just a day after the Con-Dem Comprehensive Spending Review. The was the first Margaret Thatcher lecture and his first in the United Kingdom since his 1989 speech at the Edinburgh Television Festival.

Mr Murdoch is quoted in the Guardian as saying that a free society “required an independent press: turbulent, inquiring, bustling and free. That’s why our journalism is hard-driving and questioning of authority. And so are our journalists.” It was reported that the speech was given in front of at least five cabinet ministers.

In the United States, four of the next Republican Party hopefuls for the 2012 Presidential elections work for one news organisation: Fox News, part of the Murdoch’s News Corporation empire. This has been stirring up a lot of controversy lately, with the debate reaching the New York Times and Op-Ed columnist Paul Krugman.

Kicking off the discussions was a long and thoughtful article in pointing out that the four Republican Party hopefuls were Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee. Fox News employs them as paid contributors and they have contracts forbidding them from appearing on any TV network but Fox.

“The bottom line is not ‘questioning of authority’ but ensuring that a company is always placed to influence.”

So not only is Fox News paying them and giving them a platform to speak directly to voters, reports that producers at C-Span, NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN and MSNBC all report they were told they must get Fox’s permission to interview candidates, when these broadcasters wanted ‘to practice some hard-driving and questioning’ journalism. And that permission has been denied by Fox.

The only TV news organisation’s journalist allowed to interview the potential candidates are their colleagues at Fox. Sarah Palin especially seems to be wedded to the station.

“Speak through Fox News” is Palin’s advice offered to ‘Tea Party’ backed Senatorial candidate, Christine O’Donnell, (the one who admitted to “dabbling in witchcraft” but also says “God is the reason I’m running”). Not surprisingly Palin’s advice was given on a Fox programme.

Candidates not employed by Fox are concerned. quotes one aide “I wish we could get that much airtime, but, oh yeah, we don’t get a paycheck”.

In the UK we have (Murdoch owned) News of the World’s ‘hard-driving journalism’ ending with the journalist in jail for illegal wire tapping. And we have the hard-driving organisation wanting to take over full control of BSkyB.

Murdoch still seems to see himself as the David fighting the Goliaths of the world. He is quoted as saying, “When the upstart is too successful, somehow the old interests surface, and restrictions on growth are proposed or imposed. That’s an issue for my company.”

I find it very hard to see his ‘company’ as upstarts. He has major news paper chains in five countries including Australia, the US and UK.

He has major broadcasting throughout the world and ties and tentacles into almost any market that might be profitable.

What concerns me is his ‘economic model’: that belief that the bottom line is not ‘questioning of authority’ but ensuring that a company is always placed to influence those who have a say in regulating the industry – whether by hiring potential Presidents or having senior ex-staff as key advisors in government.

He must be pleased with this government’s decision to cut funding to the BBC by 16% and announcing major redundancy in the regulator Ofcom. It is surely a living legacy of Thatcher’s policies, cut, cut, cut.

I think I said this last time but I will say it again. These might be tough times but if we work together, keep the important issues on the table, talk to our friends and colleagues and participate in our union, we can make a difference.

It is as a union that we can challenge this rising tide that applauds devastating cuts.

Categories: Broadcasting

Picture of Christine Bond