Saturday, July 01, 2006


Murdoch's Malign Influence

I've sometimes wondered why, in the infinite plurality of history we've never had a leftwing media mogul. Pullitzer, Beaverbrook, Northcliffe, Hearst, Maxwell, all men well to the right. Of course, it would be odd if the business of publishing and selling newspapers produced someone dedicated to abolish the system bestowing such riches, status and influence. So what of the most powerful media mogul who has ever lived: Keith Rupert Murdoch II (75)? It seems he admired his newspaperman father but rebelled against him and perhaps as a reason inherited less than he expected- he had to be satisfied with merely the Adelaide News . But, as we all know, through acute business and journalistic skills he eventually converted this asset into a multi-million dollar empire, becoming the Chairman and MD of the News Corporation.

Interestingly, the fact that this monster of leftwing perception, was a Marxist while at Oxford, offers us the closest there is -or is likely to be- to a leftwing media magnate. Today, former Number Ten spin doctor, Lance Price, offers fascinating insights into the relationship between New Labour and the man who commands an automatic audience with Tony whenever his plane alights at Heathrow. Rupe has not become this media colossus without cutting a few corners. Changing his nationality to that of an American citizen simply to qualify for ownership of a TV channel in the US was just one example- one which, incidentally, calls into comical question his recent award as the 'most influential Australian of all time'.

Maintaining good relations with the locus of power in any country in which he operates is his inevitable modus operandi has seen his Fox News Channel in America resolutely support Bush, to the exclusion, claim his bitter critics, of any alternative point of view. He has also found it easy to do censor certain broadcasts to China at the behest of its insecure authoritarian rulers. So sensitive are his political antennae that any favour shown to a British party leader is immediately interpreted as a sign that that person is going to win the next election.

So in March 1997, Blair was chosen Major's heir apparent and, maybe now, he seems to have started the process of rejecting his surrogate political son and adopting another coming young tyro in the form of David Cameron. Price tells us that no big decision could be taken during his time in No 10 without Rupe's agreement and that his views on the EU effectively applied a veto on too close a relationship with Brussels. Price believes too much was given in terms of of policy infuence and scoops to Murdoch papers to justify the minuscule returns it receives from the grim faced Aussie, (or do I mean Yank?). In fact-years after Dennis Potter named his tumor after him, Rupert's influence has become a malign and undemocratic one. As Simon Jenkins argued recently, Blair has become a pathetic 'tabloid slave' and as Price argues today, Murdoch has become effectively an unelected and unaccountable 'member of Blair's cabinet'. The really bad news is that there is no sign this influence will decline in the foreseeable future.

I've sometimes wondered why, in the infinite plurality of history we've never had a leftwing media mogul.

There was Cecil King. King supported Labour, albeit he was allied to the Gaitskellite right of the party and hated the left enough that he actually tried to oganise a coup against Harold Wilson.

And Maxwell was a former Labour MP and still close to the right of the part even in the 1980s, when he'd become part of Thatcher's court.

So, there have been some... social democratic media moguls. It shouldn't really be surprising that we haven't had any sociaist ones - the big money and the unaccountable power aren't exactly compatible with socialism.
Fair enough re King though he was scarcely leftwing-and he pioneered tabloid sex I recall- and I mentioned Maxwell because he was a Labour MP yet was clearly anything but a socialist. But we agree being a mogul and a socialist do not really go hand in hand.
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