Before I went to work this morning, I watched the most amazing documentary.
It was last night’s Panorama, which claimed that a Murdoch owned company paid computer hackers to steal the codes of the smart cards used by now defunct rival On Digital and publish them on the internet so pirates could watch their shows for nothing.
Here it is on iplayer.
If you haven’t seen it already, watch it now. The story is so bizarre it feels like something that belongs in a Hollywood thriller rather than a news and current affairs programme. However, the level of detail suggests more than a grain of truth – watch it for yourself and decide.
The programme got me very excited as I’ve been obsessed with Murdoch for the past few days. Obviously, the Sunday Times (one of his papers) ran a story about how wealthy donors to the Tory Party pay as much as £250,000 to have dinner with Dave.
I rather liked this:
The fact that Murdoch ran such a critical article about the party he openly supports has been seen by many as a sign that he wants the Government to pull its finger out about the Sky deal (which I’ll talk about in a minute) – which won’t be helped by the Panorama programme shown yesterday. Ofcom must judge whether Murdoch is a “fit and proper” person to run a TV station – what do you think?
Before all this kicked off, I’ve had Murdoch on the brain as I’ve recently been teaching some of the students about him- it’s for a unit on media regulation and you can’t really discuss the subject without discussing Rupert Murdoch. It’s like discussing the Queen without making reference to Buckingham Palace or the Corgis.
I began the lessons last week with a presentation called “Don’t Mess with Murdoch”, which basically tells the story of his bid to control all of BSkyB – Uncle Rupert currently only owns 39 per cent and wants 100 per cent ownership of the business he set up back in the late 80s. It’s quite a complex story and I was impressed by how well the students engaged with it – they especially enjoyed having a very noisy debate about whether or not Murdoch should be allowed to own all of Sky.
The deal has been a major news story since the end of 2010, when Business Secretary Vince Cable got himself into major hot water for slagging off Murdoch to some under cover journalists from the Telegraph – posh totty + gentleman of a certain age = major scoop.
Poor old Vince. He was sent packing for not being impartial by Dave “it’ll cost you £250,000 for dinner with me & Sam” Cameron and the BSkyB deal was handed over to super smooth Culture and Media Secretary Jeremy Hunt, a well known fan of all things Murdoch related.
Here are a selection of Jeremy’s utterances.
So the message coming over loud and clear from Dave and the gang was that you were not impartial if you didn’t like Murdoch and said so. However, if you publicly sang his praises you were “impartial” enough to decide whether or not he should effectively control 47 percent of the UK’s commercial TV output, including a major news channel.
What is especially worrying, is that a 100 per cent Murdoch owned Sky could become a British Fox News, whose slogan “fair and balanced” (real meaning right-wing and biased) has a genuinely Orwellian air to it.
Four legs good; two legs better!
Some argue that Murdoch should never have been allowed to own a TV station in the first place, largely because he owns way too many newspapers.
His very ownership of a TV company makes a mockery of the cross media ownership laws set up by the 1990 Broadcasting Act – itself reviled as a piece of soft touch Thatcherite regulation – which states that a newspaper owner can only take a 20 per cent stake in a TV company. At the time, this referred to ITV companies; Five didn’t exist until the 90s and Channel 4 is of course a “corporation” – http://www.channel4.com/info/corporate/legal/about-channel-4
Basically, the fact Murdoch was allowed to run Sky in the first place dates back to his special relationship with a special lady.
Ah, don’t you just love em! Murdoch was just the kind of rough and ready chap that made Mrs T come over all tingly. Actually, Murdoch is quite posh – he went to the Australian equivalent of Eton – and his dad was a major newspaper owner, but he likes to give the impression that he is some sort of anti-establishment, free market buccaneer.
Anyway, the fact of the matter is that his behaviour was totally on message back in Thatcher’s Britain.
Look what he did to the print unions in the mid 80s who DARED to try and defend their jobs when Murdoch used the excuse of “new technology” for mass redundancies:
Not a million miles from what the Tory Government did to the miners; in other words use the police to sort out a dispute between an employer and their workforce.
Murdoch was also quick to bash Mrs T’s most hated institution – the BBC. He famously laid into the corporation and its values at the Edinburgh TV festival in 1989; his sentiments were echoed more recently by a speech given there by his son James, as discussed here:
So although he is an old codger of 81, Murdoch is essentially the poster boy for the modern media industry; media is not about the public good, or art, or truth, or innovation, or even entertainment. It is about making money. As much money as is humanly possible. And if a few rules get broken on the way, who cares. Keep the politicians sweet and they will turn a blind eye – after all, who wouldn’t want an invite to the Murdoch summer party. Everyone’s who’s anyone is invited, from Cameron to Clarkie via Clegg and even Miliband too. What larks!
I’ll leave you now with a rather fantastic bit of extra reading, Adam Curtis’s blog post on Murdoch:
Fit and proper, my arse….