Cosy chats around the world

While we rightly fume at the thought of Rupert Murdoch’s cosy chats in Downing Street, it’s important to remember that Britain is just one outpost of his vast empire.  

On a recent visit to a small town in Massachusetts, admittedly not a Republican bastion, we stopped to browse at a midterm election Democrat Party stall.  The scholarly gentleman running it was clearly worried about the growth of reactionary thinking emanating from Tea Party politics.  He blamed much of it on Fox News and, with no prompting from us, firmly stated: “Rupert Murdoch is the most dangerous man in America.”

It is well known that Mr Murdoch currently supports the Republicans and has donated $1 million to their campaign.  Is the favouritism a convenient two-way process?  Meanwhile, back in his home country, he is once more paying visits to Australian party leaders.   One must continually ask oneself, what kind of horse-trading goes on?  Will he be allowed certain concessions for his sports broadcasting, in return for political support in his many newspapers?   What is offically minuted?  What is agreed with a wink and a nod?  Are the favours or deals never alluded to and merely implicit?

It doesn’t stop in Europe, the US and Australia.  We should not forget that News Corporation has extensive and growing interests in Asia.   When one considers the meaning of “growth” in India, the potential size of the market is eye-watering! 

It’s well worth looking at News Corporation’s own website – www.newscorp.com/ to see its myriad of worldwide holdings in news, broadcasting, publishing, digital media, sport, music, entertainment, etc.    The list is quite chilling when one considers that News Corp “products”,  unlike, say, Coca Cola or MacDonalds,  are  tools of communication.

Many media businesses require licencing and regulation in order to expand or even exist.  They will frequently depend on the say-so of the government or regulatory authority in the country in question.   Each time Mr Murdoch has talks with their leaders, or opposition leaders, you can be sure this is in the forefront of his mind.  He is not there to discuss the weather. 

We say that these discussions should always be held openly, in front of witnesses and be fully recorded.  We should insist on this in Britain for meetings between ministers and all media proprietors, directors amd executives.  Clearly even these measures cannot guarantee the absence of third party or “underground” meetings or deals struck implicitly or otherwise but, at the very least, they lay down a marker on what is and isn’t acceptable.

We should also use the internet to promote and share this message around the world.   There is a wealth of concern in other countries and good reason for people to come together in this particular fight. 

But, as we keep arguing, the real war is against the concentration of media ownership, be it in Britain or anywhere else in the world.  This is without question the underlying problem and the reason why the “cosy chats” are so corrosive.  It is also the issue which keeps getting overlooked.

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