02 May 2012

Rupert Murdoch unfit for journalism

A British parliamentary panel has concluded that press lord Rupert Murdoch "is not a fit person to exercise the stewardship of a major international company." They might equally have said he is not a fit person to exercise stewardship over journalism. The sleaze that has been revealed in Murdoch's media empire is a direct result of the amoral nature of the man's character. Labour MP Tom Watson, himself a target of phone hacking by Murdoch's goons, stated, "It is his company, his culture, his people, his business, his failure, his lies, his crimes, the price of profits and his power."

To Murdoch, profits and power are everything. Journalistic standards—honest reporting and fair analysis—are irrelevant. The man hasn't even had the integrity and courage to accept the blame for his corporation's misbehavior. He has, in typical weaselly fashion, blamed subordinates, who in turn blame their subordinates—very much the Murdoch culture.

He has not only corrupted British journalism but, much more importantly, he has corrupted British democracy—sadly, with assistance from allies at the very top of the British political establishment, including Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair. With his power to make or break governments, prime ministers genuflected before this wizened oligarch like worshipers before their God.

Murdoch follows in the tradition of too many press lords going back to William Randolph Hearst whose ability to make lots of money is incompatible with higher moral purpose. And higher moral purpose is what journalism ought to be all about.

The panel's report will now be considered by the House of Commons. The British government has a heavy duty, first to establish respect for British journalism, and second to protect British democracy from oligarchic media. Strong measures will be required. Will a Conservative Prime Minister have the stomach to take strong measures against the interests of an oligarchy? Will minority government force his hand? This is an issue to be followed closely.

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