I've missed you guys. Though it's great to be covering the Leveson Inquiry for the DailyBeast and Newsweek, it's on the blogs in the US that I built up the support, courage and debating skills to devote these last few months to covering the Hacking Scandal and the Leveson Inquiry, and doing my bid to purge the UK of years of monopolistic media practices and abuse of power.
Just so you know, the hacking scandal has finally moved into a much bigger area of illegality, which was the first reason two years ago my interest (and concern) about Murdoch's News Corp was piqued. James Murdoch's bid for BSkyB would have given News Corp. a distorting monopoly in broadcast that it already has in newspapers here (40 percent of the readership.)
We were days away from becoming a banana republic, with a foreign, non tax paying dynasty controlling our means of communication. Only the brave work of lawyer (Mark Lewis) and a journalist (Nick Davies) prevented this catastrophe happening by exposing the industrial scale of phone hacking and surveillance deployed by News International - against celebrities, lawyers, and political opponents.
Now, like Saigon in 1975, the Murdoch helicopter is on the roof of News International. Last weeks revelations about back door channels between senior ministers and News Corp. over the $16 billion takeover of our pay TV monopoly, BSkyB, are a clear sign that the Murdochs are burning their bridges, and trying to take down the Coalition Government which - under considerable pressure and only after the Hacking scandal - finally stood up to News Corp., blocked the BSkyB bid, and set up the Leveson Inquiry which is beaming a scorching torchlight through 30 years of political blackmail, back room deals, and illegality.
Busting the Murdoch Myths
In today's Independent on Sunday I try to explore how Murdoch suborned democracy, and how - like many others - his kind of top down media control was a form of unaccountable political power. The shorter version is this
Only a desire to be heard can explain why the head of one of the world's largest media conglomerates needs to take to Twitter to get his point of view across. Every year Murdoch siphons off hundreds of millions of dollars to subsidise loss-making titles such as The Times, The Australian, the New York Post and The Wall Street Journal – much to the dismay of his New Corp board. And for what? These papers act as mouthpieces for his views or to gain him respect and credibility from the political classes.
"I'm held to account by the British people," Murdoch told Robert Jay. "They can stop buying the paper. I stand for election every day." Over four decades of his dominance of British media that has been the key Murdoch mantra, parroted by many employees today: people vote for us with their feet – or at least their pockets. We are politicians by the back door.
Overlook, for a moment, the obvious flaws in this argumentum ad populum (are Sun readers buying politics, horoscopes, football results or outsized breasts?); leave aside the clear undemocratic implications (if I can buy more copies of The Sunday Times do I have more votes?). Here is the essence of Murdoch's ideology: a free press, in a free market, leads to a free society.
Months before his father died, Rupert was at Oxford, campaigning for Labour, with a bust of Lenin on the mantelpiece. Like many other neocons, Murdoch still honours his Marxist background and, from Wapping to Fox News, remains a historical materialist for whom ideology and industry are inseparable. In his business model, form is content: neoliberal, deregulated, outsourced, global, too big to fail, almost "too big to jail".
That 'Too Big to Jail' line was stolen from another Kossack. So let me give credit here to all of you - too many to name - who have given me ammunition in this fight. I couldn't have stood up without you.
Now it's your turn
The Battle Heads over the Atlantic
It's likely - after their humiliation at Leveson - that the Murdoch's will divest their News International papers soon. Their remaining 39 per cent share of BSkyB is now under severe scrutiny from the Ofcom regulators to see whether they pass the 'fit and proper' test. So my hunch is, and many others, is that the rout is almost complete.
But though he owns no more than 10 percent of any market in the US (thanks to your less suborned anti-trust and foreign ownership laws) Murdoch is a US citizen, News Corp. is registered in Delaware, and with civil cases in phone hacking on US soil pending, there's still much more to go in showing how the whole UK scandal was run from the US.
Over 30,000 emails detailing corrupt payments to police by News International have been sent to the FBI by the Metropolitan Police. News Corp. is being investigated for Foreign Corrupt Practices Act violations. We may hear little about his until after the election (the DOJ may prefer Fox News worried rather than completely ballistic) but this won't go away. Nor will - as more comes out about other illegal and uncompetitive practices in other parts of News Corp.'s global empire - the sense their was systematic illegal activities throughout the corporation, led from the top.
This Friday - in a lighter mood - I appeared on NPR's On the Media - to talk about how the Murdoch revelations could yet fell the Coalition Government here. Hopefully this is a sign more and more Americans are waking up to unravelling monopolistic practices of News Corp., and the likelihood they were replicated in the US.
As someone pointed out to me - rather pointedly - last night, I'm not an American citizen, and therefore my knowledge of where to dig is more limited than yours. This is not handing over the baton: plenty more to be done here yet. But I am encouraging Kossacks to come forward and take the fight right to News Corp. HQ in Manhattan.
News on the 'Fall of the House of Murdoch Book'
My book on the scandal as it has erupted over the last year, and the 60 years of Murdoch history that prefigured it, is two thirds finished and on line to get funded for publication in mid July. (There will be paperback version announced soon). I always feel awkward pitching it here - though its my duty to the publishers - so instead, why not enjoy the opening chapter for free. Don't feel under any obligation in any other way. This blog inspired me to write the book, and drew the attention of Tina Brown and (my hero) Harry Evans, and meant that I could write what I was destined and equipped to write.
I should be subsidising you lot!
Back soon with more exciting episodes of the Fall of the House of Murdoch. But meanwhile, if other commitments keep me silent and away for a while, know that I don't forget my friends.