By Christopher B. Daly
So, British regulators have blinked in their showdown with Rupert Murdoch and decided that the media mogul can go ahead and stay in the business of broadcasting in the U.K., notwithstanding the fact that Murdoch’s employees have been charged with dozens of crimes and thousands of violations of privacy. The regulators declared that he met the British legal standard of being a “fit and proper” person.
Hmmm. . .
The British Office of Communications found, after a lengthy investigation, that the officials in charge of Murdoch’s broadcast operations (BskyB) did not know about the shenanigans and crimes being carried out by reporters and editors at Murdoch’s newspaper properties, according to the Guardian.
Hmmm. . . .
And now that that’s out of the way, Rupert Murdoch seems poised to elevate his son James to head up his flagship (and lucrative) Fox TV channel in the United States. Question: does our FCC consider James Murdoch “fit” or “proper”? That’s not the standard for broadcasting executives in this country, of course. Maybe more germane is the question of how long James Murdoch can avoid being a convicted felon?
Hmmm. . .
The estimable John F. Burns updates the unfolding Murdoch meltdown in today’s Times.
Question: will we ever see Murdoch in handcuffs, or slinking into a courthouse with a trenchcoat over his head?
Here’s the takeaway:
What is becoming clear, media analysts say, is that the push-the-legal-limits newsroom culture that has gone untrammeled for years at the British tabloids and has even found its way into some of the country’s upmarket broadsheets, including Mr. Murdoch’s Times and Sunday Times, could be a casualty of a new culture of caution.
Already, some who work at British newspapers say, the scandal has had a chilling effect on newsrooms, with editors, reporters and their proprietors less eager to trumpet splashy exposes that might involve, or be perceived to involve, less than ethical standards of news gathering.
One tabloid journalist, who insisted on anonymity because of concern for his job, lamented what he called the end of the “anything goes” era. “Before, it was a case of ‘Don’t tell me how you get it, just get it,’ ” he said. “Now things are looked at differently.”
l-r: Coulson, Murdoch, Brooks, shown in a church service in 2005. Photo by Graeme Robertson/Getty
By Christopher B. Daly
As so often happens, the Monday business section of the New York Times delivers an array of stories about journalism and media worth reading. (Why doesn’t the paper have a “media” tab on its homepage?)
1. David Carr reports on talks between CNN, the ratings-challenged cable news pioneer, and Anthony Bourdain, the macho chef/traveler of Travel Channel fame. CNN execs are trying to address a problem I discuss in my new book (Covering America), which is much easier to formulate than to solve: what can a news-oriented cable channel do to fill all those hours when all hell is not breaking loose?
Bourdain could be part of the answer.
What else might help CNN? You comment; you decide!
2. Following up on the recent cutback in printing by the New Orleans Times-Picayune, comes a look at the broader trend, including some pros and cons.
3. From London, word that Rupert Murdoch’s troubles extend into an area he really cares about: the circulation figures of his newspapers.
4. From Shantou, a piece about how tricky it can be for Westerners to teach journalism to Chinese students in China. As a Westerner who teaches journalism to Chinese students in Boston, I can certainly sympathize. This piece also includes a bonus: an answer to the question of what Peter Arnett has been up to since he was forced out of CNN (in a failed attempt to pump up CNN’s prime-time audience ratings — see item #1 above).
So, there you go. (Just a typical Monday at the Times: four original, reported stories from across the globe that other people will be talking about for a week. )
By Chris Daly
Don’t say this blog is one-sided, even on the subject of Rupert Murdoch. The British writer William Shawcross recently stuck up for Murdoch in this piece in the Guardian.
Shawcross, who wrote a 1992 biography of Murdoch, is in a position to comment. I just disagree.
Here’s the take-away from Shawcross:
Rupert Murdoch has been the bravest and most radical media owner in Britain in the last 40 years.
There are caveats. It is insupportable for any tabloid, whether the Sun, the NoW, the Mirror or the Mail to “monster” individuals. But tabloids are an essential part of a vibrant market and the Sun is an excellent paper, catering well to its audience.
Without Murdoch there could never have been such a varied newspaper market in Britain during the last 25 years. Newspapers were dying until he confronted and defeated the greedy print unions. Only after his victory at Wapping did newspapers – on the left as well as on the right – have the chance to flourish. Murdoch’s purchase of Times Newspapers saved that company. It’s hard to think of any other proprietor who would have sustained its huge losses year after year.
By Chris Daly
Well, now it’s official. Something that many people have thought for a long time is now part of the findings of a British parliamentary report: Rupert Murdoch is “not a fit person” to run a globe-straddling, influence-buying, phone-hacking, official-bribing media conglomerate.
Actually, the report released Tuesday may not be Murdoch’s biggest problem. He is already under investigation in the United States as well. Murdoch became a U.S. citizen in the mid-1980s, a move that facilitated his move into American broadcasting (since U.S. law requires that broadcasting remain in the hands of U.S. citizens). Perhaps more serious for Murdoch is the fact that his News Corp. (parent company of the British unit that is in trouble in Parliament) is a U.S. corporation, registered on the New York Stock Exchange. That means that News Corp. is subject to all the laws and regulations of the United States — including the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. That law, dating to the 1970s, forbids U.S. companies from using their assets to pay bribes to officials in other countries. On the face of it, that would appear to make it a crime in the U.S. for News Corp. employees to do what they have already admitted under oath in Parliament: for years, they paid British police police officials for tips about their investigations.
If I were Murdoch (or even a shareholder in News Corp., which operates Fox News and the Wall Street Journal, among many others), that’s what I would be really worried about.
Recent stories are here, here and here.
News Corp. world headquarters in Manhattan / Kathy Willens (AP)
By Chris Daly
Gee, I guess I have been wrong about Rupert Murdoch all along. Turns out he’s just a simple publisher striving always to do the right thing.
Here’s the latest from London.
Rupert Murdoch / pool photo
By Chris Daly
It’s not easy keeping track of the unfolding Murdoch scandal(s), with developments multiple times a day on both sides of the Atlantic.
The New York Times has assigned two-time Pulitzer Prize winner John F. Burns, which is a sign of the paper’s institutional commitment to the story, which is of course meant to torment the Times‘ chief antagonist, Rupert M. Here’s the lastest from Burns (and his co-author, Alan Cowell):
In Testimony, Murdoch Plays Down His Political Pull
Published: April 25, 2012
LONDON — With a political firestorm cascading over the British government’s ties to his media empire, Rupert Murdoch faced rare public scrutiny about his relationships with elected officials on Wednesday, and sought to deflect suggestions that he tried to use his links to powerful public figures to further corporate commercial interests.. . .
Here is the latest from the Guardian, which is live-blogging from the Leveson inquiry:
Rupert Murdoch at the Leveson inquiry: ‘Do I have an aura or charisma? I don?t think so.’ Photograph: Reuters
Join us as News Corp’s Rupert Murdoch gives evidence to the inquiry set up in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal. By Josh Halliday andJohn Plunkett
Continue reading…213 comments
James Murdoch gives evidence at the Leveson inquiry today
Full coverage of James Murdoch’s evidence to the Leveson inquiry. ByJosh Halliday and John Plunkett
And here is the latest from the Wall Street Journal, which is of course, owned by Murdoch, which makes this a miserable assignment for the three Journal staffers who share the byline today:
News Corp. Chief Faces Inquiry
LONDON—With a fresh political scandal swirling around his global media conglomerate here, News Corp. NWSA +0.62% Chairman and Chief Executive Rupert Murdoch faced questioning Wednesday before a public press-ethics inquiry about whether he used the company to call in political favors and push his commercial interests.
The media mogul repeatedly said he hadn’t asked prime ministers, and would-be prime ministers, for favors, and said that his commercial interests didn’t influence where his newspapers stood on issues or political parties.
Rupert Murdoch, News Corp. chairman and chief executive, appeared before the Leveson Inquiry, a judge-led examination into British media practices. WSJ’s Bruce Orwall discusses this and the fallout from James Murdoch’s testimony yesterday.
At the same time, he conceded “abuses” have occurred at his own company—which has been battered by a long-running scandal over illicit reporting tactics—though he added: “I would say there are many other abuses, but we can go into that in time.” Mr. Murdoch also distanced himself from some of the activities: “”We have a very large company and I do run that company with a great deal of decentralization.”