Saturday, July 9, 2011

Murdoch Press Power revealed - Democracy?

News International: Lifting the veil

The ripping back of the curtain has felt liberating
Editorial

The Guardian, Fri 8 Jul 2011 22.10 BST

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There comes a moment in The Wizard of Oz when Dorothy's dog, Toto, tears back a curtain to reveal an old man pulling levers and speaking into a microphone. This extraordinary week has had something of that feel about it. A generation of people in British public life – including politicians, police officers and, yes, journalists – have lived with the increasing power of one person, Rupert Murdoch. He was a bad man to upset, and so most people kept their heads below anything that looked like a parapet. Politicians, in particular, paid court to him and to his lieutenants. They felt they needed Rupert Murdoch's support in order to win power, or stay in power. This suited Mr Murdoch very well: he had things he needed from them, too.
These individual relationships weren't in themselves corrupt, nor is Mr Murdoch the purely malign caricature of some imaginations. But the effect of this power was indeed corrupting. And that is why this week's ripping back of the curtain has felt so liberating. First one politician, then another, has spoken out. Numerous journalists have (at last) joined the fray. The police have rediscovered their purpose. The regulator has (probably too late) located its spine. Both Ed Miliband and David Cameron have made remarkable interventions – the prime minister frankly conceding that he, along with other party leaders, had turned a blind eye to abuses of press power because of the need to curry favour. Mr Miliband has spoken powerfully about the need to challenge all forms of private power – explicitly linking the banks with the more unfettered regions of the media. These, a week ago, would have been suicidal things for any leader to be saying.
Events have been moving so fast that it has been difficult to keep abreast of them. The Press Complaints Commission looks to be dead in the water. The media regulator, Ofcom, has announced that it is now actively keeping a watching brief on the question of whether News Corp passes the "fit and proper person" test to own a broadcasting company – not just the 61% of BSkyB it has its eyes on, but the 39% it already owns. A newspaper has been killed off: another almost certainly waits to be born. The prime minister's former spokesman, Andy Coulson, has been arrested. Two public inquiries have been announced. News Corp's American shareholders have woken up to the potentially toxic damage – or worse - that is being inflicted on the company globally.
Four important matters stand out at the end of this week. One concerns the press in general. The stampede to find tougher forms of regulation is understandable and, indeed, right. But we should avoid a rush towards statutory licensing of "print" journalists, if only because of the difficulties of definition. How would the Telegraph online be regulated in comparison with the Huffington Post? The next concerns what Cameron's appointment of Coulson – ignoring all warnings – says about his judgment. Attention must also focus on his cosy relationship with News International's chief executive, Rebekah Brooks – particularly his contacts at a time when News Corp was bidding for full control of BSkyB.
Next there is that issue of the BSkyB takeover, which is still on track, despite Ofcom's announcement that it is now keeping a close eye on things. It is inconceivable that this could now take place while criminal proceedings are active, and the sooner someone says so the better. Finally there is the question of the cover-up of the truth that undoubtedly took place within News International over the past two and a bit years. James Murdoch's statement this week has partially addressed this, but only partially. There is still little confidence that Mr Murdoch and Ms Brooks are the right people to be overseeing either scrutiny or renewal. And there is a sadness that a newspaper has been sacrificed without any adequate explanation.


WHAT WILL HAPPEN?      The Perception Management by private corporations will continue

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CHOMSKY says it in short words:
Take Rupert Murdoch. He owns a good part of the press. Is that a good thing? What would be a good thing is democratic control.
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posted by u2r2h at 4:54 AM

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