Hello. This is Andy Tribute. Are we about to see the demise, possible breakup of the world’s biggest media publishing empire? Namely, News Corporation, Murdoch’s operation that covers the world to dominantly the UK, Australia, and the USA with both newspapers, magazines, and more and more in terms of TV and satellite broadcasting?
You may well have been reading about the happenings in the past week in the UK with the News of the World newspaper. The News of the World is the largest-selling and highest readership of any English-language newspaper in the world. It has been going for 168 years, and the last 30 or so years that’s been in Murdoch’s ownership. It was his first newspaper he bought outside of Australia.
This is the News of the World. This is today’s edition. It is the 8,674th edition of this newspaper. It is also the last edition of this newspaper. Last week, the Murdoch operation announced they were closing the newspaper. This has been brought about by a scandal involving phone hacking by journalists, or a journalist—we don’t know—at the News of the World that has been going on now for about five or six years. It was first uncovered by innovative journalism at another national newspaper in the UK, The Guardian, and they’ve been going on about this for a long time.
But the News of the World and the Murdoch operation, News International UK, has denied any knowledge of this and saying it was just a rogue journalist who was doing this. Recently, however, this has been shown to be untrue. And it has now been seen that while initially it was thought that this phone hacking was purely into a few celebrities’ telephones, it has now been seen that many thousands of phones have potentially been hacked, including armed forces in Afghanistan, the victims of the terrorist bombing in London of 7/7, and more recently—and the one that’s really disgusted people—is hacking into the phone of a teenager who was later found to be murdered. It has absolutely disgusted politicians. It’s disgusted a whole lot of people.
And it appears that Murdoch has decided that he needs to clean his reputation, and to do this he’s closed his most profitable, largest newspaper and made all the staff redundant. Surprisingly, none of the bosses seem to be made redundant. Those who are on watch, etc., say they knew nothing about it, etc., nothing to do with them and they’re still there. However, there’s a great degree of cynicism within the industry about this. Why the cynicism? Well basically, it appears that Murdoch sees the future as not newspapers but as mainstream broadcasting, the Internet, satellite, etc.
Now in the UK, Murdoch owns 40 percent of the biggest satellite broadcaster in Europe, perhaps the world, BSkyB, and he is bidding to buy the remaining 60 percent. Now currently, that is being looked at by what we call the Monopolies Commission and a judgment is due to be given fairly soon by the government in terms of whether he can go ahead. And the problem at the moment is what they call plurality in terms of feeling if he has too much media interest in newspapers, etc., he would become a monopoly.
Now the cynical view is he’s killed off the News of the World in order to reduce his plurality to improve his reputation in terms of getting rid of this nasty operation, and hopefully to get the complete ownership of BSkyB. We shall wait and see and we expect at some stage that the News of the World will be replaced by a Sunday edition of The Daily Sun newspaper, his other huge-selling circulation newspaper which is published every day but Sunday. So where’s it going to go? Well, the problem is that Murdoch has a very different situation in the UK than he does in America.
In America, he’s just a publisher. You note too much notice of him you’d think his newspapers are pretty rubbishy as they are with the, is it the New York Post. Over here, Murdoch has incredible influence. Every politician believes you cannot win an election unless the Murdoch newspapers are behind you. So the politicians caught the Murdoch Empire astutely. In fact, the current Prime Minister has very close relationships with them. And in fact, a big scandal was that he employed the editor or the person who was the editor of the News of the World at the time that the scandal already started to happen, and he employed him as his Head of Communications. He’s recently got rid of him. But he is seen to be highly associated with the Murdoch operation and what’s happening, which is not doing his reputation any good. However, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown were very, very closely related as well to that sort of situation so everyone’s messed up on that.
So what’s going to happen? I personally think the loss of the News of the World is no loss. I think it’s a grubby, horrible-looking newspaper. It’s got a bad reputation when I was hazarda. I think it’s an example of what they call the “gutter press.” It basically built its whole circulation on scandal, on exposing greedy celebrities, sort of junior royals, etc., by putting them into compromising positions. And it’s an organization that has taken, you can say the approach of William Randolph Hearst, who always used to say that why let the truth get in the way of a good story. In this case, they’ve taken that far beyond that. Why bother to wait for a story when you can create one? And they’ve created lots of their things by putting people in awkward situations and filming them, etc. And so they’ve created this sort of situation.
You don’t really find news in the News of the World. You find scandal; you find great sport, etc., that sort of structure. Are we going to miss it? No. Are we going to get another one from Murdoch? Almost certainly, the Sunday Sun, or whatever they’re going to call it. But what we may well to see is people have lost their fear of Murdoch. They’re basically—the politicians now are attacking him like mad. Every other newspaper is piling it in. Murdoch is a dirty name in the UK at the moment. It’s associated with really mucky journalism.
It’s pretty certain that when this whole discussion comes up in terms of his ownership of BSkyB, it’s going to be delayed a long time because we’ve now got political inquiries going on into the whole structure of what’s happened on this whole thing about phone hacking, etc. And also, one of the other things that’s come out on this is that the newspaper has seemed to be paying money to corrupt policemen to get stories of the cover, to hide up things, etc. And again, the senior people at News International say they know nothing about this. Now you tell me. How can large amounts of money be paid out without senior executives knowing it? So there’s a great disbelief what’s happening.
So I think we may well be seeing the start of the fall-away of the power of Murdoch in the UK, possibly that will get stretched into other areas. You’re seeing things in some of the newspapers in the States now looking at the whole structure. And the same in Australia, they’re saying is this man a suitable person to be in control of the world’s media. We’ll have to wait and see.
But it’s fascinating at the moment seeing in the last week this thing has really blown up and it’s very much the whole Murdoch operation is trying like mad to recover the situation. For example, today’s newspaper, the last one, no commercial advertising in it. All the circulation revenue going to charity, etc. They’re doing their best to show what a great organization they are and how nice they are. I think it’s less than a bit late.
This is Andy Tribute. Thank you very much indeed.