Saturday, November 25, 2006

Faux News

Middle America again reared up at the media this past week, angered by Rupert Murdoch’s plans to televise and publish O.J. Simpson telling how he would have killed his wife and Ron Goldman “if” he had done it.

Rupert cancelled the project and apologised for it. My friend Jason put it well when he said, “What they’re sorry about is the money they won’t be making.”

Rupert isn’t exactly an altruist on media matters. An excellent commentary by Peter Whitby, former editor of the New Statesman and Independent on Sunday, was published by the Guardian. He says:

“Murdoch is an object lesson in the dangers of concentrated cross-border power. Such power is always problematic because it is apt to reduce diversity, squeeze out the regional and local, and stifle dissent. When it occurs in the information industry, it threatens democracy.”

I couldn’t agree more (and thanks to the Evil European for putting up the link). Murdoch’s rabidly right wing Fox News clouds
America’s political debate, and we in New Zealand are exposed to his channel, too, carried overnight by Prime (which Murdoch owns through his control of Sky Television).

Recently, Rupert bought a 7.5% stake in
Australia’s Fairfax Media to block attempts to take it over, he said. So he again owns a piece of New Zealand’s largest newspaper publishing company, which only a few years ago bought the publishing interests of Murdoch’s former company, INL, including newspapers Dominion-Post, Christchurch Press, Sunday Star-Times, Sunday News, NZ Truth and several magazines including TV Guide.

In the case of the O.J. Simpson debacle, Rupert seemed to cave to public opinion, but Rupert’s attention is always focused solely on profit. In 1999, he cancelled publication of Chris Patten’s East and West: The Last Governor of
Hong Kong on Power, Freedom and the Future because it angered China, with whom Rupert was desperate to do business. In both cases, protecting profits was the only consideration.

I think that
Whitby is right, and Rupert does threaten democracy. But just maybe the public revulsion over the O.J. fiasco could provide an example of the way to control him in the future: Using the power of democracy to harness him—while we still can.

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