Saturday, 28 April 2012

Rupert Murdoch at Leveson

Here is my take on Rupert Murdoch at the Leveson Inquiry which appeared on the Exaro News website yesterday at

Murdoch at the Leveson Inquiry

RUPERT Murdoch doesn’t do “subtle” he told us at Wednesday’s hearing of the Leveson Inquiry.
That’s probably the only untruth I could spot during his marathon sitting.
He might talk tough. But his methods are subtle.
Gently, layer upon layer, pause by pause, he let us know precisely who was chasing who in the Prime Minister/newspaper proprietor courting ritual.
“I may have been to dinner with him”, “I can’t remember meeting him”, “He may have come to my yacht but I can’t recall. My wife says he did apparently.”
These weren’t the words of a forgetful octogenarian. Nor were they the words of a slick PR machine. You can’t teach that sort of sophisticated approach.
Murdoch is no Maxwell, who had photographs of meetings with every leader forced on the front page of the Daily Mirror.
And if he was still alive this week, he would have been boasting about them from his Leveson pulpit.
But with the casual nonchalance of the well-connected media mogul, he reversed the News International ship that was sailing in a completely different direction on Tuesday.
On that momentous day, News International was firmly positioned as the one who courted the government.
His son James had done that through his incendiary revelations that News International had been using a backdoor channel to the government to push the BSkyB bid through.
Just 24-hours later, Rupert was telling us: “Not so. I was the powerful media mogul who was being courted by the country’s most powerful men.”
Except of course, he didn’t say that at all. But we got the message. And more importantly, we believed it.
When Rupert Murdoch says, “I’ve never asked a Prime Minister for anything”, you can bet he’s right.
But what he won’t tell you is, he didn’t need to. They knew already what his goals and ambitions were - his dislike of over-regulation, trade unions and the single currency and all his other hobby-horses from better army equipment for soldiers to personal ambitions for his companies.
And to get his crucial endorsement come election time, every party leader had to try to meet those demands without compromising their manifesto or their standing in the party. Or at least avoid treading on his ambitions.
It’s what Robert Jay QC meant by suggesting Murdoch and party leaders would engage in an elaborate “pirouette” together.
I expect this to happen. It’s happened since the days of Beaverbrook and before.
Charities do it, pressure groups do it. And we accept this as part of the lobbying process of interest groups.
So why, when it comes to corporations with big bank accounts, should this suddenly become wrong?
It’s only wrong when governments compromise themselves and reward business leaders with favours. That’s when the corruption starts.
And it is up to governments and its ministers to exercise the brake.
Rupert Murdoch’s approach to politics is identical to his approach to managing his newspapers.
He doesn’t ring up his editors and micro-manage operations – again, as Maxwell used to do.
He’s what’s termed a ‘charismatic leader’.
At the Leveson Inquiry, this was taken to mean a leader who had a kind of film star ‘aura’ about them.
It in fact means a leader who has such a dominant stamp on his business, his generals are in no doubt about what he wants – even when he is absent. Which of course Rupert was most of the time.
In all of Rupert Murdoch’s publications, when editors were making tough calls on which stories/investigations/campaigns to run, their thoughts always turn to the question: “What would Rupert expect?”
And the answer was always clear to them – set the agenda alight, get the paper talked about, give your readers what they want. Don’t screw up.”
Whether you are a prime minister or an editor, you know what Rupert wants. And if you want power or to keep your job, you make sure he gets it.
Sensing their political influence has vanished over the past nine months, both the Murdochs used the Leveson Inquiry to burn the rest of their political bridges.
Given that Rupert’s main love for his newspapers was the political power they wielded  and his son’s disdain for them, I believe this marks the beginning of the end of the Murdoch association with News International.

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