Magazine article New Internationalist

Worldbeaters: Rupert Murdoch

Magazine article New Internationalist

Worldbeaters: Rupert Murdoch

Article excerpt

It's hard to find anyone outside of those indicted for war crimes who attracts more public bile than the media magnate from down-under. Fellow (though more liberal-minded) US media czar Ted Turner, founder of Cable News Network, has compared Murdoch to Hitler, called him a 'scumbag' and threatened to 'squish him like a bug'. The dying British playwright Dennis Potter named the cancerous tumour that was killing him 'Rupert' after the man he felt was having a carcinogenic effect on the media and popular culture. Journalist John Pilger describes Murdoch's media empire as 'built on cronyism, deregulation, debt and non-payment of tax... this is a bandit capitalism'.

Murdoch started out some 40 years ago when he inherited a small daily in Adelaide, South Australia. Today he owns newspapers, TV-stations, publishing companies, a massive satellite TV network and, most recently, sports teams. The global reach of his News Corp (previously News International) is such that it can be said -- as it once was of the British Empire -- that 'the sun never sets' on it. Murdoch regularly goes on media-shopping trips across the US, Europe and in Asia -- where he owns 128 newspapers. His preferred journalistic formula is crime, sex, political scandal and, increasingly, sports. But he is certainly not the only media monopolist in the world. He ranks just fourth in total assets, with a nine-billion-dollar annual revenue flow. So why all the fuss?

A catalogue of Murdoch's corporate shenanigans is revealing in this regard. Here is a man who purchased and promoted Hitler's Diaries, trying to cash in on popular fascination with Nazi evil, until they were unfortunately exposed as a fake... The man who killed the publication of the memoirs of Hong Kong's last Governor, Chris Patten, in order not to offend the Stalinist dictatorship in Beijing, where Murdoch has extensive business dealings -- he is reportedly obsessed by the potential of the Chinese market... The man whose publishing company gave million-plus advances to help court such unsavory despots as Deng Xiaoping's daughter 'Maomao' and right-wing zealots like Jeffrey Archer, Margaret Thatcher and former US House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Newt got a cool $4.5-million book advance at a point where Murdoch was trying to sort out regulatory problems over his extensive US media holdings.

Murdoch is the man who introduced the junk 'infotainment' news format to TV with his half-hour celebrity-and-scandal show A Current Affair -- now standard fare on most US networks... The man whose bottom-feeder tabloid newspapers from the New York Post to the British Sun are regularly turned into propaganda sheets to push for Murdoch's favourite (usually conservative) politicians and causes. …

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