FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Rupert Murdoch and the Levenson Inquiry

by BINOY KAMPMARK

One commentator observed that he seemed like a potentate disputing an arrangement of borders and obligations.   Others noted that he was back to his calculating best, having abandoned his previously doddering manner after the closure of The News of the World.  But there was little doubt about it – Rupert Murdoch’s influence, with all its pestilential power, not only remains, but was confirmed in London as he jousted with the legal advocates of the Levenson inquiry.

Barrister Robert Jay, QC, the pondering lead counsel for the inquiry into press ethics has been praised for his diverging questioning into the machinations of the Murdoch clan.  One of his bright moments against the mogul was to have happened when Jay probed the decision of The Sun in 1997 to back Tony Blair in the elections.  Suddenly, it seemed, the shock jock rag had turned its hand away from the Tories and placed it firmly on the shoulders of New Labour.  The spin doctor love affair thereby became a marriage.

Jay had his impressive moments but to what end?  Martin Kettle strikes an optimistic note, claiming that the appearance of the Murdochs before the Levenson inquiry and the Commons media select committee in 2011 ‘mark the first time that the Murdoch dynasty has ever been compelled to account for itself to the system of democratic government that it does so much to influence’ (Guardian, Apr 25).  Kettle ignores the ingratiating political forces that allow such a lack of accountability to thrive in the first place.

Murdoch remains a grand vizier, pulling the strings and being the ventriloquist of political puppets, a figure who exerts a control over public opinion that is always hard, if not impossible, to gauge yet all too apparent.  Media analysts claim otherwise, seeing the Murdoch dynasts as dinosaurs awaiting their gradual extinction.  In the fractious, nebulous world of online media, such paper gods are not so much going to be shredded as bypassed, becoming museum pieces in high-tech environs.

Murdoch, quite rightly, disagrees.  As he made it clear in the third Boyer lecture delivered in 2008, newspapers will continue to exist.  Obsolescence will only come to ‘the editors, reporters, and proprietors who are forgetting a newspaper’s most precious asset: the bond with its readers’.

That bond has been a fetid one.  Press ethics, at least through the eyes of such media moguls, tends to be viewed through a municipal sewerage system, and Murdoch hardly let on that there was any ‘influence’ to speak of.  ‘I want to say, Mr Jay, that I, in 10 years of his power, never asked Mr. Blair for anything.  Nor indeed did I receive any favours.  If you want to check that, I think you should call him.’  Let us ignore, of course, Blair’s incorporation into the Murdoch family by becoming godfather to Rupert’s daughter Grace, or the more recent courtship of the current British Prime Minister, who visited Murdoch on his daughter Elizabeth’s yacht in 2008.

When Jay began pressing Murdoch on the ‘subtlety’ inherent in the alleged Blair-Murdoch interactions, the reply was blunt. ‘I’m afraid I don’t have much subtlety about me.’  That should have been evident in the Cameron government’s dealings with News Corp over its efforts to increase its stake in British pay operator BSkyB.  Culture minister Jeremy Hunt is the latest victim of the dynastic family’s influence, given allegations that he allowed the family a back channel to ‘influence’ the bid.  ‘This,’ he fumed, ‘is categorically not the case’ (First Post, Apr 25). Such is the nature of rage born of impotence.

Son James, ever in the shadow of his father, has adopted the same line.  The Sun was not in the business of backing different horses based on quid pro quos.  What Jay did do was to simply allow the Murdochs to reveal and expand upon their influence over their paper empire and the political forces they chose to influence.  News Corporation, at the end of the day, had only one person to answer to, and one family to pay homage to.

As Martin Dunn in The Guardian (Apr 25) noted, Murdoch has over the years managed to make the manipulation of power ‘seem as dull as chartered accountancy.’  The pregnant pause is his metier, and this was used against his inquisitors with effect.  Amidst the struggles before the committee, the patriarch remains in command, slightly blunted by the phone hacking scandal, but still uncompromising.  He has bonds to maintain, and levers to pull.

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com 

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

More articles by:
May 30, 2016
Ron Jacobs
The State of the Left: Many Movements, Too Many Goals?
James Abourezk
The Intricacies of Language
Porfirio Quintano
Hillary, Honduras, and the Murder of My Friend Berta
Patrick Cockburn
Airstrikes on ISIS are Reducing Their Cities to Ruins
Uri Avnery
The Center Doesn’t Hold
Raouf Halaby
The Sailors of the USS Liberty: They, Too, Deserve to Be Honored
Rodrigue Tremblay
Barack Obama’s Legacy: What Happened?
Matt Peppe
Just the Facts: The Speech Obama Should Have Given at Hiroshima
Deborah James
Trade Pacts and Deregulation: Latest Leaks Reveal Core Problem with TISA
Michael Donnelly
Still Wavy After All These Years: Flower Geezer Turns 80
Ralph Nader
The Funny Business of Farm Credit
Paul Craig Roberts
Memorial Day and the Glorification of Past Wars
Colin Todhunter
From Albrecht to Monsanto: A System Not Run for the Public Good Can Never Serve the Public Good
Rivera Sun
White Rose Begins Leaflet Campaigns June 1942
Tom H. Hastings
Field Report from the Dick Cheney Hunting Instruction Manual
Weekend Edition
May 27, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
Silencing America as It Prepares for War
Rob Urie
By the Numbers: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are Fringe Candidates
Paul Street
Feel the Hate
Daniel Raventós - Julie Wark
Basic Income Gathers Steam Across Europe
Andrew Levine
Hillary’s Gun Gambit
Jeffrey St. Clair
Hand Jobs: Heidegger, Hitler and Trump
S. Brian Willson
Remembering All the Deaths From All of Our Wars
Dave Lindorff
With Clinton’s Nixonian Email Scandal Deepening, Sanders Must Demand Answers
Pete Dolack
Millions for the Boss, Cuts for You!
Peter Lee
To Hell and Back: Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Gunnar Westberg
Close Calls: We Were Much Closer to Nuclear Annihilation Than We Ever Knew
Karl Grossman
Long Island as a Nuclear Park
Binoy Kampmark
Sweden’s Assange Problem: The District Court Ruling
Robert Fisk
Why the US Dropped Its Demand That Assad Must Go
Martha Rosenberg – Ronnie Cummins
Bayer and Monsanto: a Marriage Made in Hell
Brian Cloughley
Pivoting to War
Stavros Mavroudeas
Blatant Hypocrisy: the Latest Late-Night Bailout of Greece
Arun Gupta
A War of All Against All
Dan Kovalik
NPR, Yemen & the Downplaying of U.S. War Crimes
Randy Blazak
Thugs, Bullies, and Donald J. Trump: The Perils of Wounded Masculinity
Murray Dobbin
Are We Witnessing the Beginning of the End of Globalization?
Daniel Falcone
Urban Injustice: How Ghettos Happen, an Interview with David Hilfiker
Gloria Jimenez
In Honduras, USAID Was in Bed with Berta Cáceres’ Accused Killers
Kent Paterson
The Old Braceros Fight On
Lawrence Reichard
The Seemingly Endless Indignities of Air Travel: Report from the Losing Side of Class Warfare
Peter Berllios
Bernie and Utopia
Stan Cox – Paul Cox
Indonesia’s Unnatural Mud Disaster Turns Ten
Linda Pentz Gunter
Obama in Hiroshima: Time to Say “Sorry” and “Ban the Bomb”
George Souvlis
How the West Came to Rule: an Interview with Alexander Anievas
Julian Vigo
The Government and Your i-Phone: the Latest Threat to Privacy
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail