Sunday, July 10, 2011

End of the line for Rupert Murdoch

Rupert Murdoch is not a figure who inspires affection. He is now, as he has always been, a ruthlessly efficient businessman. He promotes the interests of himself and his family above all else, and when those interests are threatened, he acts without compunction.

However he is now 80.

The fact is that, no matter what, his day is passing. For those who value freedom that is a happy thought.

Murdoch has been a pernicious enemy of a free democratic process, calling politicians to heel through threats or through promises of support. Although his newspapers are a relatively small part of his empire- so much so that he has been able to close a centuries old newspaper without a second thought- the control he has exerted has made even Prime Ministers quake.

That is not a power that an Australian, naturalized American should have in Britain. Though he exercises his power through an international business: through News Corporation into News International, nevertheless it is a very personal power. He and his family are by far the largest shareholders in these businesses.

The phone hacking scandal, the corruption of the police investigation and the emerging story of cover-up and conspiracy make it absolutely clear that this power may well have been abused in a way that would make Rupert Murdoch and his family the criminal enemies of British democracy.

Now it is up to those that we have elected to remove the threat to our freedom, both in practice- if the law concludes so- but also in theory.

This means, not only that the bid for 100% control of BSkyB should be disallowed; it means that if guilty, then Murdoch should be expelled from British politics for ever. It means in any event that News International in the UK must be broken up. It means that Murdoch must not be permitted to have such control in our country as he already has. If the emerging scandal proves beyond all reasonable doubt that Rupert Murdoch and News Corp are not fit and proper to have such power in the British political process, then the only real remedy is the nuclear option: forced sale of all News Corp assets in the United Kingdom.

I should make it clear that of course I have never supported Murdoch's power in Britain: he has consistently been the most powerful enemy of Liberalism and the Liberal Democrats, however I also believe in capitalist property rights and do not believe in principle in government intervention in private businesses. Murdoch, however, is different. His business may well have become, under his ownership and influence, a criminal business. It would be critical if so that his criminal activities are stopped. If James Murdoch- Rupert's designated successor, let us not forget- is indicted and convicted under the US foreign corrupt practices act, then Vince Cable and Jeremy Hunt must act immediately.

A judicial inquiry is not the end of the affair. The overwhelming majority of people in the UK expressing an opinion already have serious concerns about Murdoch's influence. BSkyB must not be allowed to proceed without divestment of other Murdoch assets in any event- even if cleared of wrongdoing (however unlikely that may seem, we should allow for the possibility) the scandal has demonstrated clearly that there is a threat to British democracy- even if it is only a theoretical one in the eyes of the law at present.

However, if that threat becomes manifest, then Murdoch must face the full penalty of the law. A malign and criminal influence should face annihilation. A ruthless enemy must be dealt with ruthlessly.

A criminal business must face criminal sanctions.


Matthew Steeples said...

Murdoch is being portrayed more and more like Citizen Kane. Will he beat his enemies?

Whatever happens, today is a sad day for investigative journalism. Not all journalists at the NOTW were bad apples, just like not all MPs were not expense fiddlers and not all bankers were fat cats.

Check out my view at

You might also be interested in my view on the disgrace that is the PCC:

Cicero said...

Yes, much to agree with here!