Thomas Paine

Thomas Paine
"These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman."

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Murdoch the ‘Sun King’

It is easy to see how George Galloway achieved success recently at Bradford West. His description of Murdoch as the Sun King, to which various prime ministers paid homage, was both clever and appropriate. With regard to Murdoch’s attempt to buy the remaing shares in BSkyB, his comment that capitalists cannot be blamed if they try to take every advantage when negotiating a deal, will also reinforce the concern that many have about the executives of global corporations influencing the actions of governments both here and elsewhere.

On the issue of Jeremy Hunt’s special advisor resigning because of the favourable treatment News International received during the negotiations and how this was just a distraction, Benedict Brogan’s, of the Telegraph, phrase that ‘If the PM is the organ grinder, then the SpAd [special advisor] is the monkey’s monkey’ hits the nail on the head.

Returning to Galloway’s condemnation of capitalism and the broader issue of powerful corporate executives influence on governments, Emily Allen provides an all inclusive summary of Murdoch’s stance, at the Leveson Enquiry, on these issues in the Mail.

Clearly newspapers with a large circulation, like the Sun, is going to have a significant influence on its readership with regard to their view of the opposing parties at a general election, but Murdoch’s influence is wider than this as he also owns the Times. However, these together may not have as much influence as Sky News, whose audience can reach more than nine million – three times the circulation of the Sun – on days when there are events of special interest.

That News International provides the news to such a large share of the UK electorate cannot be healthy for a democracy and the ruling principles need to be thoroughly reviewed, but the hacking of public officials telephones and bribery of the police, that led to the Leveson Enquiry has far more serious ramifications.

It is one thing for a newspaper proprietor to unduly influence the outcome of a general election, because they have too greater share of the total news output, but once private details of public servants activities, which is bound to include politicians, is also in its hands – an extremely dangerous situation arises.

Murdoch may rightly claim that these illegal operations do uncover information that reveal government wrong doing, however, how do we know to what extent he holds, career ruining, information on senior UK politicians – although Max Mosley is trying to open the door to these dark secrets? The fact that so many celebrities were not prepared to make their experiences of phone hacking known, but preferred, instead, a private settlement, gives some idea of the kind of material that was being collected – material that would just be embarrassing for a celebrity – but career ending for a politician, public official or senior police officer.

The extent of the influence this information might well provide Murdoch may have led to him dictating the actions of governments for many years – we simply are unlikely never to know. If it should be the case it makes our already diminishing democracy nothing less than a farce and provides yet another powerful reason for the people to be directly involved in many of the decisions made by governments – if any more reason is needed!

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