The revolt against Murdochracy: a view from Oz

by John Quiggin on July 10, 2011

The ever-expanding scandal surrounding hacking, bribery, perjury and obstruction of justice by News Corporation in England has already brought about the closure of the venerable (at least in years) News of the World newspaper, but looks likely to go much further, with significant implications for the Murdoch press in Australia, where Murdoch started out in my hometown of Adelaide (I should mention that, despite being born here, Murdoch is not an Australian by either citizenship or residence. He took out US citizenshup citizenship quite a while ago to further his ambitions there) .

The scandal over hacking and other criminal behavior has now become an all-out revolt of UK politicians against Murdoch’s immense political power , which has had successive Prime Ministers dancing attendance on him, and rushing to confer lucrative favors on his News Corporation. Those, like Labour leader Ed Miliband, who are relative cleanskins, are making the running, while PM David Cameron, very close to the most corrupt elements of News, is scrambling to cover himself.

The hacking and bribery scandals appear (as far as we know) to be confined to the UK, but the greater scandal of Murdoch’s corruption of the political process and misuse of press power is even worse in Australia. The Australian and other Murdoch publications filled with lies and politically slanted reporting aimed at furthering both Murdoch’s political agenda and his commercial interests. Whereas there is still lively competition in the British Press, Murdoch has a print monopoly in major cities like Brisbane.

It seems likely that News International will be refused permission for its impending takeover of BSkyB on the grounds that it is not “fit and proper” for such a role. That would have important implications for Australia (and perhaps also for the US, though Australian regulators are more likely to be influenced by UK precedents).

Regardless of how the current scandal plays out, we need to remember that while the Australian productions of News Corporation may be papers, what they print is certainly not news.