Murdoch case: Influence and espionage possibilities emerging

“…the report could also embarrass Prime Minister David Cameron, who has acknowledged that Britain’s political elite has been dazzled and charmed by the Murdoch’s media clout for years.”

“I am perfectly prepared to admit that the relationship between politicians and media proprietors got too close” – Prime Minister David Cameron.

The time has come to examine the symbiotic relationship between politicians and the media, not just in Britain but throughout the Western world, and to assess the desirability of governing the relationship between the two.  It is clearly necessary to ensure the public good by preventing the media from using their power to advance political careers, to obtain influence over policy, and to access to otherwise unavailable sensitive information.

As we are told in an article in The Independent dated July 27th 2011:

“On two occasions, James Murdoch and former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks were given confidential defence briefings on Afghanistan and Britain’s strategic defence review by the Defence Secretary, Liam Fox… A spokesman for Mr Fox said that the defence briefings given to the Murdochs covered a range of issues and were given because of the “interest in defence matters” shown by News International papers. He did not say who initiated the meetings… Senior executives and editors from News International have held private meetings with Cabinet ministers more than 60 times since last May… ”

And in a Jewish Telegraphic Agency article dated July 19th, 2011 we find:

“Murdoch’s sudden massive reversal of fortune… has supporters of Israel worried that a diminished Murdoch presence may mute the strongly pro-Israel voice of many of the publications he owns… Jewish leaders said that Murdoch’s view of Israel’s dealings with the Palestinians and with its Arab neighbors seemed both knowledgeable and sensitive to the Jewish state’s self-perception as beleaguered and isolated.”

The Murdoch case provides an excellent insight into how the media, and the surprisingly small number of people who own it or exercise significant control over it, could exercise that power to act on behalf of foreign and potentially hostile interests.

And I am suggesting that Israel may well be lurking somewhere in this.

Jeff Goodall.

U.K. lawmakers: Rupert Murdoch not fit to run a company

Toronto Sun
Georgina Prodhan and Kate Holton, Reuters
May 1st, 2012

LONDON – Rupert Murdoch is unfit to run a major international company and should take responsibility for a culture of illegal phone hacking that has shaken News Corp , a powerful British parliamentary committee said on Tuesday.

Pulling few punches, lawmakers focused on the failings of the 81-year-old News Corp chief executive, his son James and a company which they said had showed “wilful blindness” about the scale of phone-hacking that first emerged at Murdoch’s News of the World newspaper.

The cross-party committee, which approved the report by a majority of six to four, scolded News Corp for misleading the British parliament and trying to cover up illegal phone hacking. It said that there had been huge failures in corporate governance which raised questions about the competence of Rupert’s son, James.

“News International and its parent News Corporation exhibited wilful blindness, for which the companies’ directors -including Rupert Murdoch and James Murdoch – should ultimately take responsibility,” it said.

“Their instinct throughout, until it was too late, was to cover up rather than seek out wrongdoing and discipline the perpetrators,” the lawmakers said in an 85 page report.

“Even if there were a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ culture at News International, the whole affair demonstrates huge failings of corporate governance at the company and its parent, News Corporation.”

The report may force James Murdoch, once heir apparent to the media empire, to sever his last ties with Britain’s biggest satellite TV firm BSkyB, which News Corp had sought to take over before the scandal.

In the week of local elections, the report could also embarrass Prime Minister David Cameron, who has acknowledged that Britain’s political elite has been dazzled and charmed by the Murdoch’s media clout for years.

The committee has been investigating the allegations on and off since a single reporter went to jail for the crime in 2007, believing that the practice went far beyond the one “rogue“ staffer and questioning a string of executives over what they knew and when.

Rupert Murdoch has apologised for the scandal but told a judicial inquiry into press ethics last week that senior staff at his British newspaper publisher had hidden the hacking scandal.

The 39-year-old James has also apologised for failing to get to the bottom of the scandal but said he was kept in the dark by staff at the paper.

Both Rupert and James Murdoch have put the blame on the journalists and in particular on the News of the World’s former lawyer Tom Crone and former editor Colin Myler.

REGULATORS

Media regulator Ofcom will take the report’s findings into consideration in its assessment of whether BSkyB’s owners and directors are “fit and proper” persons to hold a broadcast licence.

James Murdoch recently stepped down as chairman but remains on the board of BSkyB, which is 39 percent owned by News Corp.

“We’ll all be looking at the wording in terms of the fit and proper test,” said Charlie Beckett, founding director of the Polis journalism and society think-tank at the London School of Economics.

“If it says there was a systematic lack of due diligence at News International or News Corp, that might impinge on future fit and proper tests for Ofcom.”

Cameron was summoned to parliament on Monday to explain why he would not investigate emails revealing that a ministerial aide had assured News Corp over its $12 billion bid for BSkyB.

He insisted there was no need to refer the case to his independent adviser on ministerial conduct, noting the emails had been handed to a separate judicial inquiry into press ethics.

“I am perfectly prepared to admit that the relationship between politicians and media proprietors got too close,” Cameron said during a rowdy debate, blaming politicians of both main parties for the failing.

But Cameron could face further embarrassment as former Murdoch confidante and News Corp executive Rebekah Brooks prepares to reveal text messages and emails between herself and the prime minister, a former friend and part of the so-called “Chipping Norton” set.

The group includes Cameron, Brooks and other political and media elite who live in and around the well-heeled Oxfordshire town of Chipping Norton, giving rise to accusations of cronyism and suspicions that Britain is run by an exclusive clique.

The committee will present its report to parliament, which is likely to hold a debate on its findings, and the government then has 60 days to respond.

See original here.

See “Murdoch’s News International interested in defence matters” here, “Rupert Murdoch: Scandal, or long-term intelligence operation?” here, and the “Rupert Murdoch Scandal” category here.

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