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Yet more thoughts on the media.

My natural newspaper (the Times) has been barred from my house since 1982 or so: when "Dame" Harold Evans (as Private Eye would style him) left the Thunderer for pastures further from the sty. So I read the Grauniad. But then again the greatest crossword compiler of the modern age, Araucaria, will not work for Murdoch and sets mainly for the Grauniad. So some small win there then.

When I have that spare hour or two, an Araucarian crossword is one of the great joys of the world. Solipsistic intellectual masturbation is such a good look, don'tyerthink? Especially when I'm flailing around for answers, being a trifle dim of brain at present.

It's always comforting to know that there are folk out there who are so clever that they make even the cleverest of the rest of us (and I'm not quite that, alas) look slow. Such folk are meant for us as reminders…and perhaps to help us avoid the descent into hubris, lest we all become like unto a media baron or mediæval monarch.
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...and I shall not recapitulate for the inattentive.

To continue, yesterday, chillaxing Dave got on the case and stated something along the lines of, "Well, even though events have proven me wrong, I was right to put pro-Murdoch crony Jeremy BerkHunt in charge of the bid that Murdoch's proxies were making to buy the remaining portion of BSkyB."

Jeremy Hunt's email has been published by Leveson, wherein he shows at least as much positive bias towards Murdoch as Vince Cable showed negative.

Now what I want to know is of these two, BerkHunt and Cable, which would the ordinary informed person think of as the most likely to follow the proper process of examining the bid, and the fitness of the folk who were making it, and referring it to the proper agencies of oversight?

As we now all know (as though we hadn't before) that Murdoch's organisation has more than a few dodgy folk therein, and some of its ways are not like the ways of other law-abiding citizens; perhaps because, as article of faith, it always has to test and thereby prove the limits of legal jurisdiction, whilst remaining within the law; even when that law interferes with what Murdoch regards as the natural fulfilment of his stage of media-empire building. Laws can be changed, after all. Processes can be evaded avoided.

Given this, I should find it surprising, and an actual dereliction of political duty from all sides of the political spectrum, for a politician to give Murdoch's organisation or any cross-media organisation an easy ride. Even those sympathetic to Murdoch's modus operandi, fellow travellers of the libertarian/new right/newconservative inclination, even they should be naturally wary of the media-mogul/newspaper-baron, given the media baron's nature.

I mean to say, look at some of the modern list:

Robert Maxwell

Conrad Black

Silvio Berlusconi
Actually Silvio deserves a couple of pages to him: so I'll throw in another link:


Rupert Murdoch

Now, in the general population one wouldn't expect to find as many criminals* per capita, and I doubt there are anything more than a hundred actual media moguls of the stature of the above named quartet in the modern era, so I should find it unsurprising if any media mogul was ever given an easy ride. Call it profiling, I suppose. We have to remember, in the era of the Nietzschean man, companies are people too.

I'm just surprised that these folk companies don't get stop-and-searched a bit more, just on sus. I mean, if there were a gang as obviously dodgy as this crew outside, waiting to be let in, we'd have our border guards give 'em an intensive body-frisk or two before we allowed 'em into civilisation. And even then, some of us would be trying to get 'em all deported.

*Not, of course, that Murdoch is a deliberate criminal - in such cases it takes a noble journalist to step up to the plate, rather than a proprietor.
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The Wall Street Journal has commented on the ongoing News International/News Corp crisis in the UK:

Now, in a nice attempt at spin, News Corp's premier US newspaper weighed in, essentially accusing the Guardian and the BBC of attempting to influence public affairs.

"The idea that the BBC and the Guardian newspaper aren't attempting to influence public affairs, and don't skew their coverage to do so, can't stand a day's scrutiny."

Er....pot calling the kettle black, by any chance?

Nevertheless, it seems that this is going to be the standard News Corp line from here on in: that this is all a storm in a teacup, blown out of all proportion by left-wing competitors eager to do News Corp down.

Then we have the idea that payments for information are normal practice.

"Applying this standard to British tabloids could turn payments made as part of traditional news-gathering into criminal acts. The Wall Street Journal doesn't pay sources for information, but the practice is common elsewhere in the press, including in the U.S."

The beauty of this piece from the WSJ is that it was slightly behind the events. This came before Sir Paul Stephenson, the most senior police officer in the UK, resigned. That News International/News Corp papers have suborned the Metropolitan police is the real story here. Illegal phone hacking is admittedly a crime, but not one on the scale of buying the Met to do News Corp bidding: which is something even The Times (another News Corp/News International paper) is prepared to admit.

"The public may be disgusted by illegal and immoral practices among tabloid journalists, and dismayed by the thought of politicians unbalanced by the urge to keep the favour of newspaper executives. At the point at which this sorry tale touches the police, however, it becomes frightening. Unless a huge amount of what has been alleged these past two weeks is sheer fiction, Britain's police are riven with corruption on an institutional scale. Journalists who bribe policemen are indicative of a flawed industry. Policemen who can be bribed are indicative of a flawed state."

Actually, this is slightly disingenuous. Journalists who bribe policemen are criminal, as are policemen who allow themselves to be bribed. And given, in this flawed world, that it appears everyone has his or her price, it is not breathtakingly amazing that coppers have sold information, or had freebies for favours returned. What is true is that some organisations are ready and willing to exploit the rampant materialism of the times to get what they want, and then cover up their wrongdoing with misdirection. But it is criminal: a de facto crime in the UK since the beginning of the 20th Century.

However, all of this may be only the start of Roops problems, because:

'The former minister Tom Watson, wrote to the SFO's Director urging him to investigate alleged breaches of Company Law at News International, relating to payments made after the phone hacking scandal. He said the payments were a "gross misuse of shareholders' money".'

This may be the thing that Murdoch cannot evade, even if he can twist and turn his way out of all of the other accusations made against him and his family run (but not entirely family owned) business: misuse of shareholders' money.
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So the Tories have put pressure on the Beeb. Was this ideological or driven by 'outside forces' (ie Roops et al)?

Now I've been going on about this for some time, though the battle between Murdoch and the BBC has been ongoing for over two decades. My last four outbursts on the topic contain the gist of my arguments and opinions.

To those of you for whom this is all tl:dr, I'd advise that you don't put your head above the parapet, as sarcasm in reply often offends. Nevertheless I'll encapsulate the arguments for you.

Quality (in the sense of excellence and merit) is, to me, more important than any ideological 'correctness' whether political, or economically capitalist.

In the media war between the forces of profit (Murdoch) and the forces of the publicly financed and overseen (the Beeb), the publicly financed has triumphed in those most important factors: excellence and merit. Standards of journalism have never been better than at the Beeb. Breadth, depth, and reach have never been surpassed. In its core statement about nation reaching unto nation, and its principles of educating, informing, and entertaining, the Beeb set out a course which it has followed for many years. It is not beholden to shareholders, but rather public oversight. It also costs a damn sight less than cable.

If any of the Tories castrate the Beeb when they come to power, I will hound each and every one of those concerned to their graves. My only weapons will be invective, sarcasm, verbal spite, and the panoply of maledicta to which I have access. And I will put all my inventiveness into making the aptest and most debilitating comment.

I rather hope that those who make such decisions know just how ostracised they will be if they fuck with the BBC. And I also hope that this ostracising extends into the social sphere too. They may even be worse pariahs than bankers. Time will tell.
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From it's Reithian beginnings to its present dominance of the culture of the language of Shakespeare the BBC has always had enemies.

That James Murdoch should ally himself with those, the historical enemies of the BBC, is....understandable. However the list of enemies is as long as the list of enemies of the British state, (and its allies) or perhaps now, one or two more.

It isn't a requirement to be anti-British to hate/dislike/be in competition with the BBC but it certainly helps. After all, commecial television has always had an uneasy relationship with the BBC.

However, when it comes to the dissemination of High Culture and ideas associated with such, the BBC is without equal.

For example BBC_Radio_3
Radio 3 is the world's most significant most significant commissioner of new music*.

And as for BBC_Radio_4, for most Englishfolk who listen to radio, it needs no introduction.

Apart from sponsoring and organising arguably the largest and greatest music festival in the world (The_Proms) and funding some six orchestras plus choirs, the national levy that goes to the BBC pays for a lot more than just TV without the adverts.

Y'see Murdoch is in some ways right: the BBC is a monolith, but if he's setting up NewsCorp as the alternative then he really is on a hiding to nothing. Without the BBC, stations with editorial agenda like FOX would have their say with no major dissent: few others apart from the BBC have the resources and editorial and journalistic integrity to present a story as free of bias. Most private newsgathering organisations are answerable to the whims of their owners. Because the BBC is payed for by public money, established with a Royal Charter, and subject to the scrutiny of its board of governors, Parliament, and ultimately the people, it wouldn't be allowed to get away with some of the egregious (or some would say deliberate) errors FOX's output is strewn with. Republican sex scandal Senators being labeled Dems for example; never mind the network's OxyContin-driven commentary that substitutes for journalism, unnoticed by its audience.

Yeah, criticise our health service and we'll get up in arms. Set about the beeb and....upon reflection, the consequences could be worse: folk will start looking at the alternatives, and then people like me will start taking collections and buying two or more TV licences every year. I may leave money to the BBC in my will, or try to covenant money to it in some way or other. And really, I don't care if the Murdoch organisation goes out of business, despite the TLS. In fact, that may even be a win. Newspapers have had their day, perhaps private broadcasters like FOX won't be far behind. I'm sure some will mourn their passing: thinking about it even Al Megrahi will have some mourners at his funeral, too.

*Source wikipedia, so it may not be gospel, but I'd lay odds on it being correct.
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I want to write at length about this. & I want to dissect the Murdoch Empire's Journalistic standards and editorial bias, and the transparency of the process involved and the respective levels of scrutiny in the BBC and the Murdoch Empire in general.

Murdoch's speech resonates in so many ways, especially to free marketeers. But given the fact that the two biggest news media organisations in the world have been going head-to-head for some fifteen years it is unsurprising that James Murdoch should talk so disparagingly about the Murdoch Empire's main competitor.

This is important not because if the BBC goes, in many places the only international News agency left will be Rupert's baby: News_Corporation. You know, Sky, Faux News....the mouthpiece of the marketplace, the Oligarchy, and big business.

The BBC has a board of Governors comprising 'the Great and the Good' in British life.

So now you know the protagonists. On Monday, I hope to speak of the battlefield, the casualties, and the propaganda war. And why I regard the BBC as one of the great achievements of humanity (and I am serious here). And also why I see the BBC's journalistic standards and independent editorial control as being beyond comparison with NewsCorp's. There is one thing in all this: I have some small residual sympathy for NewsCorp for one reason: it subsidises the Times Literary Supplement, which though much debased, is still something almost as wonderful as Radio 3 or Radio 4.

Whether the BBC can be blamed for newspapers going out of business is something I doubt: structural changes in information gathering (the internet) have done for all sorts of industries, including the one in which I work (music).

But for the time being I'm off to Edinburgh to see chums and to catch the last of the festival. I shall return on Monday, refreshed and ready to take up arms against....well, rather than against anything, passionately for the BBC both as a cultural edifice, and as the premier newsgathering organisation in the world. And to be quite candid, I'd trust the BBC board of governors to ensure I get the actual news rather than the board of NewsCorp, or the whims of the members of the Murdoch family.
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Well, I don't normally open with a panegyric, and almost never one.....I suppose I'd better explain....

Having returned from a holiday with chums in the North of England I set about getting clothes washed, debating whether to tidy the flat properly now or defer the um, gratification of such pleasurable activity; during course of which I espied my as yet unread double Christmas edition of the Times Literary Supplement.

Some two hours later I returned to the world feeling better informed, refreshed, and recharged. Now that's probably because, as 

[profile] megiloth  says, I'm a poncy git liable to such behaviour. But I might still beg to differ, though I am indeed a poncy git. The TLS is, if you like, Murdoch's apology. It makes up for The Sun, The News of the World, and The New York Post. However, not even the TLS could begin to balance the scales of justice were The Fox Network on the other side. But I digress.

So I'll digress some more. I'd imagine that even the most rapacious media Baron (even if fiscally responsible like Murdoch, and unlike Black or Maxwell) has a side that still cultivates critical values. If you sell words by the billion every day, you must have some understanding of their power. In fact, even the fiscally irresponsible, like Black, crave academic and intellectual recognition: sometimes even writing pretty good biographies.

It is impossible to say how well the TLS has kept me informed over the years, and how indebted I have been to the debates taking place within its pages.
In the guise of book reviews it presents more information on more subjects in greater depth by great writers and critics than almost any other publication, though the London Review of Books and The New York Review of Books both deserve honourable mentions, and the LRB has the most amusing adverts by far.

In my Anarcho-Syndicalist youth, I had a list of folk to be saved from the firing squads 'after the revolution'. These folk had all done something that redeemed them from the righteous justice of the proletariat. As we all now know, the revolution will never come, and the list will become even more yellowed with time: but as long as he keeps funding the TLS (because something like that loses money - it is not a profitable operation and must needs be a rich man's indulgence, like an expensive yacht) I suppose Ol' Roops name will be on the list.



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