News & Current Affairs
29 December 2014
by Rodney E. Lever
Is the net closing on Rupert Murdoch
The British national election, set for next year, could see the end of Rupert Murdoch's grip on political power in that country.
Current polling shows the British Labor is in a strong position and unlikely to hand their party over to any other magnate — as Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair both did.
A similar change in Australia in 2016 will surely follow now that our Labor Party has seen the result of giving Rupert the gift of an unprecedented monopoly that he has maintained for several years.
Nobody should ever have more than one vote in a genuine democracy, less one as shifty as Murdoch, who can move his readers around like pawns on a chessboard.
A British reporter, Nick Davies spent seven years investigating and writing about Rupert's activities in England from sources within News International (as it was called then) and from police and politicians and oither people who had been burned by the Murdoch newspapers.
His new book, Hack Attack, refers to the once noble and respectable British newspaper News of the World, which once employed Winston Churchill as a correspondent during an early period of his life when he was out of politics and seeking an income as a writer.
It was the News of the World that brought an opportunistic and ecstatic Rupert hurrying to England after borrowing half a million Australian dollars from the Commonwealth Bank — and adding in the value of companies he had already acquired in Australia, he was able to close the deal.
I was still working for Rupert when he came back from his English triumph, grumbling about some of the TV and radio interviewers who had mocked him. Over lunch, he told me proudly what he had achieved, how he had sealed the triumph and how he would soon exercise a strategem that would give him full control.
It was the beginning of his worldwide expansion into a virtual international monopoly of news and entertainment.
The irony is that the News of the World – once Britain's pride, but later just a Sunday muck-raiser with a fondness for paedophile parsons and politicians who used prostitutes – was the investment that brought Rupert down. Its misdeeds forced the closure of an historic paper with a weekend circulation greater than all the newspapers in Australia combined.
Nick Davies is a journalist of long experience and an example of the highest professional standards. His record accords with the Washington Post's Bob Woodward, who has said that
“All good work is done in defiance of management.”
Davies is an example of a good reporter prepared to research his story over a period of seven years before writing it. His account of events in the editorial room at the News of the World reveals a house of horrors.
Some of the names that spill out of Davies' writing include Andy Coulson, Rebekah Brooks, Ian Edmondson (now in jail), Clive Goodman (who has served time once and may do so again), Whispering Jimmy Weatherup, Neil Wallis, Greg Miskiw, Stuart Kuttner, Neville Thurlbeck — the list goes on and on.
Each one of them is characterised in Davies' book. They were all rivals, all devoted to their own methods of gathering sensational invasions of personal privacy, whether royalty, politics or any form of sexual deviation was exposed to get a byline and a nod from a superiors.
Occasionally, the stories were cleverly invented — subjects offered huge amounts of money they never received. Rivalry was the name of the game. Getting the story was the prize. How they got their stories was by extraodinary, underhand and often illegal methods.
The papers engaged phone hacking experts at huge salaries. They worked outside the newrooms, often in their own homes, collecting phone conversations to pass on to the paper and then to the public. Phone hacking was illegal, but that didn't stop them if they knew the tricks.
One team was handed money to buy drugs for celebrities so they could gather material for the social pages, then edited by Coulson. One reporter, Sean Hoare, used his expenses to coax a story from a famous actress. Coulson took over the story and instead of publishing it took the actress on a European holiday and shared her bed.
Rupert Murdoch made Rebekah Brooks the editor of the News of the World. Coulson became her deputy and her temporary lover.
The News of the World was the biggest selling weekend newspaper in the world. It sold around three and a half million copies a week.
Murdoch switched Brooks to the Sun and Coulson became editor of the News of the World, driving a $70,000, 165 mph Porsche Boxter.
But dreadful things were going on in the backgound, at the same time that the phone hacking was in operation. Huge cash bribes were being used to dig up dirt on prominent people, not through hacking, but by spying, stalking, and gathering and publishing gossip, whether true or not.
Prostitutes were tricked with promises of huge cash sums for revealing details of their client's sexual predilections. Often the payment turned out to be less than they got from the client and, of course, they had no recourse.
Sex orgies were happening inside the paper while the paper was reporting scandalous wild parties elsewhere — exposing the behaviour of prominent people while equally revolting events were occurring in their own newsroom.
Davies broke the hacking story first in July 2009, after collecting information from a multitude of sources, while Murdoch, with his forced grin, was pretending it was one rogue reporter.
Lord Brian Leveson was appointed to investigate all British newspapers. He was not investigating Murdoch personally.
When the hacking cases were before the courts, the most prominent defendent was the charming Rebekah Brooks, the newspaper's editor. The court found that she knew nothing about anything.
With his eighty-fifth birthday coming in March, Rupert Murdoch is thrashing around in the United States trying to find other ways to retain his empire, acquiring investments from real estate advertising, internet startups, television entertainment and news, movies, well-established book publishing companies, as well as his New York Post, a useful source of influence in New York politics.
In America, he has had far more failures than successes over the years and is heading in the same way in Britain and Australia.