Dunsmore: The Murdoch Legacy

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(HOST) The scandal involving Rupert Murdoch’s media holdings in Britain
has reached the highest levels of the British government, the London
police and his top national newspapers. And as commentator and veteran
ABC News diplomatic correspondent Barrie Dunsmore tells us this morning ,
the scandal has implications that go beyond Great Britain.

Rupert Murdoch went from inheriting two small newspapers in Australia
to becoming the head of the conglomerate News Corporation – which has
annual revenues of $33 billion. News Corporation is now second only to
the Disney company as the worlds largest media and entertainment empire.
Murdoch’s holdings in this country include the Wall Street Journal, the
New York Post, DirecTV and the FOX television network which includes
FOX News.

Murdoch is a controversial figure and no stranger to
scandals. But until very recently his extraordinary position of power,
especially in Britain, has been unassailable. That may no longer be so.

immediate cause for the current troubles were revelations that
employees of Murdoch’s popular Sunday tabloid, The News of the World,
had hacked into the private telephone communications of a young girl who
had just been murdered. They had also apparently tapped the phones of
families of British soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

previous allegations of illegal eavesdropping on the phones of members
of the Royal Family – as well as those of a number of prominent British
celebrities – that was the last straw.

In the mudslinging that
has followed, there have been accusations that policemen responsible for
Royal security had taken Murdoch’s newspapers’ bribes and others were
on the payroll as tipsters and facilitators. And if that’s not enough
Andy Coulson, former spokesman for the current British prime minister
and previously the editor of the News of the World, was arrested in his
London home last week and taken off to jail.

The Murdoch
family’s immediate response has been to shut down the News of the World.
And this week they have withdrawn their $12 billion bid to take over
British Sky Broadcasting, a lucrative satellite TV operation.

Murdoch made his move into British newspapers in the mid-eighties, he
has been a major player in media and politics. First he broke the
newspaper trade unions while cheering on Margaret Thatcher’s violent
suppression of the coal miners. He later helped Tony Blair get elected
and recently supported the election of conservative Prime Minister David
Cameron. He became a welcome weekend guest at the homes of all the
prime ministers who had reason to court his favor and fear his wrath.
But this week, Murdoch’s friends in high places deserted him.

legacy will be defined by his quest for power- and his apparent
willingness to do anything to achieve it. This ruthlessness permeates
Murdoch’s corporate culture, wherever he operates. Here in America, FOX
News shows little regard for facts and consistently gives hours of air
time and amplification to the most extreme voices. Fox News
pseudo-populism makes huge profits but has degraded cable television
news, if not all news media and has contributed greatly to the
poisonous partisanship that has infected the American political system.
It’s therefore notable that this week some Democrats and Republicans in
Congress have called for investigations into what Murdoch’s people may
have been up to in this country.

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