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Targeting Murdoch

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Rupert MurdochQuelle surprise! Britain's parliament discovered what media critics and people wanting real news and information knew decades ago.

Murdoch's world features demagoguery, managed news, scandal, sleaze, and warmongering. He's the prototypical presstitute famed journalist George Seldes (1890 - 1995) denounced in books like "Lords of the Press."

He called them "the most powerful force against the general welfare of the majority of the people." He exposed their tactics long before Project Censored.

Major media scoundrels are villainous global pirates. Murdoch's the worst of the bunch. Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) once called Fox News "the most biased name in news....with its extraordinary right-wing tilt."

Viewing, it added, is like watching "a Harlem Globetrotters game (knowing) which side is supposed to win." It's hard-right, pro-business, pro-war, pro-occupation, anti-populist, sleazy and biased, combined with juiced-up infotainment and junk food news.

It's a virtual mouthpiece piece for extremist Republicans. It long ago stopped pretending it's legitimate. It mocks real journalism. It's not tolerated on air.

Famed Chicago columnist Mike Royko (1932- 1997) once said "no self-respecting fish would (want to) be wrapped in a Murdoch paper...."

Former Fox employees complain about management cooking the facts to make stories acceptable to right-wing audiences. Those unwilling to go along are fired. Former Bush aid Lee Atwater once said Fox boss Roger Ailes operates on "two speeds - attack and destroy." He also demands programming conform to his views.

Murdoch's a force for evil, not good. Heir apparent son James was groomed to succeed him. He currently serves as News Corp. chairman and CEO. He's part of its scandalous operations like his father.

At age 82, Rupert nears retirement. It may come sooner than he wishes. James turns 40 in December. Whether he'll ride out the storm remains to be seen. If he wasn't Murdoch's son he'd have been gone long ago.

On May 1, the London Guardian headlined "Rupert Murdoch 'not fit' to lead major international company, MPs conclude," saying:

A parliamentary committee declared him "not a fit person" to run a major company. Its report also targeted James. At issue was last year's News of the World phone-hacking affair.

Last July, London Guardian writers Nick Davies and Amelia Hill broke the story. Milly Dowler and her family were victimized. Their voicemails were hacked.

Related police corruption came out. So did information about Murdoch, James, as well as other executives and editors having private meetings with Prime Minister David Cameron never disclosed.

Observers wondered if father and son would weather the storm. They're still wondering. Tarnished and exposed, News Corp. retains clout. Readers, viewers, and shareholders will likely decide its future.

Tuning it out makes it bleak. What UK, US, and other lawmakers decide remains unknown.

Guardian writers said "Labour MPs and the sole Liberal Democrat on the committee, Adrian Sanders, voted together in a bloc of six against the five Conservatives to insert (specific) criticisms of Rupert....and toughen up the remarks about his son James."

Other News International (NI) employees got harsher treatment. Language like "complicit" in a cover-up, deliberately withholding vital information, and falsely answering questions was used.

For his part, Rupert didn't "take steps to become fully informed about phone hacking." He "turned a blind eye and exhibited willful blindness to what was going on in his companies and publication."

For decades, he's been known as a hands-on boss. As a result, these accusations bite. The committee concluded that NI's culture "permeated from the top." It "speaks volumes about the lack of effective corporate governance at News Corporation and News International."

"We conclude, therefore, that Rupert Murdoch is not a fit person to exercise the stewardship of a major international company."

James was described as exhibiting a "lack of curiosity (and) willful ignorance even" when phone-hacking 2009 and 2010 settlement negotiations were ongoing.

The committee added:

"We would add to these admissions that as the head of a journalistic enterprise, we are astonished that James Murdoch did not seek more information or ask to see the evidence and counsel's opinion when he was briefed by Tom Crone and Colin Myler on the Gordon Taylor case."

It steered clear of drawing conclusions on evidence about Milly Dowler because of an ongoing police phone hacking investigation. In March 2002, she was abducted and murdered.

MPs said company executives showed contempt for parliament "in the most blatant fashion." They willfully tried to obstruct and mislead.

NI executive chairman Les Hinton was accused of "inexcusably" misleading MPs on his role in authorizing a 243,000 pound Clive Goodman payoff. Convicted of phone hacking, he formerly served as NI's royal editor.

"We consider, therefore, that (Hinton) was complicit in the cover-up at (NI), which included making misleading statements and giving a misleading picture to the committee," MPs said.

NI's legal affairs manager Tom Crone and journalist/editor Colin Myler were also accused of deliberately concealing vital information from the committee. In addition, they lied when asked questions.

Besides unresolved internal NI issues and legal ones, accused executives may be called before parliament to apologize. If so, they'll be the first ones forced to in half a century.

In response, they deny all accusations. A News Corp. statement said:

"News Corporation is carefully reviewing the select committee's report and will respond shortly. The company fully acknowledges significant wrongdoing at News of the World and apologises to everyone whose privacy was invaded."

A more detailed press release added:

"Hard truths have emerged from the Select Committee Report: that there was serious wrongdoing at the News of the World; that our response to the wrongdoing was too slow and too defensive; and that some of our employees misled the Select Committee in 2009."

"News Corporation regrets, however, that the Select Committee's analysis of the factual record was followed by some commentary that we, and indeed several members of the committee, consider unjustified and highly partisan. These remarks divided the members along party lines."

"We have already confronted and have acted on the failings documented in the Report: we have conducted internal reviews of operations at newspapers in the United Kingdom and indeed around the world, far beyond anything asked of us by the Metropolitan Police; we have volunteered any evidence of apparent wrongdoing to the authorities; and, we have instituted sweeping changes in our internal controls and our compliance programs on a world-wide basis, to help ensure that nothing like this ever happens again anywhere at News Corporation."

"As we move forward, our goal is to make certain that in every corner of the globe, our company acts in a manner of which our 50,000 employees and hundreds of thousands of shareholders can be justly proud."

UK media regulator Ofcom said:

"We note the publication of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee report. Ofcom has a duty under the Broadcasting Acts 1990 and 1996 to be satisfied that any person holding a broadcasting licence is, and remains, fit and proper to do so."

"Ofcom is continuing to assess the evidence - including the new and emerging evidence - that may assist it in discharging these duties."

On May 1, the Guardian headlined, "Rupert Murdoch's Fox broadcast licenses targeted by US ethics group," saying:

Citizens for Responsibility in Washington (CREW) wrote FCC chairman Julius Genachowski. It want Murdoch's television licenses revoked on grounds of character. It cited UK parliament's committee calling him "not a fit person" to run a major international company.

CREW director Melanie Sloan said father and son failed the test US media law requires. "If they are not passing the character standard under British law, it seems to me that they are not going to meet (it) in America."

FCC regulations require broadcast licenses only given to people of good character who serve the "public interest" and speak with "candor."

By that standard, all US, UK, and most other Western media fail the test. FCC officials won't likely act. US regulatory agencies don't regulate corporate America. They serve it. Genachowski already suggested he won't touch this.

CREW hopes new information will force his hand. It also wants Congress to act. Bipartisan complicity will also steer clear. Murdoch's safe in America. Britain's another matter.

New Corp. owns 39.1% of pay TV giant BSkyB. If Ofcom judges NI "not a fit and proper" owner, it may order Murdoch to sell part or all of his lucrative holding. Shuffling key management and editorial positions may minimize the damage. The rot starts at the top and filters down.

Policy analyst Michael Pryce-Jones calls the "company in crisis." It needs to shake things up quickly. Its board should act on a succession plan. Rupert "cannot stay on as CEO and chairman of this company."

If James wasn't his son, he'd have been sacked months ago. Shareholders may have the last word. Readers and viewers can hold them accountable by tuning them out and walking away.

Imagine the joy of a Murdoch free world. Imagine a better one freed from all scoundrel media. Imagine credible choices replacing them. It's an idea whose time has come.


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