Monday, June 25, 2007

Murdoch's Empire

By Cernig

The New York Times has it's awaited expose of Rupert Murdoch's business empire today - partly emasculated by Murdoch's pre-emptive leak of said expose recently. What it mainly shows is that Murdoch, as can possibly be expected from a man in his position, is ruthlessly bi-partisan in his "support" for political figures when it comes to preserving his business empire. Oh, and that he has a million ways to avoid paying taxes.

Most interesting of all is his ability to "co-incidentally" make big-money book deals just as legislation which would affect his empire comes up on the Hill. Robert Stein, a former publisher, is downright sceptical of those coincidences.

As Congress was preparing to redraw the media ownership rules, Murdoch’s book publishing arm, HarperCollins, gave House Speaker Newt Gingrich a $4.5 million contract. In the Senate, Trent Lott got a $250,000 advance for a memoir.

Other Senators came at bargain prices. Arlen Specter, received $24,506 for “Passion for Truth,” Kay Bailey Hutchison $141,666 for “American Heroines.” Chuck Hagel has a book deal for next year.

Unless things have changed drastically since my time as a publisher, books by politicians, unless they involve scandal, are not best-sellers. Trent Lott’s quarter-of-a-million-dollar tome sold 12,000 copies.

But Murdoch got his money’s worth, as he no doubt will from the $1 million advance to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

Book publishing is an odd business that has never been just about money.
But where the NYT falls down, and could have done more with if they had troubled to send a reporter to the UK for some deeper digging, is in pointing out that, once he has bought those politicians' support, Murdoch uses his media power as a club to edge them towards his own conservative leanings.

Most overseas attention on Murdoch's holdings in Britain are aimed at the prestigeous London Times - but it is in his ownership of Britain's best-selling tabloid, The Sun, with a mind-boggling daily readership of around 7.8 million, and of his satellite news station which fills the same niche that cable news does in the U.S. that Murdoch's real clout lies. American's simply don't get the power of British tabloids - but imagine the New York Post being read every day by one in ten of the population of the entire nation.

Without The Sun, there would never have been a Prime Minister Thatcher or a Prime Minister Blair. Without The Sun and Murdoch's gleeful participation in and incitement for strike-breaking, journalism in the UK would still be a union job and Thatcher would never have managed to break the Miners and other unions. Without The Sun it's unlikely that Blair would have been quite such a faithful lapdog to Bush.

Gordon Brown is known to prefer contacts and support from the second-largest tabloid, The Mirror, which is glowing in its praise. His policies and personnel preferences, especially over Europe, are already under attack on the Sun's editorial page and the threat is clear.
we hope he will reconsider the decision NOT to hold a referendum on Europe’s latest power grab.

Especially, as we reveal today, he wants a General Election in the next twelve months and will not want the Europe issue dominating it.
If Brown doesn't give in to Murdoch on this Euro-referendum - so that the Sun can then ensure it gives wall-to-wall coverage of why its readers should vote NO - he won't win the next election. It's as simple as that for the Mirror is a voice alone out of many conservative tabloids. The Times may be a flagship, but The Sun is the workhorse of the fleet.

Now Murdoch wants the Wall Street Journal, the only U.S. broadsheet with a rising circulation, to partner the New York Post's own rising readreship. It's clear to me he want's to create a similiar trifecta, along with FOX News, to that which exists in the UK. The WSJ would be reasoned but tilted, the news station more so and the tabloid feeds raw sewage direct to the public - but all would take their direction from Murdoch and their slant from the tabloid lowest common denominator.