The Murdoch story – his corruption of essential democratic institutions on both sides of the Atlantic – is one of the most important and far-reaching political/cultural stories of the past 30 years, an ongoing tale without equal. Like Richard Nixon and his tapes, much attention has been focused on the necessity of finding the smoking gun to confirm what other evidence had already established beyond a doubt: that the elemental instruments of democracy, ie the presidency in Nixon’s case, and the privileges of free press in Murdoch’s, were grievously misused and abused for their own ends by those entrusted to use great power for the common good.
Here are the News International crowd: Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, Peter Mandelson, David Miliband, David Blunkett, John Reid, Tessa Jowell, Michael Gove, George Osborne, William Hague. David Cameron, John Whittingdale and Jeremy Hunt (as well as Mr Hunt’s brainless sidekick, Ed Vaizey) should also be added to this list.
And here are the refuseniks: Vince Cable, Tom Watson, George Galloway, Iain Duncan Smith, Owen Paterson, Dominic Grieve, Ken Clarke. This is a much shorter list. My hunch is that their integrity has paid off and we are coming to the end of the Murdoch era, which was based around a cult of celebrity, collusion, criminality and deceit.
Normally, people know how they are governed long before any change in the system happens. It did not take the Arab spring to teach the people of the Middle East how they were ruled. But in Britain there has been a degree of shock as the curtain was suddenly pulled back, revealing exactly how Murdoch has operated these last 30-plus years.
Perhaps it has not been much of a surprise to learn how intense the influence was that News International had over Britain’s politicians: the parties, the private meetings in the flat above No 10, the constant access – one reporter noted how Brooks would walk into Cameron’s suite at Conservative party conference without knocking, as if she were part of the team – allied with the fear that NI held radioactive dirt on almost everyone in public life.
Here’s an excellent article by Paul Mason of Newsnight about the extraordinary events of the past week or so. More of this in class!
Outside the Murdoch circle knows the full answer, but I suspect it is quite prosaic: like the Wizard of Oz, Mr Murdoch’s power derived from the irrational fright politicians took from his occasional naked displays of it. The Kinnock “light bulb” headline was probably the signal moment. He was powerful because people believed he had the power, and that editors like Mrs Brooks and Mr Coulson probably had a file on everybody bigger than MI5’s, and so you should never, ever, cross them.
This is a fascinating blog entry, with some video excerpts, from my favourite documentary maker. Adam Curtis (who made The Trap for the BBC) builds thought provoking documentaries from archive footage plus a voice over. On his BBC blog he’s just put up the archive footage with a written commentary. He’s interested in the long-term relationship between Britain’s most powerful media organisation and Britain’s (or the world’s) most powerful media mogul.
And I thought it would be interesting to put up some of the high points.It is also a good way to examine how far his populist rhetoric is genuine, and how far its is a smokescreen to disguise the interests of another elite.As a balanced member of the BBC – I leave it to you to decide.
Isn’t the idea behind The Daily really more of the same, old newsroom wisdom updated, but still stuck with cheap ad rates and paying a 30% distribution fee to that nice Mr Jobs? Where’s the profit prospect, and where’s the sense in replicating a legacy general format paper on tablets? At a moment, moreover, when Tina Brown’s Daily Beast is following the success of Politico by embracing print as well as online because that means two ad revenue streams, where’s the cleverness in disconnecting one tap?
Enter Carolina Milanesi, Gartner’s research vice-president: “Media tablets have much more in common with a smartphone than a PC. The usage model is closer to what consumers do with a smartphone on the go than what they do on a PC at their desk. It is about running applications, playing games, watching video content, reading books and magazines, surfing the web, updating your status on your social network of choice and checking email.”
In one recent episode, the AV Club helps cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester film a near-exact copy of Madonna’s Vogue music video (the real-life fine for copying Madonna’s original? up to $150,000). Just a few episodes later, a video of Sue dancing to Olivia Newton-John’s 1981 hit Physical is posted online (damages for recording the entirety of Physical on Sue’s camcorder: up to $300,000). And let’s not forget the glee club’s many mash-ups — songs created by mixing together two other musical pieces. Each mash-up is a “preparation of a derivative work” of the original two songs’ compositions – an action for which there is no compulsory license available, meaning (in plain English) that if the Glee kids were a real group of teenagers, they could not feasibly ask for — or hope to get — the copyright permissions they would need to make their songs, and their actions, legal under copyright law. Punishment for making each mash-up? Up to another $150,000 — times two.