Rupert Murdoch

Andrew Hill

At July’s parliamentary hearings into phone-hacking at the News of the World, Liberal Democrat MP Adrian Sanders wound up his line of questioning by asking James Murdoch if he was “familiar with the term ‘wilful blindness’”.

Mr Murdoch, now deputy chief operating officer at News Corp and head of its international business, asked Mr Sanders to elaborate, which he did:

It is a term that came up in the Enron scandal. Wilful blindness is a legal term. It states that if there is knowledge that you could have had and should have had, but chose not to have, you are still responsible.

 

John Gapper

The Murdoch phone hacking affair has made me reflect further on how powerful people who may have broken the law get treated in various jurisdictions – and revisit the case of Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

I wrote a column in the FT earlier this month defending the treatment of Mr Strauss-Kahn (or DSK, as he is known) at the hands of the New York judicial system. I argued that the police and prosecutors had acted correctly in arresting him promptly on charges of sexual assault, and later disclosing weakness in the evidence.

That did not go down very well with a lot of readers – here is a letter criticising my piece that was printed in the FT. However, I think that the Murdoch affair, and the collusion it has revealed among British politicians, media figures and the police make the New York authorities look even better by comparison. 

Andrew Hill

Plenty of critics will say that Rupert Murdoch’s full-page apology for the “serious wrongdoing” caused by the News of the World in the British phone-hacking scandal comes too late. Likewise, the resignation on Friday of former editor Rebekah Brooks as chief executive of News International, News Corp’s UK subsidiary, looks tardy.

But News Corp should be more concerned about whether the 6m readers of the UK papers where Mr Murdoch’s letter will appear can trust the sender, given the winding route he took before delivering it. 

Andrew Hill

“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat” (Sun Tzu)

News Corporation’s withdrawal of its bid for British Sky Broadcasting is the latest in a series of increasingly desperate tactical moves by Rupert Murdoch and his chieftains to limit the consequences of the UK phone-hacking scandal

John Gapper

The News International scandal, which today led Jeremy Hunt, the culture secretary, to refer Rupert Murdoch’s bid to acquire complete control of British Sky Broadcasting, throws the entire shape of his UK operations into doubt.

Might the ultimate effect be that News Corporation disposes of its troublesome UK print operations to focus on its far bigger and more profitable entertainment assets in the US and elsewhere in the world?

That possibility, raised by Andrew Hill last week, would have seemed implausible even a week ago. Rupert Murdoch is an inky-fingered newspaperman who loves papers of every stripe and infuriated investors by paying $5bn for Dow Jones four years ago. Events are, however, moving very fast. 

Andrew Hill

When advertisers put pressure on news organisations, it’s often a sign press freedom is threatened. From South Africa to Hong Kong, public opinion puts companies or governments that use their commercial clout to protest against editorial policy on the side of the bad guys.

It’s symptomatic of the sorry state of UK news media that in the widening scandal over phone-hacking, the reverse is true. 

John Gapper

After much speculation, News International this morning released some numbers for how many people are paying to read The Times and The Sunday Times online and they are . . . a start.

The headline number is that 105,000 people have paid money in some form to read the digital editions of the newspapers in the four months since the launch, but that includes some duplication and a lot of people who have paid only to read for a day or two.

For marketing purposes, News International obviously waited until they hit six figures before putting out a number in order not to present a soft target to the digital media folk willing it to fail. (This did not prevent Mathew Ingram at GigaOm immediately declaring it a bust). 

John Gapper

The FT’s call for Vince Cable, the UK business secretary, to examine News Corporation’s bid to acquire the 60.9 per cent of British Sky Broadcasting it does not already own has attracted further attention to what has become a crucial media ownership issue.

Most general interest newspapers are struggling to find a way to make money online, and Mr Murdoch has started experimenting by making The Times and The Sunday Times subscription-only. News International is now trying to extend that status to The News of the World. 

John Gapper

There are few equivalents in business of red carpet reporting – the showbiz practice of standing by the carpet at awards ceremonies and grabbing  words as the celebrities walk by. The Sun Valley media and technology summit, however, is just such an event.

Never having been there (although I did once go to Sun Valley when the Allen & Co annual conference was not in progress), I feel somewhat jealous of the reporters out there in the Idaho countryside.

On the other hand, as a way of obtaining information, it leaves something to be desired. Since the media are not allowed into the conference, they instead stand outside grubbing for morsels. 

John Gapper

News Corporation’s attempt to take full ownership of British Sky Broadcasting will have an interesting impact on the role of James Murdoch, Rupert’s younger son and his heir apparent.

The deal would remove some of James’ independence, since as chairman of BSkyB as well as the head of News Corp’s European and Asian businesses, he has hitherto had his own empire. 

John Gapper

By erecting a paywall around The Times and The Sunday Times online, Rupert Murdoch is once more shaking up Fleet Street and leading the way to what he hopes will be a more profitable existence. I doubt whether his heart is in it.

Continue reading “Murdoch has to become an elitist”

John Gapper

Erich Schmidt’s remarks today at the Google Zeitgeist conference on how the company is trying to work with with news groups including Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp on new revenue models reminded me of what I find striking about Google’s attitude.

It is that, despite the endless debate about whether newspapers or other news organisations should charge for access to their content online, Google itself is agnostic. As James Fallows reported in the Atlantic the other day: 

John Gapper

There is nothing quite so entertaining – or so illogical these days – than an old-fashioned newspaper war such as the one that Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal is picking with the New York Times on the paper’s home turf.

The Journal recently launched its Greater New York section, in which it has invested heavily (although Mr Murdoch insisted on an investor conference call on Tuesday that the reputed figure of $30m was too high). Since then, it has been competing head-on with the NYT’s metro section