07.22.2011 05:13 PM
McAdams On: News Corp.
REGULATIONDISMAYVILLE: The indignant schadenfreude over News Corp. would be amusing were it not so sad. It has been the single most ruthless media company of our time for years, not just since Tuesday. That’s also why it’s one of the largest and most powerful media companies in the world. Rupert Murdoch may lack scruples, but he knows how to move the chess pieces. Much of the fallout from Tuesday’s Parliamentary hearing will be posturing. Now’s the time to get on the “down with News Corp.” bandwagon. U.S. lawmakers are obliged to emit certain grumbles of condemnation to mollify media anti-consolidation forces. But it will be strutting and fretting, soon enough heard no more.

Nearly everyone is complicit in the News Corp. burlesque, from stockholders to politicians to those of us who read the newspapers or watch Fox channels on TV. Shareholders don’t ask “how,” they just expect returns. News Corp. is a vehicle for politicians, and vice versa. We content consumers are conspicuous for seeking that which confirms, rather than challenges, our fixed beliefs. Rupert Murdoch has been a master at catering to this American mindset, which in turn rendered him the most politically influential media mogul of the modern age.

One example I recall is when lawmakers were fighting about media ownership limits six years ago. Regulators had lifted the national audience reach cap for TV station groups from 35 to 45 percent. Anti-consolidationists took up pitchforks and torches, and Congress rolled it back to 35 percent, or tried to. Rupert’s TV stations reached 39 percent of U.S. households at the time. After Murdoch was quoted in one of his own newspapers saying he was sure Congress would do the right thing, a handful lawmakers met the night before Christmas adjournment and raised the cap to 39 percent. The power of the media, indeed.

No one said a word, then, and neither the half of News Corp.’s doings will be unearthed in this wave of perfunctory investigations. The company’s influence reaches much further than Scotland Yard, and to profess shock or deem that statement conspiratorial is a bit naive. Influence is how business and politics work. There’s nothing new about it.

I don’t condone the phone-hacking or any of the other more nefarious methods employed by News Corp., but the company is far from alone in its methods. What is most disappointing is the disingenuousness--of singling it out, of vilifying the old man, of running for cover after drinking his champagne on his yacht, of claiming cluelessness in the face of obviousness. That includes the master himself.

When asked if he was responsible for the conduct at the companies he owns, his answer was “no.” He blamed the people he employed. That’s understandable to some degree. News Corp. employs something like 53,000 people. He can’t know what they’re all doing; that’s logical. However, he is the head, the general, the leader. That’s what you do. You fall on your sword, at least figuratively. You stand up and say, “Yes, this was my responsibility. I failed to create a corporate culture in which this type of behavior and conduct was absolutely forbidden at every level. So yes, I was and am responsible.”

And the rest of us, Mr. Murdoch, are just as responsible for supporting, condoning or just turning a blind eye to that culture. I don’t expect any number of hearings or investigations will change it.

Deborah D. McAdams

Afterthought from a friend with whom I agree wholeheartedly: "News Corp. also owns several well-run TV stations, no worse than most and far better than many. I worked briefly for one, and having covered local TV for a while, I'd say Fox was certainly one of the better station groups in terms of the way it treated employees and its news product. News Corp. is more than just tabloids and screaming heads on Fox News. An overwhelming number of the 53,000 people mentioned in your column do not deserve to be tarnished with a broad brush."

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Posted by: Deborah McAdams
Fri, 07-22-2011 03:30 PM Report Comment
"... the single most ruthless media company of our time ...." Aha! ... Rupert Murdoch, Simon Cowell Yes, the pieces fit. ;-)
Posted by: Deborah McAdams
Sat, 07-30-2011 10:12 PM Report Comment
Who is to blame for success of a company? The company selling their product or the people buying it? With no comment on the rightness or wrongness of the overall organization, you can't (in-spite of liberal beliefs0 legislate morality or apply the rules unevenly. Most would be hard pressed to call the "news" organizations at NAB, CBS, ABC high quality and unbiased. Seems like the success of News Corp bothers many, more than the actions
Posted by: Deborah McAdams
Wed, 08-17-2011 09:33 AM Report Comment
The "dufus defense"; works every time.
Posted by: Deborah McAdams
Sat, 07-23-2011 11:20 AM Report Comment
Murdoch creates a culture where lies and trash are encourages as long as profits follow. From the lowering of television standards that many Fox shows represent ("Married With Children" set a new benchmark in its day for offensiveness) to the sheer hypocrisy and and outright lies peddled by Fox News, Murdoch has single-handed done more to tarnish the television and news industry in this country than anyone else. The rot starts at the top, and Murdoch hires people who will share his lack of values and implement his selfish agenda. FNC utive management has told its staff that "We don't have to be fair and balanced; we just have to make people think we are." It's time for America to wake up and see Murdoch for the heinous person he is. And Ms. McAdams friend is correct; among the 53000 News Corp employees there are many who are decent, hard-working and respectable; I have known many that I respect (and more than a few who left because they were disgusted by the internal practices at FNC.) Maybe if the FCC forces News Corp to divest itself of their TV stations (the licensing does require owners to have at least a modicum of values) they'll get a chance to work for new owners that are actually decent people and they won't have to spend the rest of their lives apologizing or being defensive.

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