Monday, August 31, 2009

Murdoch Son: BBC Threatens Independent Journalism

The Associated Press

EDINBURGH, Scotland — The son of media mogul Rupert Murdoch has called the British Broadcasting Corp. a threat to independent journalism.
James Murdoch, the 36-year-old executive in charge of News Corp.'s businesses in Europe and Asia, spoke late Friday at the Edinburgh International Television Festival — 20 years after his father delivered a keynote speech at the same event.

"In this all-media marketplace, the expansion of state-sponsored journalism is a threat to the plurality and independence of news provision, which are so important for our democracy," Murdoch said.

The BBC is subsidized by the British government and funded, in part, by television licenses that consumers must pay if they use a television.

Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. controls British Sky Broadcasting Group PLC, one of the BBC's main competitors in Britain.

"As Orwell foretold, to let the state enjoy a near-monopoly of information is to guarantee manipulation and distortion," Murdoch said, referring to George Orwell's book, "1984."

He said "broadcasting policy had failed to keep pace with changes, relying on regulation and intervention from the state rather than empowering consumers."

Greg Dyke, the BBC's former director general, said Murdoch's argument was "fundamentally flawed."

"Journalism is going through a very difficult time — not only in this country but every country in the world because newspapers, radio and television in the commercial world are all having a very rough time," he said.

Dyke said it was not the fault of the BBC that the recession and loss of advertising revenues had hampered news organizations.

Last month, a journalist told a British parliamentary committee that James Murdoch approved an out-of-court payment to settle a controversial phone hacking case.

News of the World editor Colin Myler said that Murdoch was told that 700,000 pounds ($1.1 million) would be paid to settle a case against the company.

The suit was brought by Gordon Taylor, head of the Professional Footballers' Association, one of the targets of the hacking.

The allegations against the News of the World, part of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. empire, have been waged as part of a wider scandal concerning journalistic abuses.

Murdoch: Give TV Same Freedom As Newspapers

By Chris Curtis

James Murdoch has launched a furious attack on Ofcom’s “half a million words every year telling broadcasters what they can and cannot say”, and called for TV news to be granted the same freedom as newspapers.

In a predictable but stinging attack, the BSkyB chairman and News Corporation chief executive branded the existing rules governing TV news “an impingement on freedom of speech and on the right of people to choose what kind of news to watch.”

Rather than preventing biased TV reporting, Murdoch said the current system hinders plurality and promotes the type of “state-sponsored media” better suited to George Orwell’s novel 1984.

“We must have a plurality of voices and they must be independent. Yet we have a system in which state-sponsored media – the BBC in particular – grow ever more dominant.”

BBC Bias

He claimed the notion of an impartial BBC was flawed, and that there was inevitable bias at the corporation in selecting which stories to cover and their running order.

“The effect of the system is not to curb bias – bias is present in all news media – but simply to disguise it.”


One of his key points was that TV regulation was out of keeping with the converged media world.

“Would we welcome a world in which The Times was told by the government how much religious coverage it had to carry? In which there was a state newspaper with more money than the rest of the sector put together and 50% of the market?

“In which cinemas were instructed how many ads they were allowed to put before the main feature? In which Bloomsbury had to publish an equal number of pro-capitalist and pro-socialist books? Of course we would not. So why do we continue to assume that this approach is appropriate for broadcasting?”

“There’s a word for this. It’s not one that the system likes to hear, but let’s be honest: the right word is authoritarianism.”

Analogue Attitudes

Murdoch called for politicians and regulators to “leave behind their analogue attitudes and choose a path for the digital present.” He suggested regulation be dramatically reduced and brought in line with the newspaper industry, and that if the status quo was maintained then society would suffer.

“For the future health of our industry and society we must not allow these creationist tendencies to go on limiting the opportunities for independent commercial businesses, whether in journalism of any other form of content,” he said.

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