It’s been a bad week for Rupert Murdoch‘s News Corporation. The ‘apology’ for its phone-hacking antics are set to open the floodgates on other such claims but few readers will worry about that. Indeed, News Corps plight isn’t worth even a note from the world’s smallest violin. The problems that underpin the story, however, are worthy of concern and deliberation. If we want to understand the origins of this problem then we need look no further than the overweening power and political influence of News Corp. Impregnability quickly generates a culture of impunity and neither Labour, Conservative nor even the Liberal Democrats are really prepared to challenge the power of Murdoch. This is a shame because if any were too all the indications are that, contrary to their paranoid fears, they would enjoy the overwhelming backing of the public.
Even before this weeks revelations, a YouGov poll found 60% thought Murdoch has too much influence on British politics and 64% agreed that the BSkyB would give News Corp too much influence over the media — a tiny 5% supported the deal. A ‘war’ on News Corp and its corrupt and undemocratic monopoly on the media would command mass support. So what could be done?
Firstly, the News Corp monopoly has to be broken-up — here the policy of fictional Harry Perkins (of A Very British Coup fame) , ‘One man, one newspaper‘, seems appropriate – and secondly, the vital task of ensuring media monopolies are broken and can never arise again would necessitate the true democratisation of the media. For example, there should be support for local media outlets which flourish at a grassroots level. They should be encouraged and incentivised to work closely with local educational establishments and be provided with both logistical and yes also cash support from the state. Using mediums like the internet the democratisation and opening up of the media could easily proceed apace; sadly, what is really lacking is the political will to challenge the likes of News Corp. If nothing else, this week has showed in sharp relief why that has to change and why media monopolies, far from encouraging a ‘free press’ and a ‘healthy democracy’ actually suffocate both and trample over both individuals and societies democratic rights.