Friday 15 July 2011

The Lion and the Hyenas

As a child I remembered being moved by a story of an old and sick lion being attacked by a pack of hyenas.
The lion was noble and the hyenas cowardly in the simplistic and empathetic way a child sees things.
This analogy comes to mind in the spectacle of Rupert Murdoch at bay.

Mr. Murdoch is however not a noble lion and as a man subject to the adverse effects of power. Unlike Caesar, he did not have a man riding in his chariot repeating the mantra: "Remember, you are only a man."
His victories were noteworthy. He easily bested Robert Maxwell, outmaneuvered the print unions and was given an own goal by the people who launched the British Satellite Broadcasting company. You know, the people who gave us the squarial.

Rupert Murdoch's early opponents under estimated him. They described him as an Aussie upstart. That was a huge mistake. David Frost, fresh from his successes with shows on London Weekend Television, demolished Dr. Emil Savundra, an arrogant bombast who had owned and bankrupted a motor insurance business. His next victim was to be the young Murdoch on what I remember may have been on live TV. Frost failed to dent Murdoch’s composure and resorted to badgering his subject. Murdoch's revenge was to acquire a significant stake in London Weekend Television from which platform Frost was excluded until suitable reparation was made.

Mr Murdoch is a good listener. His people organised meetings over one week during breakfast, lunch and dinner with people with ideas and opinions from the Advertising Agencies. He asked relevant questions and we were happy to tell him our thoughts. Mr Maxwell had the same notion, but talked all the way through the meetings.

Murdoch has had some luck, and survived mistakes such as My Space. Overall he has been the most successful media baron ever.

Only a fool will write him off and he is still capable of striking out.

Friday 8 July 2011

Power, politics and the gutter press

The decision to close the UK's largest circulation Sunday newspaper is strange for a culture that believes yesterday's news is today's fish and chips wrapping paper.

Experts has opined that this was done to improve the chances that Jeremy Hunt, the Culture Secretary would continue to support Mr. Murdoch's bid to buy the 61% he doesn't already own of Sky, the major player in satellite broadcasting.

Closure of the News of the World will not guarantee that. Public and advertiser's opinion will force the Conservative led government to be scrupulous in it's dealings with the empire of News International. This is particularly so, after their blunder in appointing Andy Coulson as press relations adviser. Andy had been in charge of editorship on the News of the World when so many of these alleged offences happened.

More other serious charges are that certain policemen of the Metropolitan force were paid, and some politicians were warned off with the implicit threat of exposure of their private peccadillos. It may be a co-incidence that one such person was subsequently outed as gay by the sister daily The Sun.

Criticism of Murdoch's mass market newspapers by the other red tops has been muted. It is highly probable that they were up to the same tricks as well.

This is one story that will not go away. The liberal quality newspaper the Guardian who led the chase to exposure will see to that. There will be more leaks that will make the top management squirm.

So if the closure does not enhance the possibility of success with the Sky purchase, why do it?

A cynical view is that this is simply a re-badging exercise. The News of the World is dead. Welcome the Sun on Sunday.