Phone-hacking throws spotlight on Murdoch

Ex-PM Gordon Brown joins those who suspect their phones have been tapped. Andy Coulson may have resigned, but the story continues to grow.

Rupert Murdoch is a powerful man and he knows it. ‘Our reach is unmatched around the world,’ he says. ‘We’re reaching people from the moment they wake up until they fall asleep.’

Mr Murdoch is the Chair and Chief Executive Officer of News Corp, the third largest news conglomerate on the planet. It has news and entertainment interests in many different countries.

But now the news magnate is in the news himself. Over the past few years, celebrities and politicians have claimed their phones were tapped by one of his papers, the News of the World. So far there has been little action from either the Police or the Crown Prosecution service. But are things about to change?

In Britain, News Corp owns three major newspapers: The Times, the Sun and the News of the World. But Mr Murdoch has 175 editors working for him worldwide. After he declared his support for the Iraq war – anticipating cheaper oil as a result - all 175 of his newspapers followed his lead and supported the conflict.

Some believe he also has significant influence in British politics. They say that for a party to get elected, there must first be a deal with Mr Murdoch.

This notion is supported by Tony Blair’s Chief of Staff who tells us: ‘He [Blair] was desperate to convince Rupert Murdoch he was in fact a Centrist, in the hope of securing the support of Murdoch’s newspapers.’ Both Tony Blair and David Cameron came to power supported by Mr Murdoch.

John Pilger believes his influence is even more defined in Australia, Mr Murdoch’s homeland. He calls Australia ‘The first Murdochracy’, where policy is decided not by democratic institutions but by News Corp.

Some even believe the Metropolitan police are scared to investigate allegations made against the News of the World. ‘If there was no conspiracy,’ says lawyer Tasmin Allen, ‘the police handling of the case so far has made it look like there is.’

Under the influence
This is no longer a phone-tap story but one about the power of media organisations to have their way.

Governments can be voted out of office; but news corporations have no such checks.

Mr Murdoch would say he is just a successful businessman, being sniped at because of his success. But with so many media outlets under his control, his potential influence is significant.

Many believe it’s now time to examine the role of Rupert Murdoch in our national life. Should anyone have that much power?

You Decide

  1. 'What's the problem with Murdoch? No one believes what they read in the papers!' Is that true?
  2. Which celebrity or politician would you trust with power? Can we trust anyone - or does power corrupt everyone?

Activities

  1. Imagine Rupert Murdoch has asked you to edit one of his newspapers. How do you feel? Write a reply to him either accepting the offer or rejecting it. And tell him why you're making your decision.
  2. Research News Corp. How many countries is it in? How many newspapers, magazines and TV channels does it run? How does it use its power? Does your research lead you to respect Mr Murdoch more or less?

Some People Say...

“When it comes to running the world, I prefer Murdoch to the politicians.”

What do you think?

Q & A

How powerful is the media?
No one knows exactly. But Prime Minister Berlusconi in Italy used his media empire to gain political power.
But do you seriously think the police are scared of Mr Murdoch?
Well, many have wondered why the hundreds of complaints have not been investigated more thoroughly.
And you think politician’s decisions are affected as well?
There’s anecdotal evidence. The MP Adam Price is on Parliament’s Culture, Media and Sport select committee, and admits he’s been ‘held back’ from probing into News Corp’s affairs, because of ‘fear of what the company might do to them.’
That’s a bit scary.
It’s about how much influence any one person should have. Alan Rusbridger of the Guardian says: ‘There’s no one I want to have that much power… not even David Attenborough.’

Subjects