Category Archives: Rupert Murdoch

First Draft Tuesday

I have a post up over at First Draft about that sensational recording that just got leaked between Gen. Petraeus and Fox News National Security Analyst Kathleen McFarland. It’s a delicious peek inside the smoke-filled room.

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Filed under FOX NEWS, Gen. Petraeus, Media, Rupert Murdoch

Time To Assume It Happened Here

AH.

So I asked why we shouldn’t assume there wasn’t hacking at any of Rupert Murdoch’s U.S. holdings — say, the New York Post — and lo and behold, it turns out they were accused of doing just that, settling two lawsuits just before they went to trial:

In 2009, a federal case in New Jersey brought by a company called Floorgraphics went to trial, accusing News America of, wait for it, hacking its way into Floorgraphics’s password protected computer system.

The complaint summed up the ethos of News America nicely, saying it had “illegally accessed plaintiff’s computer system and obtained proprietary information” and “disseminated false, misleading and malicious information about the plaintiff.”

The complaint stated that the breach was traced to an I.P. address registered to News America and that after the break-in, Floorgraphics lost contracts from Safeway, Winn-Dixie and Piggly Wiggly.

Much of the lawsuit was based on the testimony of Robert Emmel, a former News America executive who had become a whistle-blower. After a few days of testimony, the News Corporation had heard enough. It settled with Floorgraphics for $29.5 million and then, days later, bought it, even though it reportedly had sales of less than $1 million.

But the problems continued, and keeping a lid on News America turned out to be a busy and expensive exercise. At the beginning of this year, it paid out $125 million to Insignia Systems to settle allegations of anticompetitive behavior and violations of antitrust laws. And in the most costly payout, it spent half a billion dollars in 2010 on another settlement, just days before the case was scheduled to go to trial. The plaintiff, Valassis Communications, had already won a $300 million verdict in Michigan, but dropped the lawsuit in exchange for $500 million and an agreement to cooperate on certain ventures going forward.

And who was the head of News America at this time? None other than Paul V. Carlucci: the man who is today publisher of the New York Post.

Interesting.

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Filed under media, NewsCorp, Rupert Murdoch

Play Her Off, Keyboard Cat

As the FBI begins its investigation of NewsCorp’s alleged hacking of 9/11 families, Murdoch’s UK newspaper chief and former NOTW editor Rebekah Brooks resigns. If anyone deserves the Keyboard Cat treatment, it’s Brooks. Without further ado:

[UPDATE]:

And Les Hinton is out too, sez the Twittahz says the Wall Street Journal, it’s official…. James Murdoch next? And what about Piers Morgan over at CNN? He’ll have to go just so CNN can appear to be the most trusted name in news, of course.

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Filed under media, NewsCorp, Rupert Murdoch

There Are No Do-Overs In Big Buyouts

This shit pisses me off like you would not believe:

Bancroft Family Members Express Regrets at Selling Wall Street Journal to Murdoch

by Richard Tofel
ProPublica, July 13, 2011, 3:30 p.m.

This story was co-published with The Guardian.

A number of key members of the family which controlled The Wall Street Journal say they would not have agreed to sell the prestigious daily to Rupert Murdoch if they had been aware of News International’s conduct in the phone-hacking scandal at the time of the deal.

“If I had known what I know now, I would have pushed harder against” the Murdoch bid, said Christopher Bancroft, a member of the family which controlled Dow Jones & Company, publishers of The Wall Street Journal. Bancroft said the breadth of allegations now on the public record “would have been more problematic for me. I probably would have held out.” Bancroft had sole voting control of a trust that represented 13 percent of Dow Jones shares in 2007 and served on the Dow Jones Board.

Lisa Steele, another family member on the Board, said that “it would have been harder, if not impossible,” to have accepted Murdoch’s bid had the facts been known. “It’s complicated,” Steele said, and “there were so many factors” in weighing a sale. But she said “the ethics are clear to me — what’s been revealed, from what I’ve read in the Journal, is terrible; it may even be criminal.”

Elisabeth Goth, a Bancroft family member not on the Board who had long advocated change at Dow Jones, expressed similar sentiments. Asked if she would have favored a sale to Murdoch in 2007 knowing what she does today, she said, “my answer is no.”

Oh, whaah. If only we had known that Rupert Murdoch and NewsCorp were a bunch of slimeball crooks! Nobody could have anticipated! Yada yada.

Cut the crap. I’m sooooo sick of hearing this shit you have no idea. If only we’d known Saddam Hussein didn’t have weapons of mass distruction! If only we’d known that Big Shitpile was about to implode! If only we’d known that deep water oil wells weren’t safe! Let’s see: in five years we’ll be hearing from ExxonMobil executives, “if only we’d known that peak oil was here and global climate change was real!”

If only .. if only!

Give me a break. Murdoch’s takeover of Dow Jones was a hard-fought battle. And it didn’t happen so long ago that I don’t remember my in-box being flooded with petitions about it, either. I remember stories like this one, in which major Dow Jones stakeholders sounded the alarm bells:

The Audit: What’s the problem with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. acquiring Dow Jones?

Jim Ottaway: To me, the first biggest issue is more media concentration in the hands the people who use their media power for personal, political, and business interests, as Murdoch does so blatantly with the New York Post, FOX News network, Star TV in China, Phoenix TV in China. He has the largest total broadcast audience in China, where they’re getting no criticism because of his deal with the devil there. On Monday (June 25), the New York Times had a long piece on how Murdoch manipulates American politicians and FCC officials to get the TV regulatory approval to keep all his television stations and not have to sell them. Then on Tuesday, it had a really good investigative piece on how he does the same in China. And I must say that these two articles made my statement on May 6th seem polite. I was horrified about the stuff I didn’t know about. There’s no moral compass.

I mean for crying out loud, Murdoch had to promise to appoint a special independent editorial committee to protect the Wall Street Journal from Murdoch’s right-wing ideology, an agreement which was immediately ignored. Surprise, surprise.

So no, Bancroft family. Don’t tell us that you wouldn’t have sold Dow Jones had you known Murdoch & co. were creeps. No, you’re still assholes, and no amount of “hoocodanode” will salvage the family name (or re-write the history books).

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Filed under media, Rupert Murdoch, Wall Street Journal

Still Unanswered: Did It Happen Here?

The latest on the News International scandal is that it wasn’t just “one bad apple,” News Of The World. It was also The Sun and the Sunday Times. Those outfits apparently resorted to various nefarious and illegal practices to dig up information on Labor Party leader Gordon Brown and his family — even obtaining the medical records of his four month old son:

Confidential health records for Brown’s family have reached the media on two different occasions. In October 2006, the then editor of the Sun, Rebekah Brooks, contacted the Browns to tell them that they had obtained details from the medical file of their four-month-old son, Fraser, which revealed that the boy was suffering from cystic fibrosis. This appears to have been a clear breach of the Data Protection Act, which would allow such a disclosure only if it was in the public interest. Friends of the Browns say the call caused them immense distress, since they were only coming to terms with the diagnosis, which had not been confirmed. The Sun published the story.

Another breach of human decency by Rebekah Brooks, for whom 200 News of the World employees were sacrificed? I’d say she’s toast at this point. And now there are tabloid rumors that 9/11 victims in the U.S. were targeted, too.

So now that we know it wasn’t just News of the World, that this scandal involves more than one Murdoch media outlet, my initial question seems even more pertinent. Did it happen here? Hello?

Anyone? Bueller?

[UPDATE]:

Gawker reminds me that Les Hinton should not be overlooked:

What’s less clear is if there are any tactical moves that might save Les Hinton, the CEO of Dow Jones (right), who oversees the Wall Street Journal. Hinton ran News International during the initial, abortive investigations into phone hacking in 2005 and 2006, and assured Parliament—falsely, it is now known—that the practice was limited at News International and that all the culprits had been rooted out. Now Reuters and other news outlets are turning their attention toward Hinton and wondering whether the man in charge of Murdoch’s American flagship helped engineer a massive cover-up or was merely galactically stupid.

Ah yes, stupid or corrupt … it always comes back to that question, doesn’t it?

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Filed under media, Rupert Murdoch

Murdoch Hacking Scandal Questions

I have a couple questions about the Rupert Murdoch phone hacking scandal, which has taken an even nastier turn.

Is there any reason to think they’re not doing this here, too?

I mean, is there something different about phones and voicemail in the UK vs the US? Are there some different legal issues at play? You know, we have missing white women and trials that capture national attention here. We have a tabloid culture here. Is there any reason to think the New York Daily News New York Post didn’t (or wouldn’t) hack into the phone messages of New York’s “cop rape trial” victim? Anthony Weiner’s wife? Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s accuser? Not to mention all of the celebrities who have already received settlements from NewsCorp for having their privacy violated?

Was all of this really the doing of just one “overzealous staffer,” Rebekah Brooks?

And is there some reason the U.S. media has done such precious little coverage of this scandal? It’s not as if Murdoch doesn’t have huge U.S. media holdings, it’s not like it’s not a publicly traded company and investors might want to know about a major scandal affecting its share price. Is there a reason we’ve heard so little in the MSM about it?

Inquiring minds want to know.

[UPDATE]:

I did not know that Les Hinton, CEO of the Dow Jones Co. which publishes the Wall Street Journal,

was executive chairman of Murdoch’s newspapers in Britain at the time when the alleged rampant hacking attacks took place.

[…]

Also, Hinton oversaw the initial News Corp. investigation into the allegations and found no evidence of widespread wrongdoing within the company. It’s an investigation that, in light of recent developments, now looks to have been incompetent at best, and a fraud at worst.

This makes the rest of the mainstream media’s silence on this story all the more puzzling and, frankly, suspicious. How much longer are you guys going to keep covering for the people who routinely trash your profession?

[UPDATE]: 2

News Of The World has been shuttered.

Let’s hope this isn’t the end of the story.

[UPDATE]: 3

Oh, woops. They’re just rebranding, not really closing.

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Filed under Media, NewsCorp, Rupert Murdoch

Kabuki Like A Fox

This is nothing new to a lot of us, but reading New York magazine’s “The Elephant In The Green Room” does reaffirm what we’ve all long suspected: that the cable news media is less worried about actual political reporting, about actual facts, about actual news, even about actual partisan ideology, than it is worried about its profits. And it is these profits which shape their partisanship, their reporting, their conflation of fact with fiction.

I know, I know: big deal. “Beale: We know this, already!” Yes, yes, and yes. But I think even I underestimated to what degree this cynicism has overpowered cable news. I mean yes, I knew Fox News’ politics is more about profits than any hardcore ideology but I guess I figured that there was a scintilla of conservative ideology in there. But really, Rupert Murdoch considered endorsing Obama before the presidential election? Really? And then there’s this:

By October 2008, Ailes recognized that Obama was likely to beat McCain. He needed to give his audience a reason to stay in the stands and watch his team.

And so he went on a hiring spree. By the time Obama defeated McCain, Ailes had hired former Bush aide Karl Rove and Mike Huckabee and went on to assemble a whole lineup of prospective 2012 contenders: Palin, Gingrich, Santorum, and John Bolton.

It was, more than anything, a business decision. “It would be easy to look at Fox and think it’s conservative because Rupert and Roger are conservative and they program it the way they like. And to a degree, that’s true. But it’s also a business,” a person close to Ailes explained. “And the way the business works is, they control conservative commentary the way ESPN controls the market for sports rights. If you have a league, you have a meeting with ESPN, you find out how much they’re willing to pay, and then everyone else agrees to pay the same amount if they want it … It’s sort of the same at Fox. I was surprised at some of what was being paid until I processed it that way. If you’re ABC and you don’t have Newt Gingrich on a particular morning, you can put someone else on. But if you’re Fox, and Newt is moving and talking today, you got to have him. Otherwise, your people are like, ‘Where’s Newt? Why isn’t he on my channel?’ ”

Fox also had to compete with CNN for pundits. In early 2008, then–CNN-U.S. president Jon Klein invited Mike Huckabee to breakfast at the Time Warner Center. Klein sold Huckabee on the benefits of CNN. “If you believe what you’re saying, you should try and convince the middle,” Klein told him. It was the same pitch he made later to Karl Rove and to Weekly Standard writer Stephen Hayes. All three turned down Klein and signed with Fox.

I mean, that’s just so cynical. Fox didn’t hire Rove and Huckabee and Palin because they believe in what they have to say, they hired them to corner the market on conservative punditry, the way ESPN has cornered the market on sports coverage.

The problem is, politics is not the same as pro sports. Peoples’ lives aren’t affected depending on who wins the Super Bowl or the World Series. You can turn NBA basketball and even college basketball into a commodity and it really doesn’t matter much. But when you’ve turned news, information and politics into a commodity, packaged and sold like so much laundry detergent, well, there are repercussions. This stuff actually affects peoples’ lives. When you take down ACORN because you’re trying to boost your network’s profits, it affects real people who depended on those services. When you start a war to boost your network’s profits, real people die. Real people are affected by the failure to create jobs, close GITMO, tackle climate change, or to fund women’s health clinics. These are stories which were manipulated on Fox News not because they believed them but because Roger Ailes wanted to make his network more profitable in the Age of Obama so he tacked hard-right and scooped up all the hardcore talent who were and are conservatism’s political stars.

And CNN and MSNBC all did the same thing. Hell, they all do it, to some degree or another. If you wonder why a liberal can’t get booked on a Sunday morning rountable show, it’s because it’s not profitable. And the really tragic thing about it is, information matters! It really, really does! But it’s not being treated responsibly by the people in charge. It’s just academic to them. It’s just a point of profit.

Once upon a time, the network’s news divisions were loss-leaders. They didn’t make money but they gave a network credibility, and the money was made on “The Brady Bunch” and “Adam 12” and “Charlie’s Angels.” But those days are long gone. The networks no longer have credibility, certainly not the ones on cable, which are wholly for-profit ventures.

Remember a few weeks ago when I wrote this post about Glenn Beck being a GOP liability? Even I wasn’t entirely sure I was right. But damn, I hit it on the money, didn’t I? Remember when we wondered why Glenn Beck would debunk James O’Keefe’s NPR “sting” which was endlesslessly flogged on Fox? Turns out that was just another little squabble in the Beck-Fox News family fight. I mean, never mind that actual policy decisions were being made based on this stuff. For crying out loud, the U.S. Congress very nearly defunded NPR based on the public manipulation resulting from Fox’s internal fights.

And this is the danger which viewers and people in Washington need to get, and get fast: it’s all Kabuki Theater. It’s all manipulation. None of it is real. Don’t make any policy decisions based on what you see or hear in the media. Don’t even base your vote on what you hear or see in the media. Because it’s completely unreliable. Every bit of it could be a lie or manipulation designed wholly to boost the profits of the corporation which owns the broadcaster.

Information is crucial to making informed decisions, but we can no longer trust the messenger. Where this leaves us, I don’t know. We certainly have to work three times as hard to get a clear picture about what’s going on in our world.

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Filed under FOX NEWS, Glenn Beck, media, Rupert Murdoch

Time To Play Glenn Beck Off?

I don’t think this from the Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol is a random piece of conservative opinion:

But hysteria is not a sign of health. When Glenn Beck rants about the caliphate taking over the Middle East from Morocco to the Philippines, and lists (invents?) the connections between caliphate-promoters and the American left, he brings to mind no one so much as Robert Welch and the John Birch Society. He’s marginalizing himself, just as his predecessors did back in the early 1960s.

Bill Kristol is one of those intellectually dishonest neocons of whom I’ve said, repeatedly, that he’s been wrong about everything since forever. I happen to think if Bill Kristol had an original thought it would die of loneliness, by which I mean, he doesn’t come up with these ideas by himself. I think some serious seeds are being planted within the Republican Party to shove Beck out the door.

Why? Well, I have long suspected Glenn Beck would become a liability for conservatives, sooner rather than later. He was a very useful tool in rallying the partisan base for the midterms, but a presidential election requires an appeal to more mainstream voters. That requires a less divisive approach and in that regard, Beck is a liability.

Last week I saw this item about Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, who has a 7% stake in NewsCorp. Al-Waleed bin Talal is the billionaire Saudi financier who is nephew to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. I guess he’s been able to overlook all of the Muslim-bashing Beck and other FOX News folks have been engaged in all these years. But now it appears he’s getting a little nervous about his investment. In the U.K. a Murdoch-owned British tabloid is embroiled in a major phone-hacking scandal which took down the Prime Minister’s director of communications and threatens a major deal to acquire BSkyB; Stateside, Beck’s increasingly unhinged rantings offend American rabbis and tarnish the NewsCorp brand:

Those familiar with bin Talal, who has given tens of millions of dollars to charities seeking to bridge gaps between western and Islamic communities, say he will have been dismayed by any whiff of controversy threatening his business interests.

“He is an incredibly intelligent man and deeply honourable; you can only speculate about what he must be thinking now,” said an acquaintance.

Coming at a time when News Corp wants regulatory approval to take over British satellite broadcaster BSkyB, both the phone-hacking scandal and the row with the rabbis are damaging not only to the company’s reputation but its bottom line.

[…]

Worryingly for Murdoch, who is used to his investors taking a back seat, the prince is a far from passive backer. As a sizable investor in bombed-out banking giant Citigroup, bin Talal has been vocal in calling for its management to improve the firm’s fortunes, warning its chief executive last year that the “honeymoon was over”.

I have to think that Beck is far too big a liability for both Republicans’ political aspirations and Murdoch’s business aspirations to hang around much longer. It will be interesting to see if I’m right.

I also find it curious that the U.S. media has done so little coverage of Rupert Murdoch’s UK woes, considering what a navel-gazing bunch our American media is. Anderson Cooper gets bonked on the head and it’s headline news from coast to coast. And you know darn well if MSNBC were in this kind of trouble, FOX would be all over it.

Anyway, I wouldn’t be surprised if Beck’s fortunes took a sudden turn south. And when that happens, I’m sure liberals will get the blame — some cockamamie story will be concocted to allow conservatives to continue to demonize the left and keep the anger and rancor alive.

(h/t DougJ at Balloon Juice.)

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Filed under FOX NEWS, Glenn Beck, NewsCorp, Rupert Murdoch

>Today’s IOKIYAR

>George Soros has finally donated $1 million to Media Matters and right-wing heads are exploding:

George Soros announced today that he was making his first-ever contribution to Media Matters, in the amount of $1 million.  Rush Limbaugh denounced this as “foreign money in American politics” and called Soros “a foreigner.”  Right-wing bloggers echoed this claim (“Foreign Money in Politics: Soros Donates $1 Million to Media Matters”), and the comment section of right-wing blogs discussing this donation are filled with accusations that this constitutes “foreign money in politics.”

Problem is, Soros is an American citizen — has been since 1961. Ooops.

Yeah, I know: they were probably thrown by the funny accent.

Rupert Murdoch, on the other hand, became a U.S. citizen in 1985. I don’t recall any of these right-wing blowhards decrying Murdoch’s “foreign money” donations to the Republican Governors Assn. and U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

IOKIYAR.

So, am I the only one who thinks the Democrats’ slamming the U.S. Chamber of Commerce over its foreign donors has struck a raw nerve? Yeah, I thought so, too.

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Filed under conservatives, George Soros, Rupert Murdoch, U.S. Chamber of Commerce