In 1976, Rupert Murdoch bought from its family ownership what had been for 30 years the country’s strongest, self-proclaimed liberal newspaper and promised not to change it. It was the “New York Post.” It can now no longer be described either as liberal, nor even as a newspaper. Thirty-one years later, Murdoch wants the “Wall Street Journal” and is negotiating with its family owners on editorial control.
According to “Time Magazine,” if Murdoch succeeds in his bid “he would like the newspaper to be a national counterpoint to the “New York Times” in setting the country’s agenda.” Murdoch said, “my worry about the “New York Times” is that it’s got the only position as a national elitist general interest paper. So the network news picks up its cues from the Times and local tapes do too. It has a huge influence. And we would love to challenge it.”
Huge influence, exactly what everything Rupert Murdoch touches is geared to do, from his political connections to his newspapers and TV stations and so-called fair and balanced noise channel. Even though, as we’ve seen in part two of our study tonight of Rupert Murdoch, he constantly denies any bias.
When asked by “Time Magazine” whether the Fox News Channel expresses his political views, Murdoch replied yes, no, yes, and no. The commentators are not. Bill O’Reilly is certainly not. Geraldo Rivera certainly not. But Brit Hume and his team on the nightly news, yes. They play it absolutely straight.
Absolutely straight? Brit Hume was quoted saying about the prisoner abuse in Gitmo, “I think that these kinds of problems and accusations and so forth grow out of a community that stretches from the American left through much of Europe to enemies across the world, from which terrorism springs, who want the world to believe that America is what’s wrong with the world.”
And while we are at this, Rupert Murdoch said after the invasion of Iraq, “Tremendous purpose in Iraq. All the kids are back in school, 10 percent more than when Saddam Hussein lived there. There’s 100 percent more fresh water.”
And Murdoch does not just use his media empire to influence the populace, but also to help him acquire even more media. Back in 1984, when Murdoch was trying to buy “Time Warner,” the “New York Times” reported that he “assigned a Post editor and two reporters to help his lawyers unearth information about Steven J. Ross, the chairman and chief executive officer of Warner.”
Murdoch says he does not remember doing that. But if he did, then it was wrong. But as the “New York Times” points out in its latest investigation into Murdoch, he used the “New York Post” once again to do his dirty work when he went after the Nielson Company 20 years later, in 2004. When Nielson’s new ratings technique showed some of Murdoch’s ventures, particularly minority programing, doing badly, he pulled out all the stops, using lobbyists and Republican allies to introduce a bill to stop the change, sending the bill’s proponents at least 144,650 dollars in donations, while simultaneously running anti-Nielson headlines in his “New York Post” tabloid and manufacturing a grassroots opposition that included people such as the Reverend Al Sharpton.
Things got so bad, the head of Nielson, Susan Whiting hired a bodyguard. She later accused Murdoch of using even nastier tactics, charging that two of his flacks, including his own son, said they would do, quote, everything possible to discredit you and the company in Washington. Murdoch also did something similar to the then FCC chair Reid E. Hunt during the Clinton administration after he started investigating whether Newscorp Broke the law in starting up the Fox Broadcast Network.
The “New York Times” citing two former FCC officials saying that Murdoch, through his lobbyists, told Mr. Hunt’s chief of staff that the FCC chairman couldn’t, quote, get a job as dog catcher if he touched News Corp TV stations.
But most of Murdoch’s methods of political persuasion appear to be more subtle. For example, through his publishing company, he has sold books written by Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, Senator Arlen Specter and Senator Trent Lott. Each sits on the Commerce or Judiciary Committees that monitor the media. And senator Lott’s book deal happened just months before he backed down on a Congressional effort to limit media ownership to 35 percent of American homes, allowing that level to be set instead at 39 percent; 39 percent, the exact number of houses Mr. Murdoch’s interests reach.
Justice Clarence Thomas of the Supreme Court, Senator Chuck Hagel also have book deals with Murdoch, as once did Newt Gingrich, now a Fox News contributor, a 4.5 million dollar book deal, to be precise, inked just as Congress was looking to redraw media ownership laws. Murdoch later fired the book’s editor for the Gingrich deal, saying it was uneconomical.
Finally, there are the direct financial incentives to all politicians. The “New York Times” again reporting that “an analysis of campaign finance records show that since 1997, Republicans have received only a slight majority, 56 percent, of the 4.76 million in campaign donations from the Murdoch family and the News Corporation’s political action committees and employees.
And while he donates millions to the lawmakers of America, Mr. Murdoch has given little back to the actual people who made him those millions here, the viewers and readers who buy his products. According again to the “New York Times,” “by taking advantage of a provision in the law that allows expanding companies like Mr. Murdoch’s to defer taxes to future years, the News Corporation paid no federal taxes in two of the last four years. And in the other two, it paid only a fraction of what it otherwise would have owed.”
“During that time, Securities and Exchange Commission records show the News Corporation’s domestic pretax profits topped 9.4 billion dollars.
© 2013 msnbc.com Reprints