Just how much influence can, or should, one person and their private business organisation have in world politics?
Here are some fun facts about Rupert Murdoch’s influence, not in any particular order:
- Between 1988 and early 2012, he had 113 meetings with senior British politicians, including every Prime Minister and leader of the opposition. More recently between April 2015 and September 2016, Murdoch’s company are known to have met 22 times, with UK government ministers or advisers from both Cameron’s and May’s governments. No information is available as to what was discussed.
- Not to be let off the hook, Theresa May had a private meeting with Murdoch during her New York visit in September 2016. She managed to squeeze this in during a 36-hour trip to make her maiden speech to the UN and during her first visit outside the EU after the Brexit referendum. Perhaps an effort to repair any continued fallout from the phone-hacking scandal from 2011 which saw the demise of Murdoch’s News of the World. Or perhaps not. No information is available as to what was discussed.
- Between 2006 and 2012, David Cameron met with Murdoch a total of 19 times while both leader of the opposition and then Prime Minister. No information is available as to what was discussed.
- The headline “It’s The Sun Wot Won It” which appeared on the front page of Murdoch’s UK Sun newspaper on 11th April 1992, referred to the tabloid’s influence during that year’s General Election. The Sun’s relentless character assassination of Labour’s Neil Kinnock helped to secure what was considered an unlikely win for the conservatives. The Sun switched sides for the 1997 election and Labour’s Tony Blair won a landslide victory.
- Despite Tony Blair defending his friendship with Rupert Murdoch as being a “working relationship”, he nonetheless is godfather to one of Murdoch’s children. It’s telling that Mr Blair told the Leveson Enquiry that “it was a relationship about power”.
- Murdoch’s US interest includes Fox News, Wall Street Journal and apparently Trump’s favourite, the New York Post. Murdoch eventually supported Trump in the US elections and they continue to communicate regularly according to reports.
With a net worth currently at $19.7B, Rupert Murdoch is an extremely successful business person and worthy of great respect on that level albeit not without controversy. Media activist, lecturer and researcher Justin Schlosberg has been quoted as saying “Decades of rampant criminality and corruption within the Murdoch newsrooms does not appear to be of concern to the present government, as senior ministers continue to sit down with News Corp bosses at a rate that dwarfs other companies and organisations. It’s as if it’s part of their job description.”
The Evening Standard’s Anthony Hilton said in this article that he once asked Rupert Murdoch why he was so opposed to the European Union. “That’s easy,” he replied. “When I go into Downing Street they do what I say; when I go to Brussels they take no notice.”
There is a theory I think based on the idea that the most powerful countries in the world are effectively running as subsidiaries of the major corporations. By corporations in this context, I’m referring to the military-industrial complex, the media empires, the pharmaceutical industry, the oil and gas industry and the major banks. Apologies if I left anyone out and they’re miffed. It’s well known today that if you follow the money, you find a very small number of people ultimately in control and who have an extremely disproportionate amount of influence over almost everything that directly affects our lives.
In a world where information equals influence equals power, Rupert Murdoch must be considered one of these few.
By his own admission through his media empire, Rupert Murdoch can make or break governments. He meets with government leaders on both sides of the Atlantic regularly and enjoys access to influence legislation and therefore all our lives. Rather than honouring the principles of freedom of the press by holding politicians to fair account, he uses and abuses his influence to lobby his own interests and that of his empire.
Tony Blair’s defence of his relationship with Rupert Murdoch couldn’t be more accurate. It is a relationship about power. Just not the Prime Minister’s power, or the President’s power. It’s a relationship about media power and in this case about Rupert Murdoch’s power.
The only way that will ever change is when most people vote with their feet and stop listening to what the tabloids say. The jokes about not believing what you read in the paper have been going around for decades. So why do people like Rupert Murdoch still enjoy the influence they do? Because we laugh at our jokes, then blindly believe what we read anyway, and he knows it as do they all.
Remember that the power of corporate media is the power we give them. We can’t vote them in or out, but we can vote with our feet, refusing to give them our money or our attention. So, stop buying into it. Only when we all stop listening will it go away. Stop giving them your ears and your hard-earned money.
Until then, we remain slaves to the whims of those with the money behind the big media corporations. And so will our governments!