As Murdoch's spell wears off, politicians are cosying up with the younger model: new mediaby James Harkin / May 9, 2012 / Leave a comment
James Murdoch is aware of the limitations of the family business Photo: iabuk
It was the most convincing display of News Corporation humility yet. “We’re not big enough,” said James Murdoch at an advertising industry conference in Cannes in June of last year. “When you actually look at the competitive set in an all-media marketplace, where you have monolithic brands, from Google and Apple etc to the big [telecoms companies] Telefónica, Deutsche Telekom, Verizon—all the characters on a playing field or a terrain that has essentially collapsed—there are much bigger beasts than a News Corporation.” Even if the company got its way and acquired the remainder of BSkyB, he said, that would be no panacea. Satellite businesses are parceled out by country, and do not “work well with competing on a global basis with monolithic brands like Google.”
The observations of Murdoch Junior were revealing; if he was looking for a little pity from parliamentarians, he might have done better to repeat it this time around. It might prove a fitting epitaph for his career, as well as for the power and mystique of the mainstream media. Despite all the bluster about the influence of the Murdoch press, the truth is that they were only ever as powerful as they were allowed to be—and, long before the phone-hacking scandal, that power was on the wane. Rupert Murdoch bought the Times and the Sunday Times in the early 1980s, just as traditional, class-based politics was beginning to crumble. The upshot was that both Labour and the Conservative parties were looking for new ways to reach out to voters, and for a long time courting Murdoch and the rest of the mainstream media seemed the easiest way to do it. “I wish they’d leave me alone,” Murdoch said last time around, when interrogated by the committee members about his meetings with prime ministers. It was his best line of the day.
Murdoch’s News Corporation is a strange hybrid of family shop and publicly owned company. All the same, its changing fortunes exemplify the problems which have beset the broadsheet media during its twilight years. Newspapers used to enjoy a collective monopoly over the kind of news and information they served up–it was newspaper journalists who did most of the original work polishing up facts and breaking new stories, setting the agenda for TV and radio to follow. Around the same time that…