Saturday, 28 April 2012

Murdoch's unholy political grip

Lord Justice Leveson's inquiry into the British press last week tackled one of the most pressing mysteries facing government and the media: how on earth does Rupert Murdoch ever get anything done? By his own, often amusing, account, the 81-year-old head of News Corp never asks for favours from politicians, does not give orders to his editors and has very little charisma. Given this, it is a puzzle how, over 43 years, he has managed to build the UK's most powerful media company and break his way into US newspapers, television and film. The polite way to describe Murdoch's evidence — on the heels of his son James's disclosures about private communications with the office of Jeremy Hunt, the culture secretary — is implausible. It was belied by his presence. Droll, dismissive and impatient, he was not the "deaf, doddery, proud old man" observed by Tom Watson, the Labour MP, in parliament last July. It is now obvious, despite Murdoch's modesty, that News Corp has exercised an unholy grip over British politicians, who helped it to avoid antitrust barriers as it bought The Times and The Sunday Times in 1981, and British Sky Broadcasting in 1990. Those politicians were so in awe of Murdoch that they leapt to accommodate him without him needing to ask out loud.