The commentary I’ve read suggests the answer to this question is most likely “no,” but the events unfolding in the U.K. resulting from the phone-tapping scandal has already resulted in numerous arrests, including that of former News Corp executive Rebekah Brooks, and the fall of one of Rupert Muroch’s largest U.K. newspapers, the News of the World. And as the effects of this scandal continue to be seen in the U.K., questions have begun to be asked here in the U.S. and the FBI has announced the opening of an investigation into allegations that News Corp may have also at least attempted to hack into the phones of victims of the September 11th attacks. All of this has resulted in a growing discussion about the effects of consolidated media, its power, and its influence on public debate, and on government, which suits me just fine.
Earlier this month, the London newspaper, The Guardian, reported the head of Britain’s Labour Party, Ed Miliband, has called for the dismantling of Murdoch’s media empire.
Miliband says that the abandonment by News International of its bid for BSkyB, the resignation of its chief executive, Rebekah Brooks, and the closure of the News of the World are insufficient to restore trust and reassure the public.
The Labour leader argues that the current media rules are outdate, describing them as “analogue rules for a digital age” that do not take into account the advent of mass digital and satellite broadcasting.
“I think that we’ve got to look at the situation whereby one person can own more than 20% of the newspaper market, the Sky platform and Sky News,” Miliband said. “I think it’s unhealthy because that amount of power in on person’s hands has clearly led to abuses of power within his organization. If you want to minimise the abuses of power then that kind of concentration of power is frankly quite dangerous.”
This is a promising sign of potential changes to a media culture dominated by a handful of corporate giants. And while the news of an FBI investigation here in the states is also promising, I don’t think we should wait to learn the results of that investigation to take similar regulatory action. Whether Murdoch’s News Corporation is actually found to have broken any laws here is, frankly, beside the point. Fox News, arguably the jewel in Murdoch’s American media empire, has affected too great an impact and wields too much influence on the American media to be allowed to remain intact.
The events still unfolding in the U.K. should serve as a warning, of sorts, as the worst case scenario of what might be happening here, or at the very least what could happen. That Murdoch controls such a large share of the meida market here in the U.S. in itself is particularly damaging, but the side effects of political influence are at least as damaging, if not more so.
Our political leaders, with maybe some help from the public, need to make similar calls; it’s time to dismantle News Corp.