Just who does Rupert Murdoch thnk he is

  • Posted on: 9 December 2016
  • By: Lee

Many see Rupert Murdoch as ruthless & power-crazed. I say the point is he's smarter & more benign than most realise.
You see, the old detective adage about following the money is what most analysis has missed in the entire Leveson/News of the World/and so forth phenomenon recently. The thing about Rupert Murdoch is not only has he built an ingenious, self-sustaining business model, but it's one that will outlive him, his family and any connection with the name Murdoch as long as his managers and shareholders understand and maintain it.
But never mind them, here's what aspiring entrepreneurs want to steal (errr, copy!).
The thing Murdoch does is tell us what we really think. He doesn't make us think that, rather he sees the way the winds of opinion are blowing and steers his message in the same direction. It wasn't "The Sun wot won it" in 1992; it was The Sun wot claimed it." If Neil Kinnock had won The Sun would've printed something different but equally pithy. Some might say that's Murdoch setting the narrative. I say it's Murdoch stating the obvious in a way that shifts papers. And he likes shifting papers because that makes him money.
But he doesn't like shifting papers half as much as he likes selling TV advertising, which he does a lot of. Some of this is, interestingly on 24 hour news channels, some of which he owns, that tell us something between the "stories" the tabloids tell and the reportage of the broadsheets. But we'll leave comparative televisual journalism for another day; that's not the cool stuff!
The cool stuff is the control of the super-narrative life-cycle which Murdoch has patiently built over a long period of time. The lazy will call it vertical integration, but it isn't. It's far more subtle, and simultaneously far more profitable!
Here's how it works: the newspapers and 24 hour news channels rarely publish or broadcast good news. This is a fact of news gathering in any case as immortalised in the lyrics of Don Henley. But just over on the other side, there's a steady diet of (un)reality television, documentaries, movies, sport - just about anything to get our minds off the infinite tragedy going on outside the front door. The cool part is Murdoch controls the entire viewing cycle - we get a lot of news from him, but even if we don't, we get our entertainment from him. And even when it's commissioned, produced and even broadcast from elsewhere (HBO, BBC, etc), it's delivered by him to many in the UK, for example, via a huge base of Sky television receivers connected to digital satellite dishes. In the USA there's a network of TV stations, cinemas, film studios, satellite channels, etc, that do the same.
This is why he wanted to buy the rest of BSkyB - control of the entire infrastructure that delivers the super-narrative: News -> entertainment  News…
This is not about power; it's about advertising. Murdoch learned with MySpace that he can't go up against Google (and potentially, facebook, et al) in the online advertising realm. But he does have popular content, which he can charge users to watch/read/hear so to compete he has to control the content (as much as possible) and delivery of the "story" as news that supports the "story" as entertainment, both of which deliver the profits as advertising platform. Unlike Google, as it's much more subtle in a certain old-school way, and delivered over the air.
None of this justifies unethical, or illegal, behaviour by Newscorp's newspaper staff in the UK or elsewhere. But the self-righteous lather that some, such as Tom Watson MP, have worked themselves into, has not just obscured the cynicism of the actual business model, it's created an opaque cover for it which will allow it to continue as before unaddressed, and unanalysed.
So who needs to seek power when you have media presence and profits. Power, at that point, is a given, but doesn't last forever. Everything changes as it will for broadcast media.