BBC as ‘Orwellian Threat’ – James Murdoch

August 30, 2009


James Murdoch concluded his presentation at the Edinburgh TV festival with the words: ‘The only reliable, durable, and perpetual guarantee of independence is profit.’ He presents BBC as an Orwellian threat to independent journalism

This weekend [Aug 28th 2009], hearing of the speech I did the decent journalistic thing and looked it up in the News Corp press release. All my attempts to cut and paste elements from the text were defeated. It may be as a result of my technological incompetence. Or it may be part of News Corps enthusiasm for pay to view, even for the content of press releases.

So I keyed-in the punch-line all by myself, and turned to the BBC, one of the prime targets in the speech for more information.

What follows has been cut and pasted from the report by the BBC

News Corporation’s James Murdoch has said that a “dominant” BBC threatens independent journalism in the UK.
The chairman of the media giant in Europe, which owns the Times and Sun, also blamed the UK government for regulating the media “with relish”

Organisations like the BBC, funded by the licence fee, as well as Channel 4 and Ofcom, made it harder for other broadcasters to survive, he argued.

“The BBC is dominant … “Other organisations might rise and fall but the BBC’s income is guaranteed and growing.”

Sir Michael Lyons, chairman of the BBC Trust, told the BBC’s World Tonight that Mr Murdoch had underplayed the importance of Sky as a competitor.
“Sky continues to grow and get stronger and stronger all the time so this is not quite a set of minnows and a great big BBC ..[noting that declining advertising revenues in the recession, rather than the corporation, were to blame for the problems facing the commercial media] That is nothing to do with the BBC, that is just to with what’s happening”

News Corporation owns the Times, the Sunday Times and Sun newspapers and pay TV provider BSkyB in the UK and the New York Post and Wall Street Journal in the US. Rupert Murdoch addressed the same festival 20 years ago, and was also critical of the UK’s media policy.

A bit more history

This week, with the death of Teddy Kennedy, I was reminded of the dynastic ambitions of Joe Kennedy for his sons .

There are some parallels between Joe and Rupert in that respect. Both were self-made tycoons. Both were considered single-minded and determined to overcome all obstacles between them and their goals, whatever it took.

LWD has been following the developing story of News Corp and the Murdoch dynasty for leadership lessons which they might offer.

Earlier this month [August 8th 2009] we reported the news that News Corp is intent on creating a new business model which will attempt to charge for on-line content. This is not a new idea, but will require the mix of entrepreneurialism and risk required for radical change.

Earlier posts suggested that son James shared the highly competitive characteristics of his father, although he was not necessarily the first choice as dynastic heir.

He has shown his combativeness in dealings with Richard Branson, another highly successful entrepreneur, but one who tends to blend his own competitiveness with a more cuddly public image than do the Murdoch clan.

However independent, James was sticking pretty close to the corporate line in Endinburgh.

The BBC is like the NHS

Taking on Richard Branson might be called a touch challenge. Taking on the BBC might be considered even tougher. It’s rather like taking on the NHS. A point not lost on Will Hutton who argued in the Guardian

Perhaps one of the most self-serving parts of his speech was when he accused the BBC of being Orwellian. But the BBC is not an arm of the Orwellian state; it is a public corporation committed to fairness and objectivity which is understood worldwide. It would never, like Fox News, a part of the Murdoch empire, broadcast rank half-truths about the NHS under the guise of being balanced and objective – and if challenged argue that it is part of a diverse, plural conversation.

Ugly Betty OK to run as conservative MP: Official

August 30, 2009

Ugly Betty

A senior Conservative politician has apologised for suggesting that only attractive female candidates should apply to become candidates for Parliament. An explanation is offered based on social identity theory

What can be made of this story [Aug 21st 2009]? It seems that the original opinion was offered by a constituency chairman, Mr Alan Scard, who was quoted as saying that women should only become MPs ‘if they were attractive’. Even in the early reports, it seemed he had been suggesting that beauty as well as brains would be taken into account in selecting new Members of Parliament.

The story made headlines, closely followed by political flak and an unconditional apology.

Gosport Conservatives Association chair Alan Scard, 63, said the comments were “tongue in cheek” and he thought that a [Channel 4 TV] interview was over. His association is tasked with finding a new parliamentary candidate for the town, after MP Sir Peter Viggers stood down during the expenses row [who famously claimed] £1,645 on expenses for a floating duck island. His gardening claims totaled £30,000 and [Viggers] retired at the direct request of party leader David Cameron.

When the curtain comes down: The compulsion to confide

An Aha! moment for me. Where had I come across this sort of behaviour before, and what might it mean? Answer. It occurs regularly when a performance ends and one of the actors steps out of role. For example, when an interview has ended, a reporter switches off the recorder, experienced enough to know that for some interviewees this is the time when a compulsion to confide kicks in.

It’s as if the actor (or politician) needs to deal with a residual concern that the other may have failed to distinguish the on-stage performance from the ‘real me’.

I’m arguing that such remarks can be interpreted as signals of a social identity struggling to express itself now that it has been released from the confines of being on the record, and subject to public scrutiny. This line of argument suggests that Mr Scard tried to present the public persona in the interview and permitted a glimpse of privately-held values once he believed it to be over. Once that ‘mistake’ was revealed, the highly public apology inevitably followed, as part of the necessary cover-up of the earlier expression of authentic but privately held beliefs.

There are newer theories, but I still find the ideas of Goffman on the presentation of self in public life to be instructive.