Murdoch and Media Ownership

I have long argued that media reform should be at the top priority of those who want wish to have a just society in a vibrant democracy.

I that spirit I recommend this excellent article in today's Times which profiles Murdoch and his shady business dealings with our elected officials (including Hillary Clinton) in exhaustingly detailed fashion. It not only illustrates how dangerous Murdoch is, and how terrible it would be if he were to own Dow Jones and the Wall St. Journal (or as the Times article says "the pre-eminent journalistic authority on the world in which he is an active, aggressive participant."); it also paints a clear picture of how big media buys off politicians, in order keep lax regulations, and enable owners to gain an increasingly huge piece of the media pie.

The article is long, and gives many examples of how this can be done, so it's virtually impossible to choose one, but for starters, lets look at the paragraph way down near the bottom of the story.

HarperCollins [owned by Murdoch's News Corp.] also provoked a firestorm when it gave Mr. Gingrich a $4.5 million book contract as Congress was preparing to redraw the media ownership rules.

Mr. Ginsberg pointed out that Mr. Murdoch later fired the Gingrich book’s editor for making what he regarded as an “uneconomical and unseemly” deal. He said that in general Mr. Murdoch did not involve himself in decisions about book contracts, and added, “If these books aren’t viable, they aren’t published.”

Mr. Lott’s book sold 12,000 copies, according to Nielsen Bookscan, which tracks about 70 percent of all domestic retail and Internet sales. Senator Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania, received $24,506 from HarperCollins for his modest-selling book “Passion for Truth,” according to financial disclosure forms. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, Republican of Texas, got $141,666 for her book “American Heroines,” which has sold better. All sit on either the Commerce or Judiciary Committees that most closely oversee the media business.

HarperCollins has also given book deals to Senator Chuck Hagel, Republican of Nebraska, and a $1 million advance to Justice Clarence Thomas of the Supreme Court, both of whose books are due out next year.

A former HarperCollins executive, granted anonymity to speak candidly about the company, said Mr. Murdoch was less hands-on than people assumed. “It’s not done in a direct way where he issues instructions,” the executive said. “It’s a bunch of people running around trying to please him.”

Please, if you can, read this in full. I hope this article sparks further inquiry and attention to this dance between big media and politicians. Moreover, for those Democrats out there who insist Hillary Clinton can't be that bad -- remember that she owes Murdoch some favors.