By Stephen Mayne

Christian Kerr’s view that Rupert
Murdoch to be celebrated as Australia’s most successful business export
is completely reasonable if accumulation of power and money is the only
measure. But you can’t talk about Rupert Murdoch’s achievements without
discussing ethics and morals.

Of course, News Corp is much bigger than Australia and much of what
Rupert has done, such as BSkyB and his innovation in sports coverage,
has been commendable. It would be nice to find more redeeming features
but what sort of media industry leader profits from free speech but
then doesn’t tolerate any criticism from within his own ranks.

News is not journalism. It’s propaganda that has blindly endorsed the
Iraq war strategy and amazingly misrepresented the Australia-US
alliance. How do his journalists sleep at night? Anyone who has worked
for the likes of Piers Akerman or Col Allan can only shake their heads
that such unpleasant tyrants are promoted and rewarded by The Sun King.

And if succeeding in business is the only criterion, what about
Rupert’s recent financials? In terms of total shareholder returns, News
Corp has underperformed the Australian market over the past 20 years,
especially when you consider his pathetically tiny dividend payments.

new non-voting shares like confetti might expand the empire, but if it
doesn’t improve earnings per share then what’s the point?

Christian Kerr replies:

Fox News not journalism? Stephen, let’s not get too idealistic
here. All commercial media is a product flogged to consumers to get
advertising to make a profit. Always has been, always will be. For a
capitalist, mate, you have remarkably little faith in markets. And
despite being an advocate of consumers, you seem to lack faith in them, too.

If people don’t like Rupert’s products, then don’t consume them. Yes,
course, there’s a Court of the Sun King. But could you expect anything
else from a business the size of News Corporation? Like in any court,
there are
intense court politics and favourites. And isn’t the Sun King himself
notorious for expelling them from his presence when they stop
delivering? In other words, when they stop producing what the public
wants and what makes News’s profits.

This is business. Fox has a winning formula. If it goes out of fashion,
no doubt it will change. News Corp goes where the money is – which
might explain why one of its arms, Harper Collins, publishes the
populist polemical pap of Mike Moore. Are you going to get upset that
Mike Moore’s work’s not journalism, too, Stephen?

The most famous put-down of a press baron talked about the prerogative
of the harlot. Very high minded. Madams and media magnates are all in
the business of selling something. Rupert Murdoch is a very successful
salesman and a genius at developing his product. Let’s admit that. And
that he walks both sides of the street to make his money.

CRIKEY: OK fellas, it’s been an interesting debate, but let’s move on.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey