The decision to shift News Corp to America hasn’t exactly been plain
sailing for Rupert Murdoch and despite the weaker governance structures
overall in Delaware, the ethically-challenged company has had to develop some new policies.

For instance, under the Sarbannes Oxley Act and SEC listing rules,
News Corporation has to have a code of conduct which is available here.
The section on dealing with government officials includes the following:

No payment shall be made to, or for the benefit of, any public official in
order to induce or entice such official to: enact, defeat or violate any law or
regulation for the Company’s benefit; influence any official act; or obtain any
favourable action by a governmental agency or official on behalf of the Company.

What about when the benefit conferred, or punishment inflicted, happens
to be skewed coverage about a politician or government in a powerful
media outlet? This has been one of the core businesses of both Rupert
Murdoch and Kerry Packer for decades and the Packer
family’s mastery of the process will be on display again today when
John Howard speaks at the Opera House.

Another classic example is the formulation of new media laws at the
moment. Mark Day, who owns a farm with News Ltd chairman John Hartigan,
often sends smoke signals about how the moguls are feeling about
government policy. His column in The Australian yesterday included the following:

As we wait yet another week for Communications Minister Senator Helen
Coonan’s reform proposals to be revealed, a very real possibility emerges that
there will be no reform at all. I believe key players in the media debate – heavyweights News Limited
(publisher of The Australian) and James Packer’s Publishing and Broadcasting
Limited – have lost enthusiasm for reform and would not be fussed in the least
if the Prime Minister decided the whole thing wasn’t worth the effort.

If the moguls prevail, as usual, maybe someone should take it up with
the newly appointed News Corp Ethics Officer or blow the whistle
through the alertline (866-480-6129) and Alertline Website, which are also new features of the code of conduct forced on Rupert by the move to America.

Peter Fray

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