Rupert Murdoch’s reputation is taking such a battering from his ego-driven attempt to buy Dow Jones and The Wall Street Journal that it really is time his board stepped in to stop the damage to News Corp’s broader interests.
Shares in the media conglomerate have now fallen 3.5% since the overly generous $7 billion bid was unveiled on 1 May, whilst the All Ordinaries index has risen by 3.87% over the same period, amounting to underperformance of more than 7%.
However, the intangible reputational issues are becoming more significant than any share-price gyrations as Rupert encounters far more blowback than he could have ever expected.
Take this latest open letter to Dow Jones shareholders which was published in The Washington Post yesterday. The author, Matt Potting, has extraordinary moral authority given that he is a serving US marine in Iraq who was previously a China correspondent for The Wall Street Journal.
Murdoch is facing a sustained attack for his unprincipled kowtowing to the Chinese authorities and Potting has added the following into the mix:
When a NATO warplane bombed the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade in 1999, I saw Murdoch’s reporters at Phoenix TV use the event to fuel an anti-American propaganda orgy while hesitating to report the Clinton administration’s apology and admission that the bombing was a mistake. You expect the Chinese Government to behave this way, but didn’t Murdoch recently write that he has “always respected the independence and integrity of the news organisations” with which he is associated?
The Washington Post group is certainly not pulling any punches with Rupert. Slate, which it bought off Microsoft two years ago, has just weighed in with this demolition by Jack Shafer, asking the question: “Can Murdoch pass the stink test?”
The conclusion is unambiguous: “He’s not even qualified to take it.”
Given that Australia created what many consider to be the Murdoch monster of page three girls, Iraq war propaganda, groveling to China and commercially compromised journalism, it is surprising to see so few contributions to this global debate about his record from Down Under.
I reckon he’s unfit to own The Wall Street Journal and am battling away with a rejected News Corp board tilt and a still hopeful shareholder resolution for this year’s AGM. But where is Fairfax and the ABC? And what about the Labor Party?
Kevin Rudd’s cosy dinner with Rupert last month has presumably enforced a party-wide ban on any criticism of the Sun King, even though his outlets continue to pound Labor mercilessly on issues such as industrial relations.