Rupert Murdoch hasn’t become the world’s most powerful media mogul by being a softie. Indeed, the Sun King is one the true hard men of global business.

I dropped down to the Herald Sun tower at Melbourne’s Southgate yesterday to record a quick videoblog stand-up and within minutes had security and senior management crawling all over us saying we couldn’t be outside or inside in the Herald Sun shop and had to clear away from the public space as well.

As The Chaser well knows, heavyhanded security often makes for better content and we can only thank Rupert’s heavies for this videoblog.

Speaking of The Chaser, one of the boys called yesterday and it seems a recent Crikey story will be the subject of a stunt in the coming weeks. Can’t say too much, but it sounds great.

And speaking of Rupert, we’ve also been in touch with John Phillips, a journalist who did 14 years at The Times but was then sacked as Italy correspondent over the phone in 2003. Private Eye has covered the story which once again shows what a tough guy Rupert is.

The Times was ordered by the judge at the Rome Tribunal court to pay 1 million euro in back pay, compensation and benefits to Phillips after being convicted of illegally dismissing him.

This was a landmark ruling and possibly a record sum. Under Italian labour law it is immediately actionable notwithstanding any appeal Rupert may wish to make.

However, instead of respecting local law, Rupert is trying to wriggle out of paying, meaning that in the end News Corp will have to pay much more because of legal interest accumulating and the possibility of being sued a further time for compensation for hardship caused by their contempt of the Italian judgement. Naturally, there will also be extra legal costs as Rupert’s lawyers attempt to prevent Phillips sending in the bailiffs in Italy and in London through the High Court where the judgment is also being registered.

It would be interesting to hear Rupert’s response if this issue is raised at the AGM in New York next month.

Such behaviour doesn’t exactly build morale with the troops, especially when the charm offensive is on with the thousands of journalists at Dow Jones.

Rupert’s deputy Peter Chernin has described the 1980s Wapping dispute as the most important struggle between labour and capital in recent history. Maybe the company should move on from Thatcher-style industrial warfare and try a more enlightened approach.

Peter Fray

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