James Murdoch, the eponymous empire’s heir apparent, gave the annual James MacTaggart lecture at the Edinburgh Television Festival late last week. Just like his father did 20 years before.

James was “chilled” by the expansion of public broadcasting in the UK:

“The expansion of state-sponsored journalism is a threat to the plurality and independence of news provision.”

But one day we will all pay:

“It is essential for the future of independent digital journalism that a fair price can be charged for news to people who value it.”

It’s the market, stupid:

“The consensus appears to be that creationism — the belief in a managed process with an omniscient authority — is the only way to achieve successful outcomes. There is general agreement that the natural operation of the market is inadequate, and that a better outcome can be achieved through the wisdom and activity of governments and regulators. This creationist approach is similar to the industrial planning which went out of fashion in other sectors in the 1970s. It failed then. It’s failing now.”

Which is all very well. His views, however, have a major credibility problem — they are the views of a Murdoch.

How can the Murdochs talk about preserving quality journalism given their own so often dubious, self serving sensationalist, damaging, socially corrosive, biased, power crazed, doctrinaire contributions to quality journalism? How can they talk about profits being everything when they run The Times at a huge loss and The Australian at dubious profit in order to maintain their political influence?

If these arguments came from any credible quarter they could and should be debated seriously. Coming from the son of the Sun King they are part of a consistent pattern of rhetoric aimed only at entrenching one family’s global power and making more and more money from downmarket journalistic trash and entertainment — which is precisely the reason for the existence of importance of organisations like the BBC (and, in Australia, the ABC) — to offer the public an alternative to the pap the Murdoch family so lucratively dominate.

Peter Fray

Fetch your first 12 weeks for $12

Here at Crikey, we saw a mighty surge in subscribers throughout 2020. Your support has been nothing short of amazing — we couldn’t have got through this year like no other without you, our readers.

If you haven’t joined us yet, fetch your first 12 weeks for $12 and start 2021 with the journalism you need to navigate whatever lies ahead.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

JOIN NOW