Andrew Bolt is the Australian political commentator most heavily supported and promoted by the besieged Murdoch family. If Murdoch devotees at News Corp and Network Ten are wondering why the ALP finds Bolt a touch biased, they should read the following very precise re-write of his Saturday column in the Herald Sun.
The same hysterical language Bolt used against Julia Gillard is applied to facts — yes, facts — related to Bolt’s employer, Rupert Murdoch.
While Glenn Milne has been sacked by Insiders and shock jock Michael Smith sidelined by 2UE, News Ltd has seemingly done nothing to discipline Bolt for his role in the notorious Gillard smear after he even bullied executive chairman John Hartigan into submission.
Anyway, as the Australian political class ponder the need for a British-style media inquiry into media abuse of power, here is Bolt’s Saturday hysteria demanding the removal of a democratically elected prime minister, re-directed at Murdoch …
Queen’s reign is at an end, but who will be our king?
By Andrew Bolt (as told to Stephen Mayne)
Rupert Murdoch’s leadership could be over in just a few weeks. He’s suddenly out of tricks and out of time.
The British Parliamentary committee has humiliated the News Corp executive chairman, and shattered the morale of his directors, executives and journalists.
By paying himself a record $US33 million in 2010-11 — his last desperate attempt to claim he is a top executive capable of turning around the phone hacking scandal — Murdoch confirmed what most News Corp shareholder already believed.
He is simply incompetent.
His grand promise to clean up the phone hacking mess by shutting the News of the World will join all the other duds that he proposed and then hastily dumped in recent year — the Iraq invasion that nobody wanted, the MySpace acquisition that was laughed out of existence and the $US2.8 billion Dow Jones write-down that he was too embarrassed to mention again.
That is an astonishing record of failure.
Rupert Murdoch’s judgment is appalling. This image of a bungler, able to poleaxe an entire newspaper in a single fit of panic, will stick for good to Murdoch after this week.
But that still doesn’t explain why he has run out of time.
Another reputation Murdoch will never shake is that he’s untrustworthy. No other executive chairman has prolonged their mandate to 58 years by denying a vote to 70% of the shares on issue.
But that doesn’t explain Murdoch running out of time, either.
He also lacks authority — in fact or in bearing. He is dependent on sycophantic children, hand-picked directors and a questionable Saudi prince, which makes him look weak.
He didn’t call the British MPs’ bluff, daring them to lock him up, which means he really is weak.
Yet even then, Murdoch could have hoped for time. In fact, he counted on it.
In 2010, at the News Corp annual meeting, he told his already jittery shareholders that he needed just two years to turn around 15 years of share price underperformance.
It was an appeal for time — time to destroy critics who didn’t believe he truly was committing News Corp to be carbon neutral to help save the planet.
His theory overlooked two big problems. One is that it assumed Murdoch would not make more mistakes in the meantime.
The other is that it assumed he actually did have two years.
An election within 10 months is likely.
Now calculate what shape News Corp will be in at a special EGM in June 2012 with Murdoch in charge.
His promises will seem empty. His achievements will be none. His failures will be plenty. His carbon neutral promise will still be just a threat, not a reality.
Murdoch will be slaughtered.
A June 2012 board election would also mean time is running out for Murdoch’s possible challengers, who need several months at least to fix his mess and show they can run a boringly capable company.
Those challengers are Chase Carey, Peter Chernin and Elisabeth Murdoch as an outside bet.
Former heir apparent James Murdoch, the people’s choice, would be the last, desperate hope, best dropped in only on election eve in a panic by the colleagues who loathe him. Only a new leader could ask voters for more trust. Only a new leader could with any credibility ditch the $US33 million pay packet, admitting Rupert Murdoch had no mandate for it and that News Corp cannot afford it until the rest of the world’s companies start paying their CEOs $US33 million.
Only a new leader could send journalists back to the News of the World again, and admit it was crazy to adopt the James Murdoch solution.
This change of leader would need the permission of the so-called independent directors propping up Rupert Murdoch.
But Sir Rod Eddington and Andrew Knight know they would be buried in an election, and so would back whoever took over.
Viet Dinh is the only danger, but what should scare News Corp more – that Dinh might force them to an election a few months ahead of his plan, or that Murdoch keeps trashing the brand? Murdoch is already flailing dangerously at anything that threatens his weakening grip.
This week, he repeatedly rang the head of the British Labor Party and tried to get him to shut down reporting about his past industrial scale phone hacking.
What might he do next? Yes, replacing him is a gamble for News Corp. But a new leader might at least restore the pride that Murdoch has destroyed.