By Ben Cohen: The news that Rupert Murdoch has confessed to there being a “cover-up” at News International over the phone-hacking scandal at the Leveson inquiry should come as no surprise to anyone. Under serious public scrutiny, Murdoch has done his best at the inquiry to play nice, expressing regret over the scandal and a desire to help authorities uncover exactly what happened.
However, Murdoch is still insisting he knew nothing about the extent of the scandal. Had he know, he claimed, he would have closed the News of the World “years before and put a Sun on Sunday in”. Murdoch stated he was “misinformed and shielded” from what was going on at the paper. Murdoch has blamed layers of management and individuals hired by other people – everyone other than himself.
It is quite possible that Murdoch didn’t know anything about the hacking and is telling the truth. But that isn’t the point. Murdoch’s media empire produces the type of journalism that relies on nasty gossip, and given the pressures to produce in such a competitive industry, it is hardly surprising phone hacking of celebrities and nationally recognized figures occurred.
Rupert Murdoch has had an deeply insidious effect on the media, particularly the news. He single-handedly created today’s current brand of personality driven news shows (Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly being the prototypes in America), and turned major newspapers and networks into propaganda outlets for Right wing political parties and big business. Accurate and honest reporting was never something Murdoch was interested in – he simply followed the money. Murdoch saw that a mixture of entertainment and coddling up to power interests was the way forward and built his empire around those principles. He was right, and he has become one of the most powerful figures the media has ever seen.
His disregard for ethical journalism has caused untold damage to what used to be considered a serious craft. It laid the foundation for a new type of journalism that put ratings above anything else. Murdoch cares only about profit, and the natural consequence of this has been to feed people’s insatiable desire for gossip at any cost.
Murdoch may claim innocence when it comes to the specifics of the phone hacking scandal, but he is responsible on a far broader basis. Murdoch’s media empire and what happens in it is a reflection of his own values – and sadly he doesn’t have any.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.