Saturday, 5 March 2011

The Murdoch Fait Accompli

(Cross-posted and paraphrased from CiF)

Murdoch's MO in the UK has never really changed, tending towards a variation of "Agree to token competition, mercilessly leverage existing monopolies to rubbish said competition, then use the competition's weakened state to buy them out and obtain the monopoly in the new market as intended all along".

As to which political party his empire backed and when, the question is largely academic. The views pushed by News Corp are uniformly right-authoritarian (unless you happen to be rich or a friend of the family - preferably both, in which case there are few unforgivable sins). Backing New Labour in 1997 was a no-brainer, as you'd have had to have been comatose not to notice that there was no possible rescue for the Tories at that time. However, he was able to use his influence to make sure that Blair and his cabinet tacked as far to the right as possible - to the point where Labour was no longer recognisably Labour. I was always certain that he was biding his time until his natural Tory allies managed to decontaminate themselves enough to get within spitting distance of power, and so it has proved. Anyone who gets involved with Murdoch knows full well that they are the pilot fish to his shark and always will be - the only point where the analogy falls down is that it is rare for a shark to attack or eat a pilot fish, whereas Murdoch silently holds the threat of a full-scale career-ending backlash over his fellow travellers, who are certain in the knowledge that he will never be afraid to use it.

Finally, anyone who thinks Murdoch is an advocate of the "free market" - in fact anyone who thinks any oligarch is being honest when claiming advocacy of free market ideology (in the sense of a level playing field where the "best" business will naturally be the most successful) must be huffing some seriously good stuff. In reality "market forces" become a process of attrition whereby the players with the most resources will always tip the playing field in their favour by throwing resources from their existing reserves into the new market while the smaller competitors slowly but surely go to the wall. The most obvious example of Murdoch doing this was the short-lived battle between Sky and BSB in the '80s, but it seems to be accepted business practice in many spheres. Which is why, when it comes down to it, those saying that Murdoch is successful because he has the best product is either what he would consider a useful idiot - or possibly a disingenuous shill.

The one small comfort available to those of us who do not subscribe to the notion that wealthy oligarchs are superior beings who should be given carte blanche to do as they please while encouraging the rest of us to fight each other over the scraps that fall from their table - is that for all their much-vaunted clout (though being realistic it's still considerable), Murdoch and his ilk were not able to engineer an outright Tory majority last year. The hope is that the power of the press is waning in that regard, as more people turn to other sources of information. However this is not a given, and this is no time to be sitting back and letting things take their course.

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