The most powerful man in the Anglosphere is, I submit, Rupert Murdoch, the world’s most influential media mogul. Yes, even more powerful than the president of the United States. Presidents come and go but News Corp, Murdoch’s media empire, goes on and on.
Indeed, Murdoch can make and break presidents and prime ministers. Without Murdoch’s Fox News, Trump may very well never have become president. And no politician has become prime minister of Great Britain without Murdoch’s blessing since Margaret Thatcher eased the nation’s monopoly rules for him. The relationship between Murdoch and Tony Blair was once described as “almost incestuous.”
Murdoch’s reactionary views permeate News Corp. As does his disregard for responsible journalism. His media is exemplified by perhaps his favourite outlet, Fox news. infamous for its mix of lies, fearmongering and right-wing propaganda. The Murdochs have been aptly referred to as “the first family of disinformation.”
Even Rupert’s son James, once the heir apparent, can no longer stomach the company. He recently abandoned ship saying he was concerned its newspapers were disguising facts and endorsing disinformation.
Nowhere is Murdoch’s power felt more acutely than in his country of origin, Australia. Australia’s print media is overwhelmingly controlled by News Corp, which accounts for two-thirds of metropolitan circulation. Now his toxic influence is being challenged.
Two former Australian prime ministers from opposing parties, Kevin Rudd (Labor) and Malcolm Turnbull (Liberal), are attempting to curb Murdoch’s power. They hope their effort will go on to undermine Murdoch’s enterprises internationally.
The two former rivals will appear as star witnesses at an upcoming Australian parliamentary inquiry into Murdoch’s dominance of Australian political debate. They will argue that News Corp has become the propaganda arm of the rightwing Liberal government just as it has become the propaganda arm of the Republicans in the U.S. Turnbull says News Corp acts like a political party, working with rightwing politicians to influence policy and elections.
In October, Rudd created a petition to establish a royal commission to examine diversity in the Australian news media. So far the petition has attracted over half a million signatures. The former PM has referred to Murdoch as “an arrogant cancer on our democracy.”
The presence of a man like Murdoch, one unelected citizen having more influence on politics than entire populations, mocks democracy.
Furthermore, the functioning of a healthy democracy requires a shared set of fundamental facts and it is the media’s job to provide those facts. When the media distorts and lies, proper debate is crippled. News Corp habitually cripples both journalism and democracy.
So I wish Rudd and Turnbull luck and hope the inquiry will initiate action to curb this toxic press lord.