Sunday, July 24, 2011

The News Corp scandal

News Corp is a major international news corporation.  In America it owns a bunch of respectable newspapers and respectable  TV channels.

In Britain, they also own some tabloids.  The kind of papers that ran "I had Bigfoot's baby" stories.   Like many tabloids they did not always obey the law.  Some disgusting stuff, such as invading the privacy of murder victims.   Worse, when they got caught breaking laws, they bribed law enforcement officials.    

But you see, they were special.  They were the step child of far more respectable newspapers.  They used the clout from their respectable businesses to squash the investigations.   The government was afraid to piss of their owners.  So instead of instantly catching them, investigations were delayed for years.

First let me state that I just don't think that the American branch of News Corp will be found to do anything blatantly illegal.  Well, not worse than their standard minor  libel and slanders - such as putting a (D) in front of Republicans that get caught committing crimes.  Funny how they never make the error the other way around.

I am not here to yell at Fox.  What is happening to them is nothing more than a direct consequence of Congress and the FCC's failures.  Similar problems existed in England.

You see, at one point in history, it would have been impossible for News Corp to be in this position.  Up until 1996 or so, there were real limitations on how many TV channels, newspapers etc. someone could own.   More importantly. we had foreign ownership rules - which is why Robert Murdoch (born Australian) became an American citizen in 1985.   But after 1996, those laws were effectively changed in the US, (with new exceptions and SCOTUS rulings removing the teeth).

There in lies the problem.  Think about what would have happened if the strict US laws from 1985 were still in effect in both Britain and the the USA.

  1. Murdoch could not be British and American at the same time, so he could not maintain such powerful newspapers in both countries.   
  2. Given reasonable media limitations, no tabloid would have the political clout of respectable papers, so they could not have squashed the investigation.
The media has power.   They have abused their power.    In this case, it happens to be an abuse by British companies owned by News Corp.   Worse, the conglomeration of media that has NO reasonable need to be conglomerated. Really, tabloids owned by a respectable company?  Why?

This is in fact a major claim of Fox News - that the liberal media has too much power.  The problem is that if the liberal media could in fact have as much power as Fox claims it has, then by definition, so could a conservative media.  As so clearly proven by this case.

We need an independent media.  We never should have let News Corp grow to be as big as it got.  There was no need for the same guy to control British news, American news, tabloids, video and paper.

Imagine what would have happened if Fox News was a separate corporation, with Roger Ailes as CEO instead of only the Chairman of the Fox Group.   Then Fox could have gone into high moral outrage about News Corp invading the privacy of a September 11 victim.  They could have led the charge, instead of defending against it.

Media corporations need to be small enough to attack each other.  News Corp is the single most powerful media corporation in the US.   No one should have as much power as they currently do. Fox needs real competition.  Which is why Britain is considering creating some of those same limitations that the US got rid of in the 1990s (Source)

It's a pity that Congress, the FCC and SCOTUS have eviscerated our 20th century anti-monopoly laws, particularly with regards to Media.  The internet may save us, with the rise of Google, Drudge, and blogging.  But only if we stop the old companies from stealing all the power before it spreads it self out among the innovating, smaller corporations.  If we let News Corp, AP, CNN maintain their dominant position as they move into new technologies, then we will lose the chance to regain a free and independent press.

A real free press that is capable of reporting on the crimes other people commit, instead of covering up the crimes of their subordinates.

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