Opinion: Paper victory?

OK, so most of the country is totally repulsed by the Screws and News International. Rupert Murdoch is “the devil incarnate” and Rebecca Brooks the most reviled woman since Marie Antoinette.
Many of us have been convinced of this for years, if not decades. I once had the misfortune of working for a paper taken over by Murdoch. And seeing happy, friendly creative colleagues suddenly stop working for each another, poisoned by a culture of cynicism, suspicion and toadying to the bosses.
But as we devour the final copy of the News of the World, who will think ahead to what happens next. Odds are on the Currant Bun on Sunday publishing in a week or so, a judge appointed to report in 18 months time and it all going back to normal with profits even higher.
We will have the lost the opportunity of expelling Murdoch once and for all. All for lack of deciding what to do next. But I have an idea, which with a little money could be developed into a plan, and with a  few quid more into a strategy (as Woody Allen once said). It is quite simple. And legal.
When a suitable body declares Murdoch not to be fit and proper owners of newspapers, Parliament should move to take the four News titles into public ownership for as brief a period as possible. It should be the only time ever when the State is allowed to own newspapers.
The company should then be privatised in the biggest public sale since British Rail. We, the people should become the owners, with a golden share arrangement to prevent what’s happened to the water companies. Net proceeds of the sale should quite properly go to long-suffering shareholders of News Int. 
We will all benefit from a series of unbiased newspapers, produced by professional journalists to a high ethical standard to inform and entertain without seeking to unduly influence political leaders.
It is the stuff that many of we hacks dream about. But given the strength of the current climate, is it really too much to hope for?
Jonathan Hunt, a Lib Dem activist, was business editor of Today through three owners, Eddie Shah, Tiny Rowland and Rupert Murdoch. He was also elected leader of Observer NUJ journalists seeking editorial safeguards from Lonrho.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • “It is the stuff that many of we hacks dream about. But given the strength of the current climate, is it really too much to hope for?”

    Yes given that it is a gross interference with freedom of the press. It disturbs me that a golden opportunity to clean up the press is being turned into an anti-Murdoch crusade by people with a agenda. I wonder whether there would be such anger with Murdoch if he backed the Lib Dems.

  • “When a suitable body declares Murdoch not to be fit and proper owners of newspapers, ”

    Does any such body exist? The “fit & proper” test I’ve seen talked about is the one OFCOM uses and applies only to broadcasters AIUI.

  • gramsci's eyes 10th Jul '11 - 11:45am

    From the Guardian.

    “Energy Secretary Chris Huhne has said the Liberal Democrats would look at the detail of the Opposition motion on the BSkyB takeover before deciding which way to vote.

    He also told BBC1’s Andrew Marr Show that “very serious risks” had been run by the Prime Minister in hiring Mr Coulson, the Press Association reports.

    Asked about this week’s Commons vote, Huhne said: “There are two separate processes here – one is that Ofcom can at any time investigate whether the people running one of our broadcast organisations are fit and proper people – and that’s not associated with the question of clearing the merger.

    “I believe we should have a personal assurance from Rupert Murdoch that these illegal practices were confined to the News of the World.”

    —- Eh , what do you think Rupert will say then Chris?

  • Is it too much to hope for – yes.
    Would there be this anger against Murdoch if he had backed the LibDems? Well, you just don’t get it, do you Richard (probably because you are not a liberal)? Murdoch is not a liberal, not a pluralist. He will do whatever it takes to further his own commercial interests, whether that involves stoking the fires of xenophobia and europhobia in this country, trying to undermine the public service basis of the BBC, cultivating the Labour or Conservative parties depending on which one is most likely to win an election so that they will treat him favourably once they are in power, using the power of his press titles to intimidate his critics into silence – I could go on. If you want to see Murdoch’s intended future for television news then watch Fox News in America – a relentless slew of dumbed down stories with an openly right wing Republican bias (and a token wet liberal who can be knocked down and ridiculed). Would the LibDems ever want the support of Murdoch? I’d rather be endorsed by Margaret Thatcher.

  • My point, Andy, was that I was answering Richard’s slur on us as LibDems.
    Another thing that Murdoch has been partially (though I admit, not exclusively) responsible for is the commodififcation of intimate personal relationships. No one, however unimportantly, in the public eye can any longer trust that someone with whom they have been in a trusting relationship will not be inveigled into taking the Murdoch shilling to reveal personal details for the pointless titillation of the public. That is a corruption of personal discourse to add to, as you say, the unhealthy effect on our national discourse.

  • @gramsci’s eyes

    “I believe we should have a personal assurance from Rupert Murdoch that these illegal practices were confined to the News of the World.”

    —- Eh , what do you think Rupert will say then Chris?

    Well if he says they were confined to the NotW and it turns out they weren’t then he’s in trouble, if he says that other Murdoch organs also engaged in illegal practices then he’s in trouble, and if he says nothing then he’s still in trouble because it looks like guilt. It’s an unanswerable question, and perhaps an illustration of just how much crap Murdoch is swimming in, and how strong arguments against his takeover of BSkyB are.

  • Its more likely that Murdoch would say that the hacking was not confined to NI titles, which would be a rare example of a NI employee telling the truth.

  • floatingvoter 11th Jul '11 - 12:22am

    So the lib dems seem to be squeeky clean on this – but is dubious Dave? Did he promise Vince’s scalp and BskyB over over te port at Rebekah’s gaff? and if so why? Why are we not hearing from Vince on this subject? Is Auld Nick on holiday or does he fear something appearing in The Sun? This is the one opportunity for the Lib dems to take the lead and we have not had a peep out of you! Shameful! Remember the rating today on Yougov is an all time low of 8%. Why are you not slating the Tory love making with Wupert? Protecting Dave will only link us more to the revallations that are to come.

  • Tonyhill,

    could you please expand upon the point that Rupert Murdoch is not a liberal?

    Your point seems to be that he cannot be a liberal because he uses the market to his own advantage and wishes to remove regulations that stop his using the free market to gain further advantage. James Murdoch argued against the BBC precisely because he describes himself as a libertarian, a description many on these pages think is the essence of true liberalism. Furthering ones own commercial interest is the essence of free market capitalism isn’t it? As the government and your party wish to ‘reform’ the public services into a privatised market based system and thereby introduce individual commercial self-interest into health care, education and every other public service, don’t you think it would be reasonable to either change the basis of your accusation of illiberalism or to extend your accusation to the leadership of the governing coalition?

  • Jonathan Hunt 11th Jul '11 - 2:50pm

    It is always fascinating how these discussions go off at interesting tangents based on comments.

    So let me introduce some new speculation in the hope it may generate more interesting views.

    What is Murdoch’s long-term objective. Has he closed the NoW so that he can:

    * replace it with a lower-cost Sunday Sun on Sunday, and increae profits; or

    * reduce his percentage of newspaper readership from about 40 per cent to around a quarter, thereby removing a reason why he should not buy BSkyB?

  • It is true to say that Murdoch calls himself a libertarian. He was, for example, on the board of directors of the Cato institute. However he was very close to Blair, the antithesis of all things libertarian, which raises questions as to whether he is true libertarian.


    There are many types of libertarian – the type supported by Murdoch are generally to be found in the Conservative Party which is why Murdoch supports the Conservatives.

    Ed Joyce

  • Daniel Henry 11th Jul '11 - 8:00pm

    That form of “libertarianism” trends to mean the freedom if the rich and powerful to step on those smaller than them.

    As liberals we believe in protecting the rights and freedom of everyone, and this required us to prevent “libertarians” from stepping on people. Murdoch’s media outlets also have a tendency to push authoritarian viewpoints. All in all, I don’t think I’d describe the Murdochs as liberal.

  • Yes, I believe that geolibertarianism is the best mechanism to deliver libertarianism through our party.

  • Sorry Ed Joyce, I can’t resist.
    Wouldn’t your geolibertarianism leave the Murdoch’s paying no tax whatsoever in UK whilst leaving the UK powerless to resist their monopolisation of the media?

    Daniel Henry,
    that to which some people would ascribe the designation a ‘right’ is in direct opposition to those things that compose an individuals actual freedom. So for example, the right to life would not be considered as conferring the right to the means by which to live. Not having the means by which to live could be construed by many as a restriction of their freedom. It is the liberal opinion that rights should trump freedom that allows the winners in a free market to step on the weak, not libertarianism.
    Take the Lib Dem position on positive discrimination for female parliamentary candidates for example. Those with power (white middle-aged married heterosexual men) must be allowed to compete as if on an equal footing with all others, as to promote the interests of others necessarily impacts on their rights.
    As you state in your opening sentence, there are many forms of libertarianism. Taken to its logical conclusion the libertarianism notion of self-ownership would imply a socialist economy, it implies that a worker should receive the full fruits of their labour. It is only when convoluted arguments governing the right of ownership of property are introduced that libertarianism becomes an absolutist free market agenda.

  • No JRC it would not leave Murdoch paying no tax. It would have no effect on the tax structure. The land tax would be distributed as a Citizens Income as is the case with the Alaska Oil Fund, and the Murdoch family would receive their annual payment like everybody else if they were UK citizens. The big winners would be working people on very low incomes not the Murdochs.

  • Thanks for that Ed, please forgive my misinterpretation, I got the distinct impression during our last debate that you considered the land tax, described as a just tax, to be a replacement for income taxes, which you described as taking the proceeds of another’s labour in order to enrich oneself. If it exists as an adjunct to other tax systems as you describe, and, if it is not an ongoing payment but payable at the point at which land value is realised then I can see no objection to it.

    The problem I have with many of the land value tax proposals that abound is that often it becomes a charge on where an individual plonks their backside to watch the telly. This is what happens when it is proposed to charge an ongoing tax based on notional land values for residential property. In effect it’s a window tax. Although this effect would be somewhat mitigated by ensuring that all proceeds of such a tax were distributed as a Citizens Income.

  • No problem, I have always advocated a citizens income but the last debate was a bit involved and I am not sure that we properly closed it off

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