Here’s a man-bites-dog news flash, Rupert Murdoch is “not a fit person” to run a big international media company.
The discovery was made by a tri-partisan panel of Conservative, Labor and Liberal members of the British Parliament and issued yesterday in a 121-page report.
For those who have not followed the scandal that brought down Britain’s largest newspaper and threatens Conservative David Cameron’s Parliamentary leadership, it began with the discovery of telephone hacking at the now-defunct News of the World, and has since led to several arrests, the resignation of top editors and allegations of bribing Scotland Yard.
A majority of the Parliamentary panel accused Murdoch of “willful blindness” to the activities of his employees and therefore unfit to run the company. (Interestingly, the panel’s Conservatives, who supported the rest of the report, broke ranks on the fitness issue, which goes to the heart of the shameful relationship between the Murdoch empire and the Conservative Party.)
The report’s conclusion misses the point. Murdoch is not unfit to run a media business because he was oblivious his underlings’ activities. He was oblivious to their activities because he is unfit to run a media business.
The distinction is critical. Over his long – and financially successful – career, Rupert Murdoch has trashed every ethical principle on which the credibility of the media depends. He has used his properties to further his political agenda. He has cheapened the definition of news. He has valued titillation over information. He has traded his support for politicians for their support of his business ventures.
There are many reasons the newspaper business is in trouble these days, from the economy to the Internet. But none of them has done more damage than Rupert Murdoch.