Of Course Rupert Murdoch Isn't Fit to Run a Company

Two unsettling thoughts on U.K. lawmakers' condemnation of the media mogul

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The House of Commons Committee on Culture, Media, and Sport filed its report on Rupert Murdoch's journalistic practices this week.  The report was altogether damning, of course, as has been covered extensively in both the British and international press.  But two points struck me that haven't received the attention they may perhaps merit.

The first involves the partisan split on the committee.  It wasn't profound;  there appears to have been unanimous agreement on the bill of particulars, as well as on its broad interpretation.  But there was a rather heated disagreement involving some of the language the report employs.  Specifically, the Tory members of the committee objected to the characterization of Rupert Murdoch as "not a fit person to exercise the stewardship of a major international company."  This damning locution remains in the report because the Liberal Democrats on the committee, despite being part of Britain's ruling coalition, voted en bloc with its opposition members.

It's certainly possible I'm missing something significant, being thousands of miles distant from the scene of the action, but this seems to me, from a purely political point of view, a very foolish position for the senior governing party in Parliament to take.  Among other enormities, Mr. Murdoch has been accused of wielding excessive and unhealthy influence over the country's politics, and of course its politicians.  And while the opposition has hardly been untainted by Murdoch's poisonous tendrils, the salient example of such a connection with Labour occurred two leaderships ago.  On the other hand, his cozy relationship with the Tory government, and his warm friendship with its leader, Prime Minister David Cameron, is taking place in the present tense and has been much remarked upon.  Visits to Number Ten through the backdoor, undisclosed meetings at home and abroad, all while pressing the government for favors and special dispensation...at the very least, these look less than kosher.  And the odds are they're as bad as they look.

Under such circumstances, one would expect the Tories on the Parliamentary committee to have put as much distance between their party and Mr. Murdoch as possible, and to be, among all the participants, the most vociferous in condemning his abhorrent practices.  It's hard to know what caused them to hold back, to protest that the report's language was unduly harsh.  Loyalty to a benefactor would seem to be the least likely explanation.  A famous axiom variously ascribed to Benjamin Disraeli, Herbert Asquith, and Winston Churchill, avers that "a prime minister must be a good butcher."  If ever there was a time for butchery—or at least radical surgery—surely it's now.  The Tories are in enough trouble already;  one would think, insofar as they're able to dislodge this particular lodestone from around their necks, they might attempt to do so with as much vigor as they can muster.

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Erik Tarloff is a novelist, screenwriter, and journalist.

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