In today's testimony at the Leveson inquiry, News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch acknowledged there was a "cover-up" to shield the rampant phone-hacking taking place at his British newspapers. But his day of testimony before the Leveson Inquiry was also an opportunity to learn how the media mogul views his changing industry.
On the future of newspapers Somewhat bitterly, Murdoch bemoaned the fact that newspapers as we know them will eventually fade away. "Sooner or later we won't be able to afford the printing presses and the huge trucks and they will become purely electronic," he said. Acknowledging the "disruptive" effect of the Internet, he said "I don't know if [newspapers] can be saved, it will be a very, very sad day if the great newspapers disappear." At the longest, he said they would last for another 20 years.
On his own newspapers In an interesting line of questioning, Murdoch was asked if he ever used his newspapers to benefit his other business interests. He denied it, saying he's never instructed reviewers to give his TV shows or films positive reviews. "You should read the critics in the New York Post on films made by Fox (which he also owns)" he said. "They kill them!" While that may be true in some cases, a UC Berkeley study found that in general, reviews by News Corp newspapers of 20th Century Fox films were generally more favorable than the average rating. "We ﬁnd that News Corp. media outlets provide a more positive review to 20th Century Fox movies by 2.3 points out of 100, the equivalent of one extra star every 11 reviews," read the 2011 study.
On the competition Murdoch had little but scorn to offer tabloid rival The Daily Mail, which by some estimations is the Internet's largest newspaper. Backhandedly, he called it a "great gossip site" that "steals" content and appropriates it so that it "comes right up to the barrier of what is fair use." Dismissing its tens of millions of readers, he said "there's no profit in it," a statement in line with his longheld beliefs that there's no business model in online publishing. The Huffington Post was brought up at one point, to which he dismissed the website saying it just has a "few" reporters. That awakened HuffPo media reporter Michael Calderon, imploring Murdoch to "come by the newsroom some time!"
As for his other web savvy rival, The Guardian, Murdoch was asked if he thought the phone-hacking scandal would ever have emerged if it wasn't for the paper. "I don't know" he said, "there are a lot of investigative journalists out there." He shrugged off questions that he had a "visceral hatred" for the Guardian saying "that's a little too high."
Why he folded News of the World. Murdoch said he "panicked" before closing News of the World but ultimately he was glad he closed it because it was tarnishing his reputation. "The senior executives were all misinformed, and shielded from anything that was going on there," he said at the inquiry. "I do blame one or two people for that." Ultimately, he said "this whole business of the News of the World is a serious blot on my reputation."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.