HACKGATE DAY 195: Dispatches gives Murdoch his darkest hour

Peter Oborne

Oborne’s masterly Dispatches programme last night laid bare Newscorp gangsterism as never before.

I was writing a piece last night about Piers Morgan, and the unconsciously written evidence of dirty deeds in one of his books. As some of it related to the Prime Minister’s friendship with Liz Murdoch, I was vaguely clocking the telly in the background: Channel 4 was trailing a Dispatches documentary about Newscorp. My first reaction was one of “It’ll be the same old same old” – even I’m getting Hackgate fatigue now.  And my second thought was, “It’s Channel Four, there’ll be an agenda”. But having finished the piece, I went to a listings website, and saw that the programme had been written and narrated by Peter Oborne. This changed my mind.

Oborne is, by all accounts, a cold fish and somewhat intense – a former Marxist turned Christian country gent, he is nevertheless interesting. I was due to have lunch with him last year, but he was called away suddenly to an African assignment. As it happens, we have friends in common, and so it may happen later this year. His writings in the Telegraph rarely connect for me, but what they all have is ample evidence of a very fine mind. An old (now retired) Fleet Street chum referred to him once to me as “a great man”.

What’s obvious from last night’s hour-long programme is that Peter Oborne has a genius for making one key point several times without boring the viewer. His thesis was simple: Rupert Murdoch gives support to politicians all over the world, and in return they give the green light to his business needs. Failure to do this results in a politician’s doom, often accompanied by threats to reveal peccadillos about his or her life.

None of this is new, but the wider audience beyond Media Gulch has always failed to understand that crucial definition of what Newscorp is when you strip out all the dissembling: a lawless, scheming, and corrupt media company out of control – and yet feared by the very people who should be  controlling it.

Not only did Oborne nail this with devastating evidence – a lot of it fresh – he also managed seamlessly to point up how policing policy is but a short bus ride from both the media and Westminster. And it was in this sphere that the Murdoch operation began to take on the air of a mobsters’ operation.

Interviews never rambled. All were tightly edited to make a simple point, and then followed by examples of the various ghastly Newscorp modus operandi. John Major startlingly emerged as the only PM in the last thirty years with the bottle to rebuff Rupert Murdoch; his reward was a nonstop stream of false accusation and harassment in Newscorp tabloids. (And lest we forget, Alistair Campbell at The Mirror was very happy to join in with his own brand of baseless filth about Chelsea shirts and toe-sucking). Major was crushed by Blair in 1997, who in turn was revealed – as we all suspected – as the man who went that extra yard up Rupert’s backside.

Blair was shown to have passed the 2003 Media Act to facilitate more Murdoch ownership in the TV sphere, and Rupe was instrumental in making Blair offer a Referendum on EU membership – something Blair very clearly did not want to do. Similarly (and disastrously) Blair became much more pro-Bush due to the Digger’s personal influence. Murdoch seemed to have been a key figure in the decision to go to war, and there was even a hint that he wasn’t far from the Dodgy Dossier. Following that, of course, David Kelly wound up dead. Even the odious Alan Rusbridger shocked me by pointing out, “Of the 175 Murdoch papers around the world, 174 backed the Iraq War. Only a Muslim paper in New Guinea didn’t”. This shows all too clearly the icy grip of control from a man who swore blind to Parliament last week that he had no idea of the detail of what his newspapers get up to.

Somehow, Oborne got contributors usually defensive about Murdoch to be frank about the wielding of Newscorp power. Paul MacMullan (who looks more derelict with every week) openly talked of his departmental budget of £3 million “for buying people” and paying for illicit police information. “I fink it was two hundred quid for a number plate,” he said at one point. An Aussie journalist at one time close to Murdoch told of how at one conference, delegates has laughed at the very idea of ethics at the News of the World. When he questioned this, nice gentle old Rupe called him “a wanker” in open session.

In other areas still, Oborne was fearless. He showed up Andy Hayman for the remonstrating hypocrite so many allege him to be, and directly accused yet another top Met copper, Dick Fedorcio, of variously lying and track-covering his way to safety. (Already this morning, Fedorcio has been referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission). After all the lachrymose bollocks about the death of NotW the week before last, the documentary showed graphically how its ceaseless emphasis upon crude sex had driven sales forward – and more generally, how Murdoch’s tabloid policy never changed: to buy a lower-mid market paper, and then drag it further downmarket with the help of Newscorp lieutenants skilled in the arts of misleading, salacious celeb gossip, and/or ‘cheeky’ headlines.

The tragedy is that this excellent documentary was probably seen by – what? – three million people….very few of whom buy The Sun.  Because above all, it rammed home once more with feeling the point so few Britons seem able to grasp about Rupert Murdoch: he is a calculating, almost autistic lying control freak, perfectly aware of the fact that he runs a media empire with the sole objective of getting and giving favours. At his peak, he could start wars, neutralise the police, own half an American political Party, lie to the FBI, break business laws, penetrate national security, endanger the life of the Head of State, and tell national leaders what they could and couldn’t do.

For the moment, his nadir looks as if it has passed. But never say never with Murdoch. Three years ago I forecast that Rupe’s failure to understand the genuinely open and free-market internet would be the start of his decline. Until last October, however, I never seriously expected that the Newscorp ‘culture’ of monopolist blackmail, threat and intimidation would accelerate that decline dramatically. I only changed my mind when the growing queue of civil Court cases about phone-hacking seemed to me bound to start the evidence pouring forth. Many other bloggers and journalists were at their posts long before I was. But despite his initial liking of, and support for, David Cameron, last night Peter Oborne did what he began to do in a live interview ten days ago: expose the degeneracy of the Cameron-Murdoch-Chipping Norton set for all to see.

We owe him bigtime.

22 thoughts on “HACKGATE DAY 195: Dispatches gives Murdoch his darkest hour

  1. Standing up to rampant evil, even at great personal cost, is far more rewarding than ignoring one’s conscience and jostling for and enjoying illicit material gain.
    We need much more like this.

  2. I didn’t realise you could get Channel 4 in France. Oborne’s programme was excellent as far as it went exposing the heretofore unacknowledged corruption of British public life.

    But he may have misesd a trick in not explaining how RM is just a good old fashioned monopolist using blackmail and bribery to maintain and enhance his position. He mentioned Labour’s 2002 law freeing up ownership of terrestial TV to foreign owners. That was an obvious payoff and major mistake. Bur this allowed RM to take Test cricket and other sports off BBC and ITV where they were supposed to remain as part of the deal for paying the licence fee. The current prosperity BskyB, the Premiership and Test cricket is almost solely due to this incestuous corrupt deal between RM and the politicos that forces the British punter to pay twice through the licence fee and Sky’s exorbitant charges. I refuse to be part and pay Sky but am denied seeing Test cricket.

    One small correction. Rusdinger did not say ‘a Muslim paper in New guinea’ but ‘a paper in Papua New Guinea’. PNG is a Muslim free zone.

  3. I enjoy (but don’t always agree) with Oborne’s writings… but John, isn’t he one of those ex-Mail/now-Telegraph bods upon whom you cast a cold eye?

  4. The dispatches programme was another attempt to get at Murdoch but spent much time refering to the Coulson / Cameron dimension.
     Your own comments appeared to reflect views of your friends and were not consistent with your normal genre.  
     The reference to the EU referendum, being pushed by Murdoch, lacks sincerity when one considers that the majority of the UK majority wanted just that. 
     Also, the continual support given to the ‘celeb community’ is quite stagering when the hacking stories generally told the truth – Isnt that what papers are supposed to print? 
     The ‘saint hood’ of these celeb’s is quit sickening.
     The use by Murdoch of blackmail and police corruption lacked any ‘silver bullit’, however believable they may be.       

    • ‘The reference to the EU referendum, being pushed by Murdoch, lacks sincerity when one considers that the majority of the UK majority wanted just that.’
      Nohj
      I would still be appalled even if Merdeschlock had forced a referendum on which end to open an egg at. The man is an unelected foreign national, and the workings of our political future are none of his affair.

      • ” The man is an unelected foreign national, and the workings of our political future are none of his affair.”

        Couldn’t agree more.

        In fact there are many residents of Brussels and Strasbourg of whom one could say the same thing…

  5. Peter Oborne wrote THE PRO-ISRAEL LOBBY IN BRITAIN in which he spoke about lobbying groups such as Conservative Friends of Israel (CFI), Labour Friends of Israel, and the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre (BICOM) having untraceable funding and operations that are not transparent. I am very interested in this from the point of view of a survivor of institutional child abuse, because David Abrahams was caught giving sneaky donations to the Labour Party, and then he tried to lie about his relationship with the Labour Party until photos were published of him at Sedgefield with Tony Bliar, then he wrote some defiant newspaper articles about why people whould keep their noses out of his private business of diving money to Bliars government if he wanted to. The reason I am interested in him is because of his ACORN businesses and Eagle Associates, and ACORN FOSTERING LTD is giving foster carers £520 per week, and a lot of children are still being taken away from parents in secret family court cases, £520 per week is a lot of money and it would be a big incentive for crooks to use syndromes invented by paedophiles such as Richard Gardner to get lots of children in Star Chamber cases and then get lots of £520s to share out. I am really interested in watching that Despatches program now, thanks for telling us about it.

  6. From
    At his peak, he could start wars, neutralise the police, own half an American political Party, lie to the FBI, break business laws, penetrate national security, endanger the life of the Head of State, and tell national leaders what they could and couldn’t do

    As it is in more than just the UK….. Why does “the system” not stop it. Who is failing in whatever?

  7. And still the e-mail hacking goes on!
    “endanger the life of the HEAD of State”where exactly are the handcuffs kept by the crime syndicate that is the Metropolitan Police?

  8. “Rupert Murdoch gives support to politicians all over the world, and in return they give the green light to his business needs.”

    W/o wishing to downplay Rupe’s MO, his outfit is not the only one that does that. Big Oil et al do the same thing. Perhaps Rupe’s unique position is that if the pols won’t play his game, he can retaliate straight into our faces via his newspapers. The rest are limited to cutting their funding.

    I recall some years ago that a certain huge US multinational donated large sums to both American political parties on the back of promises from both that the ongoing anti-trust lawsuit would be trashed if they won the presidential election. Reagan won and kept his word.

  9. Well having watched the Dispatches program it is clearly eveident that the media and NI especially have corrupted the political and legal forces in the UK.
    It is also eveident that the politicians so influenced are prepared to weasel their answers in order not to come clean. Camerons “I haven’t had 1 inappropriate meeting” answer leads to the question “How many was it then ?” That the evidence of courting NI is so clear (and accepted as so) by politicians it is clear that the top eschelons of the political parties are willingly corruptable in order to promote themselves above the nation of which they claim to act in the interests.
    Your comment above re Murdoch demanding an EU referendum from Blair could be right, but Blair is proEU that to have pretended to be prepared to do this was overtaken by events when the French & Dutch kicked the Constitution (and the Referendum) into touch. Though one has to wonder why if NI was so anti EU – they did not take every opportunity to promote the cause of UKIP. There were several agenda’s in action since Murdoch got his stumpy bits well entrenched in the politicians darkest cavities. One thing is for sure – whatever a (top) politician utters must be looked at for the ermine covering with which it is cloaked.

    • “That the evidence of courting NI is so clear (and accepted as so) by politicians it is clear that the top eschelons of the political parties are willingly corruptable in order to promote themselves above the nation of which they claim to act in the interests.”

      Absolutely true.
      But from a politico’s standpoint, what other options do they have?
      They either play ball with Rupe or he plasters the gory details of their peccadillos across his tabloid trash and wrecks their careers, perhaps even causes them problems with the police. That is where Rupe scores over Big Money who also buy political influence. Is there anybody in this world who doesn’t have a few skeletons in the cupboard?

      • They have the option of becoming either honest – or even more dispised than they already are !

        That they care not that they are dispised – and carry on regardless – is an issue which many of them should be asked to answer. But how to get them to answer the questions appears to be down to a ‘trusted’ media who calls them to account instead of cosying up. It is wishful thinking but when the hackgate scandal is over – the media might regain the trust by calling the politicians into question on behalf of the public ! Hoping but not expecting !

      • @Morningstar: thanks, an interesting perspective. But I agree it is wishful thinking that the media and pols will become honest one day because much dishonesty is about gaining advantage at someone else’s cost …something that we humans like to do.

  10. The ultimate source of all the lousy Murdoch capability is the dumb, stupid British (and Australian and American) people. Most people seem to have the attention span of a goldfish (AKA a politician during an election) and dog turds for brains. When did we stop trying to think for ourselves and handed that process to the media? I will tell you – we never could, just waiting for the next smarmy crook to offer to wipe our bums.

    • IIRC a man called Ford once said that “thinking is the most difficult thing he knew, which probably explains why so few people do it.” ;-)

      • Even more difficult not to have your line of thought overtaken by somebody else if they have a large bank account

  11. Another Channel 4, anti-Rupe hour long documentary:

    Wednesday.

    10pm

    “MURDOCH: The Mogul Who SCREWED The NEWS”

    ##########################

    And Rupe didn’t called his then Aussie Editor, “a wanker”.

    He called him “a Fairfax wanker”.

    Fairfax being Rupe’s rather more up-market Aussie competitor.

  12. It was only after the original Oborne’s dispatches on C4 back in October last year that allowed the BBC off it’s “neutral” territory to start covering the story. And then the Peston got involved……..

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s