At more than U.S.$12 billion in value, Mr Murdoch is in the top 100 richest people on the planet. However his wealth is just part of the story. His media empire and all that it influences, makes it one of the most powerful media machines in the world. Across New Zealand, Australia, Britain and the United States, he casts a shadow through his media interests.
The Murdoch empire has some huge ethical flaws that have been used to advance an agenda. It’s commercial unit is called News Corp. His trademark has been advanced by forays into the ownership and running of a wide range of business interests, some in media and some in areas such as sport – he tried to buy up Manchester United in 1998, but the British Competition Commission found that the attempted purchase promoted unfair and unethical practices in both sports media and other aspects of his businesses. He has been blocked in at least one nation from making particular media purchases because the playing field would no longer be level, and that he would be able to simply drown out opponents.
Although it is true that he has used his media to support both socialist and conservative leading heads of Government and State across the west, the degree to which his media have influenced elections is a major concern. In New Zealand in 2014, one example of the bias showed in favour of National was the fact that on the day before the election “Party Vote National” stickers appeared on the print editions of Fairfax owned papers nationwide. Although News Corp no longer holds a stake in Fairfax, the pro-National corporate view is a hang over from when Mr Murdoch had a stake in the company.
Likewise there was the campaign waged by the Murdoch media against former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard during the 2013 election. The sheer force of the resources put into the campaign by the Murdoch media meant that even if Ms Gillard and her predecessor/successor Kevin Rudd had been resolved peacefully, their Labor Party would have still lost to the Tony Abbott led Liberal Party.
The not guilty verdict handed down to Rebekah Brooks over the News of the World hacking scandal, and alleged attempts to pervert the course of justice, is perhaps more a result of a well paid lawyer knowing his craft than her not knowing or being involved in the hacking activities. Ms Brooks was one of his closest confidants before the hacking scandal and has been allowed to return to News U.K. It has been commonly suggested that she not only knew of the hacking, but might have participated in it herself.
A leopard does not change its spots, so the saying goes. Despite his stated regrets about the hacking scandal and numerous gaffes since, one cannot help but have the impression that the real regret Mr Murdoch has is that his business empire was taken to court over it. The acceptance of his apologies by the victims of his scandal was more so that they could quite understandably move on with their lives – many were probably quietly wishing there was a way to make the mud stick.
Another example of the leopard not changing its spots has been the criticism Mr Murdoch has levelled at President Obama’s skin colour, and more recently suggestions that all Muslims are collectively responsible for the attacks in Paris in 2015. Mr Murdoch back tracked on both, but the fact that there are other instances before these of him criticizing Muslims for not doing more to halt terrorism shows that the leopard could have had a spot change earlier, but did not.
With this sort of influence, Mr Murdoch is clearly a danger to democracy and the principles on which the nations his media operate in, were supposedly founded on.