Tuesday, 18 February 2003

Their master's voice

Obey! What a guy! You have got to admit that Rupert Murdoch is one canny press tycoon because he has an unerring ability to choose editors across the world who think just like him. How else can we explain the extraordinary unity of thought in his newspaper empire about the need to make war on Iraq? After an exhaustive survey of the highest-selling and most influential papers across the world owned by Murdoch's News Corporation, it is clear that all are singing from the same hymn sheet. Some are bellicose baritone soloists who relish the fight. Some prefer a less strident, if more subtle, role in the chorus. But none, whether fortissimo or pianissimo, has dared to croon the anti-war tune. Their master's voice has never been questioned.

Murdoch is chairman and chief executive of News Corp which owns more than 175 titles on three continents, publishes 40 million papers a week and dominates the newspaper markets in Britain, Australia and New Zealand. His television reach is greater still, but broadcasting - even when less regulated than in Britain - is not so plainly partisan. It is newspapers which set the agenda.

It isn't always clear exactly what Murdoch believes on any given issue, but this time we know for certain, courtesy of an interview in the Australian magazine, the Bulletin (which, by the way, he doesn't own). To cite the report of that interview in Murdoch's own Sydney Daily Telegraph, the "media magnate...has backed President Bush's stance against Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein". Indeed, his quotes are specific. "We can't back down now, where you hand over the whole of the Middle East to Saddam...I think Bush is acting very morally, very correctly, and I think he is going to go on with it". Then came words of praise for Tony Blair. "I think Tony is being extraordinarily courageous and strong... It's not easy to do that living in a party which is largely composed of people who have a knee-jerk anti-Americanism and are sort of pacifist. But he's shown great guts as he did, I think, in Kosovo and various problems in the old Yugoslavia."

Most revealing of all was Murdoch's reference to the rationale for going to war, blatantly using the o-word. Politicians in the United States and Britain have strenuously denied the significance of oil, but Murdoch wasn't so reticent. He believes that deposing the Iraqi leader would lead to cheaper oil. "The greatest thing to come out of this for the world economy...would be $20 a barrel for oil. That's bigger than any tax cut in any country."

Full story...

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