It’s Official: Rupert Murdoch Is A Senile Old Coot

The chairman of News Corporation, Rupert Murdoch, has endured many decades as a right-wing purveyor of tabloid pseudo-news enterprises around the world. His power and influence has been felt in the halls of governments and the boardrooms of corporations. His opinions have been sought after and received with great deference. But that’s all over now.

In an appearance at a forum for the public affairs TV series, The Kalb Report, Murdoch exhibited clear signs that he has lost touch with reality. Sam Stein of the Huffington Post was there and reported some examples of Murdoch’s mental decline. It begins with the ludicrous assertion that the staff at his competitors MSNBC and CNN “tend to be Democrats” but that his own Fox News presenters “are not Republicans.” He did not, however, bother to identify a single Democrat at his rivals’ networks, and when pressed, he was also unable to name one on his own.

More importantly, Murdoch seems to have completely forgotten that he employs the most recent vice-presidential candidate of the Republican Party, Sarah Palin, as well as a candidate for the GOP presidential nomination, Mike Huckabee. And let’s not forget other avowed Republican Fox Newsers Karl Rove, Rick Santorum, Dana Perino, Newt Gingrich, Dick Morris, Laura Ingraham, John Bolton, Dan Senor, Linda Chavez, and Oliver North. Fox is lousy with Republicans, but in his diminished capacity Murdoch is so confused about the political affiliation of his crew that he can declare aloud and in public that there aren’t any such people working for him.

In another departure from reality, Murdoch was asked if it was ethical for Fox to promote the Tea Party movement. For anyone paying attention it is clear that Fox became a virtual publicity machine for the Tea Baggers.

They aired numerous interviews of Bagger spokespeople including their chief strategist and fundraiser, Dick Armey. They had reporter Griff Jenkins riding along on the Tea Party Express bus. They dispatched their top anchors, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, Greta Van Susteren, and Neil Cavuto, to host Tea Party events across the nation. They even branded branded some of the events as “FNC Tea Parties.” But Murdoch’s response to the inquiry was rife with bewilderment:

“No. I don’t think we should be supporting the Tea Party or any other party. But I’d like to investigate what you are saying before condemning anyone.”

Either he never watches his own network or his memory and comprehension skills have utterly collapsed. He must also not be paying much attention to that Internet thing. For several months Murdoch has been promising to put all of his online news content behind a pay wall. He has spoken out harshly against what he deems theft by news aggregators like Google. Never mind that he can stop Google from indexing his web sites anytime he wants with just a few lines of code. At the Kalb forum he reiterated his opinion saying…

“We will be very happy if they just publish our headline or a sentence or two and that’s it. Followed by a subscription form.”

You would hope that someone on his staff (or his nurses) would advise him that that is exactly what they do now. If you search Google for news content, you will get only a headline and a couple of sentences. Then you can click the link to go to the full story on the content owner’s web site. Contrary to his misconception, this drives traffic to Murdoch’s site, it doesn’t steal anything. And what Murdoch doesn’t acknowledge (if he even remembers) is that he owns web sites that actually do steal content from other news sources. His Fox Nation, for example, is a news aggregator that does not pay for the articles it features, but reprints much more than a couple of sentences from them – sometimes the whole article.

The general tone of this interview ought to be disturbing to Murdoch’s family and doctors. He really appears to be suffering from an acute cognitive failure. These are not the sort of logical missteps made by someone who has built an international media empire. Murdoch is either profoundly distracted or is losing the mental acuity to perform his duties. It may be time for him to consider stepping aside and let his kids screw up the world for awhile.

Addendum: Additional reporting on the Kalb interview reveals that Murdoch…

  • …doesn’t consider Sarah Palin to be a journalist. (Duh!)
  • …believes that Greta Van Susteren is a Democrat. (Never mind her adoration of Sarah Palin for whom her husband is an advisor)
  • …thinks the iPad will save newspapers. (Right. A $600.00 device possessed by a fraction of American households, that will charge extra for subscriptions, is going to replace a news source that was delivered for pennies a day to any American doorstep)

Keep ’em coming, Rupert.

Fox News Caught In Massive Nielsen Ratings Fraud

Update 4/2/2010: A major development occurred overnight.
It is now April 2, 2010! (no foolin).
Update 5/10/2010: See this new analysis and addendum.

This week saw the release of the quarterly ratings performance data for television programming. Much of the reporting on this story focused on the dominant position Fox News retains in the cable news sector. As has been the case for several years, Fox News smothered the competition and experienced rapid growth while other news programmers stagnated or declined.

While most industry insiders accept the routine pronouncements from the sole ratings provider, Nielsen Media Research, without question, some observers could not help but notice a certain incongruity in the results. How is it, they wonder, that Fox News can be so consistently in the lead despite their obvious niche programming focus on a narrow segment of the viewing audience. The decidedly right-of-center bias of Fox News corresponds to a rather small portion of the national electorate. Republican favorability has been hovering in the mid-twenties for years. So how does this negligible slice of the market translate into such a disproportionate ratings advantage?

The answer may be evident in new disclosures of business relationships that call into question the integrity of Nielsen’s data. With the rollout of its People Meter methodology in the early 2000’s, Nielsen entered the high-tech era of TV market research. It was heralded as a major advancement of data collection that would vastly improve the ability of producers, programmers and advertisers to evaluate the marketplace. But as with any upheaval in the status quo, there were skeptics and dissenters. Chief amongst them was Fox Broadcasting, who argued that the new system significantly under-counted African-Americans, a key component of their audience at the time. There was also a question as to the security of the new set-top boxes that would be recording viewer choices. With the introduction of technology comes the risk of miscalculations and tampering. But eventually the complaints receded or were resolved and the new service took its place as the signature survey product for television marketing.

It was during this time, subsequent to the implementation of People Meters, that Fox News began its rapid ascent to ratings dominance. A prudent observer might wonder how this new system came to report so much more favorably for a network that had fiercely opposed its adoption. What transpired that caused Fox News to withdraw their objections and become the biggest beneficiary of the change?

It has recently been discovered that the Wegener Corporation, the manufacturer of the set-top devices that Nielsen uses, has a long association with Rupert Murdoch and the News Corporation, the parent of Fox News. Wegener was founded by the former management of Scientific-Atlanta, a producer of set-top boxes for cable access and other purposes. One of the other products in Scientific-Atlanta’s line was a device used by Gemstar to provide television program listings to cable operators and their subscribers. Gemstar was an affiliate of TV Guide, which in turn was owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. So the executives who were responsible for developing and manufacturing Murdoch’s equipment for Gemstar became the principles of the company providing Nielsen with their ratings collection devices. And around that same time Fox News dropped their objections to the new People Meter service.

It would not be difficult to encode an electronic device so that it would purposefully miscalculate survey data. A simple algorithm to multiply a target by a fixed percentage could produce a result that would artificially inflate one set of figures while keeping it in proportion to a larger set, making it virtually impossible to detect. At present, their is no confirmation that such a deception has been contrived. It would require a thorough examination of Nielsen’s hardware and the ability to reverse engineer the chips inside of it. But for those who presume that it would be an outlandish notion, they would be well advised to study recent news events that uncovered similarly scandalous conduct on the part of News Corp.

One situation involves a digital recorder and satellite receiver made by NDS Group for Murdoch’s Sky network in Europe. Unlike TiVo, the Sky+ system records “personal viewing information,” which is information about your viewing practices that is tied to your contact information (i.e., it’s not kept anonymous, like TiVo’s).

In addition to that, NDS was also charged with using spies and hackers to steal Sky competitor Dish Network’s programming and make it available to viewers for free, thus undercutting Dish’s financial viability. As reported in Wired Magazine:

“The case involves a colorful cast of characters that includes former intelligence agents, Canadian TV pirates, Bulgarian and German hackers, stolen e-mails and the mysterious suicide of a Berlin hacker who had been courted by the Murdoch company not long before his death.

On the hot spot is NDS Group, a UK-Israeli firm that makes smartcards for pay-TV systems like DirecTV. The company is a majority-owned subsidiary of Murdoch’s News Corporation. The charges stem from 1997 when NDS is accused of cracking the encryption of rival NagraStar, which makes access cards and systems for EchoStar’s Dish Network and other pay-TV services. Further, it’s alleged NDS then hired hackers to manufacture and distribute counterfeit NagraStar cards to pirates to steal Dish Network’s programming for free.”

On yet another occasion Murdoch’s news group engaged in some sleazy and illegal behavior to get stories about celebrities and politicians. The Guardian reported that Murdoch paid substantial sums of money to keep this scandal under wraps:

“Rupert Murdoch’s News Group Newspapers has paid out more than ¬£1m to settle legal cases that threatened to reveal evidence of his journalists’ repeated involvement in the use of criminal methods to get stories.

The payments secured secrecy over out-of-court settlements in three cases that threatened to expose evidence of Murdoch journalists using private investigators who illegally hacked into the mobile phone messages of numerous public ¬≠figures as well as gaining unlawful access to confidential personal data, including tax records, social security files, bank statements and itemised phone bills. Cabinet ministers, MPs, actors and sports stars were all targets of the private investigators.”

And if that’s not enough, check into the incestuous and disturbing web of connections Murdoch has to the communists in China. Glenn Beck tried to pull the veil off of this one but was censored by his own employer.

Given the history of sleazy conduct and nefarious associations, is it really that far-fetched to conclude that something similar has taken place with regard to Murdoch’s relationship to Nielsen and the firm that manufactures their ratings collection devices? It would explain how Fox News could wind up with such a dominate lead in the ratings despite catering to a relatively small potential audience. It would explain why Fox suddenly halted their objections to a new process that they previously considered inaccurate and biased against them.

It would also explain a deep discrepancy between the allegedly broad viewing of Fox News and their nearly invisible impact on the political landscape. If Fox were as ubiquitous as they (and the ratings) claim, then why, during the years of their strongest growth, did they fail to move the country to their positions. With a sustained 24/7 propaganda effort, Fox failed to stop the 2006 Democratic takeover of Congress. They failed to stop the 2008 election of Barack Obama despite incessant and false allegations of him being a Muslim, a radical leftist, and a pal of terrorists. They failed to stop the 2010 passage of a health care bill despite charges of socialism, death panels, and national bankruptcy. Does this sound like a network that holds a commanding majority of America’s television viewers under its sway?

To be sure, I am not the first to question the legitimacy of Nielsen’s numbers. Many people in the industry quietly accept what they regard as a flawed methodology simply because there is no alternative – or because proposed alternatives are even less acceptable. When it suits their purpose, even Fox News complains about the ratings. And I’m not talking about simple complaints concerning minor numerical inconsistencies, but allegations of rampant fraud that warrant federal investigation. After basking in the glow of Nielsen’s data, Bill O’Reilly turns around and castigates them as having “major problems…that have benefited MSNBC,” and asserts that…

O’Reilly: “The bottom line on this is there may be some big-time cheating going on in the ratings system, and we hope the feds will investigate. Any fraud in the television rating system affects all Americans.”

Of course the “feds” don’t have any jurisdiction over private market research firms. And it’s rather hypocritical for O’Reilly to suddenly advocate for big government intruding on the free market. But conservatives like O’Reilly are not averse to hypocrisy when it furthers their agenda. And in this case the agenda is to work the refs at Nielsen and suppress any notion that Fox is not the king of the television hill.

In conclusion, if we are to have any certainty as to who the real king of the hill is, we will need to get to the bottom of this lingering controversy surrounding Nielsen’s systems and procedures. The connection to Murdoch’s covert operations and his history of unlawful corporate espionage cannot be dismissed. Nielsen must investigate their equipment providers and perform intensive examinations of the devices they place in viewers’ homes. Anything short of this would leave them open to charges of complicity and render their survey data useless.

Captain America vs. The Tea Crusaders

Tea CrusadersIn an epic battle of good vs. evil, the archetypal superhero, Captain America, has come out four square against hysterical protest movements that embrace racism and disseminate disinformation in pursuit of a greedy, intolerant agenda: i.e. Tea Crusaders (It aint no party).

Actually, Captain America attempted to express his revulsion of the Tea Crusaders, but agents working for the rightist cabal succeeded in getting his publisher, Marvel Comics, to apologize and remove the offending comments from future printings.

The controversy involved a short segment of the comic wherein Captain America’s alter-ego, Steve Rogers, was observing a protest march by a group of right-wing, anti-tax, activists. The marchers, in an accurate portrayal of reality, were an all-white mob of angry tea-volutionaries carrying signs that recall the Tea Party actions last year. The part that got the Crusaders all worked up contained this image with a sign saying “Tea Bag the Libs Before They Tea Bag You.”

I’m not sure I understand what the Crusaders are grumbling about. The sign being carried by the comic protester is one that has made repeated appearances at Tea Party events. David Weigel of the Washington Independent captured it on film. It is a sentiment that they readily accept and promote. Now, all of a sudden, they are outraged by their own slogans.

As a result of their bellyaching, Marvel Comics, a subsidiary of the Walt Disney Company, took the exceedingly cautious (i.e. cowardly) move of apologizing. And since there was nothing about the comic that was false or defamatory, the only reason for the reversal must be to mollify prospective comic book readers who may also be Tea Baggers.

The moral of the story is that, while Captain America may be able to defeat the most vile and villainous enemies ever dreamed up in the imaginary world of comics, he was vanquished by a very real enemy, an international corporate media conglomerate. I’d say we need to call the X-Men, but they are already in the employ of super-villain Rupert Murdoch.

Ashamed And Sickened By Roger Ailes

Roger Ailes

Fox News CEO Roger Ailes has become a bit of a crimp in the Murdoch family’s harmony. The New York Times is reporting that Matthew Freud, the husband of Rupert Murdoch’s daughter, Elisabeth, is not particularly fond of his in-laws.

Freud: I am by no means alone within the family or the company in being ashamed and sickened by Roger Ailes’s horrendous and sustained disregard of the journalistic standards that News Corporation, its founder and every other global media business aspires to.

Uh oh. That’s gotta make for some awkward holiday gatherings. Freud’s complaint isn’t a trivial personal incompatibility. He is aiming straight at the heart of a news enterprise’s most cherished asset: its journalistic standards. The charge of “horrendous and sustained disregard” is hardly an incidental difference of opinion. And the fact that there are others who share his shame doesn’t smooth things out for Ailes.

Freud is married to Elisabeth Murdoch, who left the family business to run her own UK-based enterprise, Shine Limited. Shine also has interests in the U.S., including Reveille, the company that produces “The Office” and “Ugly Betty.” Elisabeth was an enthusiastic supporter of Barack Obama and held a fundraiser for him in London. That contrasts significantly with the views of Ailes, whom the Times says threatened to quit if Murdoch permitted his New York Post to endorse Obama for president.

The Times notes that Ailes also played a part in Lachlan Murdoch’s decision to leave his father’s company in 2004 and return to Australia. Up until then Lachlan was considered Rupert’s heir apparent. The article goes on to hype Ailes’ mythic reputation as a political strategist and media guru. But what it doesn’t say is that while being successful at lining the pockets of the principles, Fox News was also killing the Republican Party.

It’s good to know that there are some reasonable members of the Murdoch clan who aren’t afraid to voice their opinions. It makes for some interesting speculation about the future of News Corp. when the Murdoch progeny assume control. While son James is still a high-ranking executive running Papa’s European satellite operations, siblings Elisabeth and Lachlan will inherit equal voting shares from their father’s estate.

Should any of this make Ailes nervous? Well, would you want to keep a division head that made you “ashamed and sickened” if you inherited a multinational media empire? Would you allow your news network to continue to have a “horrendous and sustained disregard” for journalistic standards? Would Ailes even want to remain at Fox with Obama supporters as his new bosses? I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

[Update] News Corp responds: “Matthew Freud’s opinions are his own and in no way reflect the views of Rupert Murdoch, who is proud of Roger Ailes and Fox News.”

Rupert Murdoch’s pride in Ailes irrevocably ties him to the insults, lies, and journalistic disrepute that is the hallmark of Ailes and his stars like Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, and Bill O’Reilly. Murdoch again chooses to align himself with the dregs of the television idiocracy. That will be his legacy.

Dick Cheney: Human Events’ Conservative Of The Year.

Award season is in full swing, and the latest recipient of a year-end tribute is former Vice-President Dick Cheney. Human Events magazine has named Cheney “Conservative of the Year.”

Dick Cheney - The End Is Near

To be sure, this commendation lacks stature. After all, last year’s winner was Sarah Palin. Chosen to pen Palin’s accolades was the professional conservative controversialist, Ann Coulter. In her attempt to praise Palin, Coulter wrote such back-handed compliments as…

[1] Who cares if Palin was qualified to be President? [2] Palin was a kick in the pants, she energized conservatives, and she made liberal heads explode. [3] Perhaps Palin’s year is 2012, but I would recommend that she take a little more time to become older and wiser.

Pretty much the only positive thing Coulter could find to say about Palin was that she was a “genius at annoying all the right people.” While annoying people is a subject that Coulter has some familiarity with, it still begs the question, with friends like Coulter, who needs enemas?

Cheney fared little better with regard to the selection of his advocate. The honor of fluffing Cheney fell to former United Nations Ambassador, John Bolton. Bolton begins his plaudits by enumerating a list of things Cheney is NOT doing:

He is not running for President or any other office. He has not formed a PAC or a D.C. lobbying firm. He is not dishing on former colleagues, not spreading gossip, not settling scores.

Those, however, all sound like things that last year’s honoree, Palin, IS doing, and about which Bolton apparently disapproves. It’s rather telling that Human Events had to settle for someone they admit is so completely out of the political limelight. It speaks to the absence of credible leaders warming up in the conservative bullpen. The rest of the article makes a case very similar to the one Coulter made for Palin. It is basically an argument that Cheney was an effective thorn in the new administration’s side. To conservatives, that is what constitutes qualification for a prestigious award. Not setting policy, or advancing ideas, or accumulating support, but by being a nuisance. Bolton does end on a positive note by summing up Cheney’s attributes as a loyal public servant, saying he is…

“…a very experienced, very dedicated patriot, giving his fellow citizens his best analysis on how to keep them and their country safe.”

I’m not so sure that having Cheney’s “best analysis” is particularly comforting. I mean, this is the guy under who’s watch the nation suffered its worst act of terrorism ever. It’s the guy who led America into an unnecessary war justified by lies. And it’s the guy who has consistently been the herald of doom and worse, a virtual advance man for Al Qaeda. By repeatedly proclaiming his view that our country is less safe under President Obama, and therefore more vulnerable, Cheney and his cohorts are effectively inviting another terrorist attack. How does announcing to our enemies that he believes our nation is becoming weaker make us safer? Does he even care? Or is he just pasting a big bull’s eye on America and hoping for an “I told you so” moment?

In any case, I give you Richard Bruce Cheney – Human Events’ Conservative of the Year. I suppose it’s the best they could do.

The Case For The Comcast/NBC Merger

There has been, and will be, much discussion about the proposed merger between entertainment giants NBC/Universal and Comcast. Now that an agreement has been formally entered into, the discussions will likely become even more heated. Media reform advocates like FreePress are already organizing opposition to the deal. Free market capitalists want it to go through without interference from the government.

However, the government has a legitimate role to play to insure fair competition and to advance the interests of the public. Hearings will be held by the FCC, the FTC, and several congressional committees over the next year before the marriage can be consummated. Opponents will make the argument that a combined Comcast/NBCU would dominate access to entertainment programming and news on both cable and the Internet. Estimates show that Comcast, already the largest US provider of cable service and Internet access, would control up to 25% of all content. Comcast, on the other hand, will promise not to abuse their market position. If you’re naive enough to take their word for that, you might not think it’s such a bad deal. Unfortunately, Comcast has not been a particularly conscientious steward of the power they already have. And approving the merger would surely propel competitors to similarly bulk up to face the new, more scopious Comcast.

Ordinarily, I am a knee jerk opponent to any kind of media consolidation. The scope and reach of the Five Families of media (GE, Disney, Viacom, News Corp, and Time Warner) already wield far too much influence over everything we see, hear and read. I have long advocated breaking up these anti-competitive conglomerates and re-introducing real competition, independence, and diversity into the media marketplace. I still believe that deconsolidation is an achievable objective, though fairly far off on the time line.

In the meantime, what does this merger present to the current marketplace? Is Comcast really a worse partner for NBCU than GE, the world’s biggest defense contractor? Conflicts of interest in program content and distribution cause considerable harm, but is it any less harmful than conflicts that involve the production of military goods and weapons? GE’s reach extends even further into consumer products, financial services, information systems and health care technology. That’s a pretty broad scope for potential conflicts.

The Comcast merger offers some opportunities if implemented responsibly. Regulatory agencies can impose restrictions to prevent market abuse that would apply to all players, not just Comcast. They could mandate open access to airwaves and cable lines. They could codify network neutrality. They could promote localism to enhance the community service obligations that networks routinely ignore.

Comcast is already making noises about how they want to be better corporate citizens. They contend that they will comply with reasonable conditions set for the merger by the FCC and others. They promise that the corporate office will not influence news reporting at NBC or MSNBC. They vow to keep their content available to competing services like DirecTV. They have even taken a position in support of health care reform, explicitly repudiating the position of the US Chamber of Commerce, of which they are a member.

Of course, These may all be tactics designed to curry favor with the administration in hopes of clearing a path for approval of the merger. If so, that could also be an opportunity. The agencies and congressional committees reviewing the matter could extract significant concessions and make them binding for all of the monopolistic media enterprises.

Another somewhat more amusing benefit is the new relationship that would be forged between Fox and the NBC News unit. Bill O’Reilly and others at Fox have taken great pleasure in demonizing NBC and its current parent GE. For the most part they go after the executives because they are afraid to utter Keith Olbermann’s name aloud. O’Reilly has called GE’s CEO, Jeffrey Immelt, “a despicable human being” and has spewed impotent threats, saying…

“That Immelt man answers to me. . . . That’s why I’m in this business right now, to get guys like that.”

Um, OK. If you say so. So who will O’Reilly bash now? If he were to go off on Comcast CEO Brian Roberts, he might find himself regretting it. Comcast may decide that Fox News would be better off on a more expensive, upper tier, cable package. That could significantly reduce the number of homes that Fox would reach. Such a move would impact their ratings as well as their revenue from both advertising and cable subscription fees. Comcast might also decide that its new asset, MSNBC, would be a better fit on their basic cable packages, which it is not currently on in many markets. That obstacle to access has been a longstanding impediment to MSNBC’s ratings performance.

Like all bullies, O’Reilly is likely to keep his fat mouth shut about Roberts and Comcast. When there is really something at stake, he will cower in the corner and stick with his War on Christmas shtick. O’Reilly would never send Stuttering Jesse Watters to ambush Roberts. He’d rather stay comfy in his studio holding hands with Dick Morris as they demonstrate how little they know about any subject they address. And Roger Ailes and Rupert Murdoch would probably bury O’Reilly if he were to damage their relationship with the nation’s biggest cable operator. So maybe O’Reilly might actually have to confront Olbermann man to man. Although he would certainly lose that contest too.

In conclusion, I can’t get excited about another merger of big media megaliths. But I can’t really muster a great deal of antagonism about this one. I don’t see it as worse than the status quo, and I do see an opportunity to tighten regulatory oversight for the whole industry. That is, if the regulators and the administration have the will. Stayed tuned.

Rupert Murdoch: Media Vulture

News Corp chairman Rupert Murdoch appeared today at a conference sponsored by the Federal Trade Commission. His address touched upon many of the issues he has been peddling recently regarding journalism’s future and the Internet.

Murdoch continues to make noises about locking up his content behind pay walls. That is as unlikely now as it was when he first proposed it. Few will pay for the disinformation he calls news. He still believes that Google is stealing his product and he repeats his threat to de-list it from the search giant. We’re still waiting, Rupert. And we’re still waiting for you to stop stealing the content of others on your Fox News and Fox Nation web sites, where you do exactly what you are accusing Google and other aggregators of doing.

Among the more intriguing remarks he made today were those associated with the government’s involvement, or lack thereof, with media. In Murdoch’s view the government ought to stay away from any effort to help the struggling industry. By this he means that anything resembling a bailout ought to be avoided. Let the weaker players fail. At the same time he is anxious for government to get involved with respect to reforming regulations. Particularly those that impose limits on cross-ownership.

What Murdoch wants is for the government to refrain from any initiative that might help shaky media enterprises because he is more than happy to see them fail. They are his competition. When they go under, his market share increases, at least potentially. And while many media firms are struggling financially, Murdoch has the resources to deficit finance his own operations until the economy improves. Then he can scoop up new business and failed businesses at bargain rates. Especially if he is freed from the ownership caps he hopes to be able to eliminate.

It is a cynical and cold-hearted strategy that feeds off of the misfortune of others. And it is quintessentially Rupert.

Rupert Murdoch Censors Glenn Beck – The China Chronicles

When a courageous speaker of truth emerges from the forest of lies that is modern media, the risk is ever present that censorship, suppression, or worse could occur. Sadly, that is the case today. Glenn Beck produced an episode of his program that continued his valiant search for communists burrowing into the woodwork of America like subversive termites eating away at the foundation of our national home. However, this episode has mysteriously disappeared. Fortunately, I have acquired a transcript (h/t Esquire) of the “Lost Episode” that reveals perhaps the most insidious enemy of freedom yet unveiled by Beck.

[Editor: Everything below regarding Murdoch and China is true]

GLENN BECK: My viewers know that I am not the sort of guy who resorts to sensationalism and hyperbole, but today’s show is going to cause blood to shoot out of your eyes. You will totally freak out and very likely wet your pants, as I did when I found this out. In short, there are forces in the media who are directing the course of our nation’s future, and it’s not who you think it is.

If you think this country is great, but ogres are hiding under the bed waiting to defile you while you sleep, then wake up – and come on, follow me.

Hello America. I am going to ask you to pay special attention to today’s program because this is going to get complicated. Keep a pencil and notepad handy. You will want to take notes.

On previous shows I’ve warned you about the extreme radicals and avowed communists that are holding important positions in our government. I’ve warned you about conspiracies like ACORN and the National Endowment for the Arts. I’ve exposed Van Jones and Mark Lloyd and Valerie Jarrett. I know, the liberal elite are going to complain that I only go after black folks. “Oh, he’s a racist. He doesn’t like the darkies.” But that isn’t true. I also exposed the safe schools czar, Kevin Jennings, and he is a white fag…I mean gay. The point is that radicals are taking root at every level of government. People who hate the principles we devout Christians hold dear.

But today’s program is about more than just the government. Oh yes, it touches every part of the government but it has maybe even more power in this country and around the world. It’s the media.

When I talked earlier this year about how we, the patriots and truthtellers, are actually surrounding all of the weasels and the traitors, I meant every word. Barack Hussein Obama’s czars have been dispatched to every corner of Washington’s power grid. But in the case of the media, it really is surrounding us. It’s everywhere. In our homes, our cars, our offices, our fast food restaurants. It is being fed into us intravenously. We are all being indoctrinated 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I don’t want to scare you, but I’m speaking to you right now on the media. Sure, the liberal pansies will cry “But aren’t you a big, rich, media star, with all your TV and radio and books?” And I shout right back at them “Well maybe I am, but you’re forgetting that I rarely make any sense and besides, shut your friggin pie hole!”

I want to tell you all something that I just recently learned from the guy who delivers my pizza. He stumbled on an article in that bastion of progressive propaganda, the New York Times, that was hidden under a pile of Hefty bags in the alley behind his shop. Now how did it get there? Hmmm? A copy of a major American newspaper, rolled up and stuffed in the trash? What are they trying to hide? Quite a lot, as you’ll soon see.

Now, it is not commonly known that the biggest media mogul in the world is a fellow named Rupert Murdoch. He runs more TV and newspaper businesses throughout the world than anyone, but still complains about the bias in the mainstream press. I mean, duh. Who does he think he is, the Pennysaver? He’s Australian by birth, but he went to live in socialist Europe, and later came to the United States. When he wanted to buy an American TV network, he got his socialist friends in the Congress to make him a U.S. citizen, which was a prerequisite for owning a network. After receiving that special treatment, he made sure to bash any other immigrants who aspired to live and work the greatest country in the world.

Then he began to build what is the most frightening corporate empire you can ever imagine. Now, the problem isn’t just that it’s big, because I happen to love big business and free enterprise. The problem is who he is in business with.

This Murdoch is very tightly entwined with one of America’s most vicious enemies. The People’s Republic of China. This association begins in his own family. His third wife, Wendi Deng, is a mainland Chinese who once worked for his Hong Kong-based satellite broadcast company, Star TV. Star TV was run by James Murdoch, Rupert’s son. Um, OK. James is the guy who complained that western reporters in China supported “destabilizing forces” that are “very, very dangerous for the Chinese government.” So let me get this straight. He was defending the communists against reporters from America? OK.

Under the supervision of Rupert and James, Star TV bent its programming to favor the brutal Chinese regime. In 1994 it dropped BBC News, which had frequently angered Chinese officials. One of the reports that angered the Chinese was of the brave soul who famously stood up to a flank of Chinese tanks in Tiananmen Square. The BBC replayed that video too much, so Murdoch had the network banished.

By cooperating with the communist censors in China, Murdoch earned the friendship of some very important people. The article in the Times noted that…

“His courtship has made him the Chinese leadership’s favorite foreign media baron. He has dined with former President Jiang Zemin in the Zhongnanhai leadership compound in Beijing and repeatedly met other members of the ruling Politburo in Beijing, New York and London. Television channels affiliated with Mr. Murdoch beam more programming into China than any other foreign media group.”

Uh oh. So this relationship was a boon to his financial interests. Do you think that the $50 billion ad market in China had anything to do with that? I don’t know, I’m just asking. But Murdoch was awfully cozy with these guys. His book publishing division, HarperCollins, was kind enough to put out a book of fawning propaganda about the former leader, Deng Xiaoping, that was written by his daughter, Deng Rong. He also halted publication of a book by former Hong Kong governor Chris Patten that was critical of the Chinese. Hmmm. Propaganda good – criticism bad.

In 1996, Murdoch entered a joint venture with Liu Changle, a onetime radio host for the People’s Liberation Army. And you know those radio hosts. They aren’t nothin but a bunch of ignorant, egotistical, blowhards trying to spread disinformation. This new partnership led to an even closer association with China’s propaganda machine. Murdoch was now hanging out with Propaganda Department chief, Ding Guangen, and then Prime Minister, Zhu Rongji. Another partner was the Central Committee of the Communist Youth League, considered the political power base of China’s new top leader, Hu Jintao. He parlayed these relationships into a new business, building the Internet sites for China Central Television (CCTV) and the People’s Daily, the mouthpiece of the Communist Party.

Murdoch later was permitted to launch MySpace China. He agreed to all of China’s regulations on Internet censorship and placed a convenient link on every page for users to report inappropriate information to the authorities. How thoughtful of him. I wonder how many Chinese dissidents disappeared due that little feature?

If you are not already rolled up in the fetal position under a table, I don’t know what to tell you. This is serious stuff, and it is one of the reasons I have never feared more for the future of my country. When the biggest media conglomerate in the world is in bed with the world’s biggest communist nation, how much longer can we expect to remain free? And remember, China has us by the short hairs due to all of the U.S. debt they hold.

America…It is more important now than ever to be vigilant and strong. I don’t know how much longer I will be allowed to say these things in public. I told you before that certain entities were threatening to silence anyone who speaks truthfully. I told you to listen between the sentences where I will be screaming at you. I told you to be suspicious of any reports of my demise. Do you think I want to get on the air every night and tell you this stuff? I don’t want to believe these things, but unfortunately I find them true. It’s not my damn fault. Get off my fucking back. And stop following me around. I mean, come on, follow me. Believe me. Love me. Worship me. I’m doing all of this for you. Can’t you see that?

America is at a crossroads. Which way will we go? Further to the left, where communism, tyranny, aliens, and universal health care torment every citizen? Or back to the right, where unregulated free enterprise allows clowns like me to make millions by peddling fear and phony conspiracies? Do you want to repeat the Age of Enlightenment, when society was burdened with reason and the harshness of reality. Or would you prefer the glorious Dark Ages when people relied on faith and the comforting fear of a just and vengeful God?

I know which road I’m taking. I hope to see you on it. Good night, America.

That’s the end of the transcript. The Murdoch/China connection is pretty well blown wide open now, thanks to Glenn Beck. The question is, will this episode ever see the light of day? And now that the transcript is out, will Beck be punished for his insolence? Is Murdoch already laying the groundwork for Beck’s downfall? What exactly is the connection between Murdoch and Color of Change, who have been orchestrating a surprisingly successful campaign aimed at Beck’s advertisers? About 80 advertisers have already declared that they will not purchase time on Beck’s program Could that have been accomplished without Murdoch’s knowledge and assistance?

I don’t know. I’m just asking?

Fox News Is Both The Most And Least Trusted News Network

Illustrating the ever-widening rift in American politics, a new poll by the Sacred Heart University shows that Fox News is the most trusted news organization (30%), as well as the least trusted (26.2%). That adds up to a 3.8% net trust for Fox. By comparison, CNN was most trusted by 19.5% and least trusted by 8.5%, for an 11% net trust.

Much of the rest of the poll’s results were decidedly negative for the media as a whole. Respondents consider them to be biased and more concerned with ratings than quality reporting. But the most profound observation in the survey, in my view, dealt with public perceptions of the media business and the monopolistic enterprises that dominate it:

“Nearly three-quarters, 71.0%, believed it is very (31.8%) or somewhat (39.3%) important that limits be placed on how many media outlets one company should own. Another 24.7% believe such limits are somewhat unimportant (8.4%) or not at all important (16.3%). Some, 4.4%, were unsure.”

“Over half of all respondents, 56.7%, believed it’s “bad for democracy” that six companies currently own almost all the major media outlets in the United States. Another 30.4% suggested it does not matter while 7.8% indicated it was good for democracy.”

That’s a particularly encouraging response from a survey that also reports majorities who believe that the media is predominantly liberal. With that kind of support for expanding diversity in media ownership, the prospects increase substantially for responsible regulations. This may portend one of the best opportunities for efforts to roll back the destructive consolidation that ensued since the passage of the ill-advised Communications Act of 1996.

Update: Bill O’Reilly cited this study in his Pinheads and Patriots segment. Except the only part he cited was that Fox News is the most most trusted network. He conveniently neglected to mention that it was also the least trusted. Does that make him a pinhead?

Rupert Murdoch’s Anti-Competitive Internet News Cartel

The newspaper industry’s woes are nothing new. They have been suffering declining revenues in both subscriptions and advertising for a couple of years. Some portion of that decline is attributable to the economy, but there is no question that the Internet has had an impact as well.

Rupert Murdoch, Chairman of news behemoth News Corporation, has been grumbling about what he regards as theft of his content for some time. Earlier this month he addressed a shareholder’s meeting and announced that News Corp would soon be charging for all of its Internet news properties. That, in my opinion, would fail to produce the results Murdoch desires. There is an abundance of news available online for free and there is little evidence that people would pay for access to Fox News or the New York Post.

Nevertheless, the Los Angeles Times is reporting that Murdoch is seeking to assemble the most powerful families in the news business to create a syndicate that would extort money from the news consuming public:

“As newspapers across the country struggle with declining readership and advertising revenue, News Corp. executives have been meeting in recent weeks with publishers about forming a consortium that would charge for news distributed online and on portable devices — and potentially stem the rising tide of red ink.”

The participating companies include the New York Times, Washington Post, Hearst Corp. and Tribune Co. With a roster like that it is difficult to imagine that they could get very far without being questioned by the Justice Department. The appearance of collusion and anti-trust activity could not be more conspicuous. There is no plausible justification for these enterprises to collectively plot a pay scheme for their individual services. It is blatantly anti-competitive and disadvantageous to consumers.

In the end, Murdoch’s proposals would not even resolve the problems the industry is facing. Any revenue that would be generated in this fashion would be a tiny percentage of the earnings these companies produce. And if they are presently losing customers who are willing to pay for subscriptions, what makes them think that these same customers would pay for the same product online?

The prospective members of Murdoch’s cartel should think long and hard about whether his counsel has any value. His own business just reported a loss of $3.4 billion. He personally was forced to take a 28% pay cut. His stewardship of MySpace is notable for his having turned it into a has-been, anti-social network that has been eclipsed by Facebook and Twitter. The New York Post has lost about $50 million annually for the past ten years. His track record on the Internet is abysmal. He is yesterday’s baron of dead-tree media whose only success has been with a cable “news” network that traffics in sensationalism and propaganda. Is this really someone whose advice should be taken seriously?

To sum up, Murdoch has a record of incompetence with regard to new media. The online pay model has failed spectacularly in all but a few non-representative cases. There is little money to be made by charging online news consumers. The availability of free news online is not only not receding, it is advancing. When the residue of the old world media is cleared from the landscape, and the economy regains some stability and vibrancy, then advertising will resume its customary place for funding news services online just like it has on every other platform it has ever employed.

The last thing the industry needs is to listen to a washed up, ink stained, relic who advocates strong-arming newspapers and consumers into an unlawful strategy that is bound to fail.