Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. has made an unsolicited offer to purchase the Dow Jones Company, owner of, among other things, the Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones is majority controlled by the Bancroft family, who have been reluctant to sell in the past. But the combination of the poor performance of newspaper investments and the nearly 50% premium that Murdoch is offering may represent a more tempting proposal than they have seen before. The significance of this potential acquisition extends to a variety of concerns that should raise field of red flags.
News Corp is rapidly overwhelming the most intimate and influential components of our society.
The first and most obvious concern relates to the ongoing problem of media consolidation. The News Corp. empire already owns the nation’s largest cable news network, a major broadcast entertainment network, numerous TV and radio stations, a prominent film/TV studio, entertainment and sports cable networks, magazine and newspaper holdings, publishing companies including HarperCollins, and Internet properties including the world’s largest social networking site, MySpace. Dow Jones, in addition to the Wall Street Journal, owns the Dow Jones Newswire, Barrons Magazine, the Dow Jones Indexes, and popular Internet destinations spun off of the Journal and Barrons.
The thought of these two highly influential media conglomerates merging should stir up some anxiety under any circumstances. But add in the recent announcement by Fox of their intention to launch a new Fox Business Channel this fall and that anxiety should escalate into full blown vertigo. Placing the assets of Dow Jones under the same umbrella that runs what will be a formidable player in cable financial news will produce an anti-competitive megalith that can only result in a decline in journalistic aspirations as well as further erosion of the public interest. But the problem is worse than just any media group acquiring Dow Jones. The Fox aqcuisition brings along with it Murdoch’s previously admitted biases and rejection of the most basic principles of journalism. As a reminder, Murdoch told conferees at a McGraw-Hill media summit that…
“…a Fox channel would be ‘more business-friendly than CNBC.’ That channel ‘leap[s] on every scandal, or what they think is a scandal.'”
If that’s a preview of what we can expect from the Fox Business Channel, and the Fox-run Wall Street Journal, we do have real cause for concern. It would mean an end to objectivity and accuracy in favor of being more “friendly” toward the institutions that are being covered.
But that’s not all. The assets of Dow Jones span a unique stretch of the American landscape. The Wall Street Journal, while widely considered to have a conservative slant on its editorial pages, is often a valuable contributor to serious investigative journalism. And its management of the stock market indexes that influence much of the economic activity in the country, and the world, depend on fealty to the marketplace and not other subjective criteria. How can such impartial management be expected from Murdoch, who also made this confession at a conference in Davos, Switzerland, when asked if he had managed to shape the agenda on the war in Iraq:
“No, I don’t think so. We tried.” Asked by [Charlie] Rose for further comment, he said: “We basically supported the Bush policy in the Middle East.”
Would he try to use his new toys to shape the economy by publishing articles supportive of Bush (or other neocon) policy? Would he try to manipulate the contents of the Dow 30, or other market indexes, for partisan purposes?
Murdoch’s ambitions are notorious and frightening. These latest moves bring us closer to the tightening of the noose around America’s throat. News Corp is rapidly overwhelming the most intimate and influential components of our society. They may soon control the perceptions of our politics (Fox News), our culture (Fox Entertainment), and now our economy (Fox Business Channel/DowJones). And anyone who isn’t afraid of this – afraid enough to be motivated to act – is probably already infected, likely beyond salvation. I hope that does not include YOU!