Bill Black Report: The Murdoch empire, including Rupert’s son James, is riddled with scandals, corruption and bribery
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SHARMINI PERIES, EXEC. PRODUCER, TRNN: Welcome to the Black Report on The Real News Network. I’m Sharmini Peries coming to you from Baltimore. Rupert Murdoch is planning to step down as the CEO of 21st Century Fox. To some this is news, but to the rest of us it’s been coming for some time now, almost ten years. His sons will be taking over. Murdoch’s infamous media empire consists of about a hundred newspapers, dozens of television stations, and he himself is sporting almost $14 billion worth of net worth. His legacy for journalism and news in the world and in the United States in particular is a topic of our next discussion, and particularly how he covered the issue of crime. Financial crime, in specificity. Bill Black is joining us for that. Bill, as you know, is coming to us now from Quito these days, and he’s at the National Institute for Higher Education there. Bill is a former bank regulator and the author of The Best Way to Rob a Bank Is To Own One. Bill, as always, thank you for joining us. BILL BLACK, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF ECONOMICS AND LAW, UMKC: Thank you. PERIES: So Bill, give us a rundown of the significance of his retirement, or his pending retirement and what we have learned from it, as per your recent article. BLACK: Well, there’s probably very little significance. As you say, he has been trying to transition his sons into positions where they can be the natural folks to take over the organization. He ran into a problem because James, the one who by the way he’s setting up as the next CEO, got involved in the scandal in the United Kingdom on bugging people and such, and bribing the police to get information on victims and a number of disgusting things. But after a very short time of penance, James is brought back in not only to the fold but to run the whole organization. And the other son is brought in from Australia, running operations there. So they’re the dual heir apparents, with James being the guy that will be number one. By the way, it’s also significant that they’re coming to the United States, because while Rupert Murdoch likes to complain in the Wall Street Journal and on Fox about the terrible American taxes, all three of the Murdochs are locating in the United States because it results in significantly lower taxes for them. PERIES: And in terms of the way in which the Murdoch empire has covered financial issues and banking issues and crime, you seem to have been laser-focused on some of that activity. Tell us more. BLACK: Sure. Murdoch worldwide doesn’t care, of course, about elite white collar crime except that it’s become so epidemic that actually the Wall Street Journal reads like a crime blotter of elite white collar crime. There is not a single day in which you don’t find prominent treatment of white collar crime in the news section. But when you go of course to the editorial section, the only way to get hired at the Wall Street Journal in the editorial staff even before Murdoch was to be absolutely a loon on economic issues. And the Wall Street Journal pushes the idea that anybody that wants to prosecute elite white collar criminals is probably a communist. I mean, they actually literally do op-ed after op-ed making this position, and saying that even the use of the phrase ‘white collar crime’ indicates that you’re talking about class, and that it’s, of course should be verboten to talk about class in America. So it’s odd in that the paper has these two in some sense opposite dimensions. In one case reporting massive amounts of crime, and the other saying but it’s not a problem, and we certainly shouldn’t do anything about it. Certainly nothing as uncivil as to put people who wear very expensive suits in prisons. PERIES: Bill, this kind of a media empire that he had built, not only 21st Century Fox but Fox News, and a conglomerate of newspaper chains that he owned across the world, can you give us a sense of what that empire looks like when it comes to the financial press? BLACK: Yes, and more generally, indeed I just gave a talk on this. I called it in the United Kingdom an oligopoly of oligarchs. So Murdoch all by himself owns newspapers that have over 40 percent of the total readership in the United Kingdom. And his ownership in radio and television has similar percentages. So there are six media owners in the United Kingdom that have 80 percent of the readership and 80 percent of the viewership on television, and whatever you call listeners in radio. So that’s six billionaires control overwhelmingly the news content. And they are overwhelmingly ultra-conservative supporters of the most extreme elements of the Tories. In a number of other countries like Australia, where Murdoch of course started, that control, depending on the time period, can be even more extreme. And collectively there’s nobody like him in the world. So when he negotiates on, with global enterprises, he has far more power than anyone else. And of course, he brings the same worldview to every one of these papers. And even local television stations in the United States, to a fair degree. The Fox affiliates all on at least major editorial matters have to follow the same views. And Fox is a place where you literally get not quite a script, but a daily here’s what we’re going to push. Right, so it is simply a sham of journalism. And as bad as the Wall Street Journal is on white collar crime, at least it reports it, whereas Fox typically excludes it except when it’s one of those must-carry type items. PERIES: Bill, the Murdoch worldview that we have been absorbed by, how long has this been going on? BLACK: Oh, for decades. But in the United States his power, of course, has long been through Fox. But it was his takeover of the Wall Street Journal, where he of course promised that it would not affect the news section, and I can tell you personally from dealing with the news section that it has completely corrupted the news as well as the editorial section. So 15, 20 years ago when I would be contacted by a Wall Street Journal reporter, they would emphasize hey, I’m the news side. I’m not the crazies on the editorial side. We play it straight. They don’t even bother with that pretense when they talk to you these days. PERIES: And his empire runs all the way into China, and how the Chinese financial issues are also covered. BLACK: It does, but China is a very different place, which of course has enormous controls on the media and enormous public ownership of the media. So it has a whole bunch of different pathologies going on at the same time, unlike the United States that has one big pathology. PERIES: Bill, this is a good time. We are having a fundraising campaign for why we need the Real News, particularly with this kind of media space we’re in, engulfed by the Murdoch empire. Which in spite of his resignation coming up, I’m sure is not going to change how we see the world through the eyes of Fox empire. BLACK: No. And it’s designed indeed with the positioning of his kids to make sure that our grandkids will be Murdoched. So The Real News is in one of those increasingly rare places where you get, well, what that title says, real news. A much higher dose of substantive material from people that you will rarely see, even people that consider themselves progressives and watch MSNBC, well, they’re rarely going to see people like me on MSNBC. So Murdoch has moved the, what’s defined as the center so far to the right that even mainstream entities like MSNBC are deeply, deeply to the right on economic issues and don’t really want fundamental things called into question, whereas Real News calls into question enormous numbers of shibboleths on a daily basis. PERIES: Bill Black, thank you so much for joining us from Quito, and I look forward to your next report. BLACK: Thank you, and thank Real News and everybody that works together to put it out. PERIES: And don’t forget, we are in a campaign for raising money so that we can continue to do what we do, and I hope you take a minute and click the donate button.
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