Australia investigates Murdoch empire, superficially

This video from Britain is called Hugh Grant Presses Phone Hacking Issue At Lib Dem Conference.

By Mike Head in Australia:

Australian media “inquiry” designed to protect Murdoch empire

20 September 2011

The Gillard government last week announced a narrowly-focussed inquiry into the print and on-line media. The six-month inquiry, to be run by a former judge with no powers to compel witnesses, is clearly designed to defend Rupert Murdoch’s interests in the face of the ongoing phone-hacking and influence-peddling scandal wracking his News International group in Britain and globally.

Communications minister Senator Stephen Conroy flatly ruled out any examination of the two most obvious issues raised by the exposure of Murdoch’s British operations: whether his News Limited outlets have conducted similar activities in Australia, and the grip that Murdoch and a handful of other proprietors have over the Australian media—which has one of the most concentrated ownership structures in the world.

“In terms of a witch hunt to breakup News Limited or to attack News Limited, we’re not interested,” Conroy told a media conference last Wednesday. “I don’t need an inquiry to establish that the Murdoch press owns 70 percent of the newspapers in this country. We’ve all known that for years.”

In fact, the inquiry seeks to strengthen the virtual monopoly held over the Australian print media by News Limited and John Fairfax Holdings, which between them own 11 of the 12 capital city daily papers and the overwhelming majority of the regional and local papers. The government’s overriding concern is that the explosion of on-line media outlets over the past decade has undermined the power of the media moguls.

Conroy said: “The pressures brought about by the advent of digital technologies and the 24 hour news cycle are threatening the traditional business models that support the essential role of the media in our democratic society.” The Labor government, no less than the press barons, is concerned at the intrusion of the Internet and its wider range of commentary and expression into the present, tightly controlled media monopoly.

The inquiry’s terms of reference speak of exploring means of “supporting the investment by traditional media organisations in quality journalism and the production of news.” This terminology echoes that used by Murdoch himself in 2009, when he announced measures to try to reverse the rapidly declining profits of his newspapers around the world by making readers pay for on-line content.

Murdoch denounced the “content kleptomaniacs” of the Internet, declaring that the time had come to shut the door on them. He told analysts in mid-2009 that the traditional newspaper business model had to change. “Quality journalism is not cheap, and an industry that gives away its content is simply cannibalising its ability to produce good reporting,” he said.

In reality, Murdoch’s media outlets have nothing to do with “quality journalism”. In Australia, as in Britain and the US, they pursue a relentless free-market agenda, coupled with flag-waving support for US-led military interventions and a constant diet of sensationalism, banality and the demonising of workers, refugees and other vulnerable people.

Through their monopoly, the media empires wield considerable political power. As Conroy himself declared: “They set the agenda every day for our national conversation.” Since being installed in June 2010 through a backroom coup, Prime Minister Julia Gillard has at least twice met with Murdoch personally, and time and again her government has taken its cue from his News Limited editorials.

There is nothing in the inquiry’s terms of reference about privacy breaches, the issue that triggered the British revelations. For all the self-serving claims of the media groups that there is “no evidence” of similar practices in Australia, there have been frequent examples of the media intruding into the lives of particularly the most vulnerable layers of society, such as welfare recipients, in order to demonise them. Any probing of such practices might well open a can of worms—as it did in Britain.

Britain: The Metropolitan Police threatened Guardian journalists with the Official Secrets Act over the paper’s reports on the phone-hacking scandal that engulfed the Murdoch media empire earlier this year: here.

On Tuesday, citing procedural irregularities, the Met dropped its attempt to force the Guardian to hand over its sources for stories exposing phone hacking by Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World: here.

MPs are set to question a top Scotland Yard officer over the Met’s dropped bid to force the Guardian to reveal confidential sources relating to the phone-hacking scandal: here.

Former News of the World editor Andy Coulson is suing his ex-employer after it stopped paying his legal fees in relation to the phone-hacking scandal: here.

Rupert Murdoch’s News International has made a £3 million offer to the family of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler. It is an attempt to settle the phone hacking case that led to the closure of the News of the World: here.

Surrey Police knew for nine years that the News of the World hacked the phone of murdered teenager Milly Dowler: here.

Rupert Murdoch wants to teach your kids: here.

New allegations about the phone-hacking scandal have hit News International, with claims of more victims and fresh legal rows: here.

Conrad Black: My Destruction by Murdoch: here.

12 thoughts on “Australia investigates Murdoch empire, superficially

  1. Murdoch paper hacked minister’s voice mail: sources

    By Mark Hosenball

    Thu Sep 22, 2011 1:49pm EDT

    (Reuters) – Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World hacked extensively into the voice mail of a minister in Britain’s former Labour government, according to three people familiar with the matter.

    The unauthorized access to voice mails left for Denis MacShane in 2004 and 2005, as he served as Minister for Europe, is one of a handful of cases to surface involving a serving government official in the phone hacking scandal that has engulfed Murdoch’s News Corp.

    A private detective hired by the weekly tabloid, which was closed by Murdoch in July as controversy over phone hacking allegation raged, hacked the voice mails left for MacShane, according to the three people familiar with documentary evidence held by British police.

    MacShane remains a Member of Parliament, representing the city of Rotherham, South Yorkshire.

    Some of MacShane’s messages hacked by Glenn Mulcaire, a private detective who worked on retainer for the News of the World, included voice mails from Joan Smith, a newspaper columnist and crime novelist with whom MacShane had a personal relationship at the time, the evidence shows.

    The people familiar with the evidence said that the News of the World’s objective in hacking MacShane’s and Smith’s messages appeared to be to discover more information about their private relationship. However, the paper never published a story on the subject.

    At one point, according to documents police seized from Mulcaire, the private eye wrote down details, apparently obtained from MacShane’s voice mail, relating to a trip MacShane was about to take to Spain. The details included MacShane’s flight number and arrival times, one of the sources said.

    Another source familiar with the evidence said that Mulcaire’s records included the home and mobile phone numbers of MacShane, Smith and MacShane’s brother, and that the Spain trip information hacked by Mulcaire related to a confidential mission MacShane was making in his capacity as one of Prime Minister Tony Blair’s principal advisors on Europe.

    “The idea that the (newspaper) could get into phones of a senior government official was worrying,” this source said. An official familiar with British government security measures said that such phone hacking might have raised questions about security at Britain’s Foreign Office, although it probably would not have been regarded as a major breach of national security.

    MacShane and Smith declined requests to comment for this story. But Tamsin Allen, a lawyer with the London firm Bindmans LLP who represents MacShane, said police were in possession of phone-hacking notes made by Mulcaire about MacShane which contained information on MacShane and Smith. She said that MacShane had launched a hacking-related legal claim against the Murdoch organization.

    A representative of News International, Murdoch’s London-based newspaper company, said the company was not commenting on any individual cases. But this person said: “News International continues to cooperate fully with the Metropolitan Police Service in its investigations. We are eager to assist it in any way possible to ensure that those responsible for criminal acts are brought to justice.”

    Sarah Webb, a lawyer for Mulcaire, declined to comment.


    One of the sources familiar with the evidence of how Mulcaire hacked MacShane and Smith’s messages said that the evidence strongly suggested that the hacking had been requested by a News of the World journalist other than Clive Goodman, a former Royal correspondent who was the first journalist at the tabloid to be implicated in phone hacking.

    In 2007, Goodman and Mulcaire both were briefly jailed after they pleaded guilty to charges alleging that they hacked into the voice mail of aides to members of Britain’s royal family.

    Top Murdoch company executives in London said at the time that the hacking by Mulcaire and Goodman was an isolated occurrence. But evidence has surfaced recently that the practice was much more widespread.

    MacShane is one of several dozen people who believe they were targets of media intrusion who have been granted status as “core participants” in a wide-ranging public inquiry into media reporting practices which was set up on the orders of Britain’s current coalition government.

    The inquiry, led by Lord Justice Brian Leveson, an English appeals court judge, is expected to begin hearing evidence in the next few weeks. Joan Smith has also been granted “core participant” status by the Leveson inquiry.

    According to a person familiar with the inquiry, core participant status means that the inquiry will pay for a senior lawyer to advise and represent the participant at the inquiry. At some point the participant also will be granted access to evidence police collected during their phone-hacking related investigations.

    People familiar with police inquiries related to phone hacking said that London’s Metropolitan Police Service, also known as Scotland Yard, obtained much of the key evidence of alleged News of the World phone hacking years ago, at the time of Mulcaire and Goodman’s initial arrest. But the evidence was not acted upon until police opened aggressive new inquiries into alleged media abuses earlier this year.

    One of the issues the Leveson inquiry will examine is how Scotland Yard handled its investigations of phone hacking and other media practices over the years.

    (Reporting by Mark Hosenball; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)


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