The Scotsman’s columnist, George Kerevan, defends Rupert Murdoch’s contribution to UK media
One of Scotland’s leading newspaper columnists, George Kerevan, has declared that pursuing political party interest ignores the contribution News Corporation has made to life in Britain.
Writing in The Scotsman today, Kerevan, who unsuccessfully stood for the SNP as an MSP at last year’s Holyrood election describes 'a delicious irony' that on the same day the Commons Culture Committee declared Rupert Murdoch was 'not a fit person' to head up an international company, BSkyB, of which his company owns 39%, was posting record profits.
“At any rate, BSkyB shares rose in value after the news. Which suggests some folk think – whatever sins of commission or omission Rupert and James Murdoch may have committed – that the backbench Culture Committee has its own political agenda," added Kerevan.
Kerevan said it was not his intention to whitewash Rupert Murdoch ....”but neither am I naïve when it comes to the denizens of Westminster in an election week.
“The Culture Committee split on party lines to declare Murdoch “unfit”. The Labour members of the culture committee include Paul Farrelly, a former journalist at The Independent - then city editor of the Observer. So no conflict with the Murdoch press then.
Kerevan admitted that Murdoch has made many enemies in a long media career, but there was one where the loathing was mutual - that of the British Establishment.
“Murdoch, like fellow press barons Max Aitken (Lord Beaverbrook) and Roy Thomson, comes of Scottish stock that emigrated to the colonies in pursuit of a better, freer life.
“All three got their revenge by returning to Britain to make a nuisance of themselves, commercially and politically. In their time, all three were accused by the Establishment of dumbing-down the media – Thomson especially for allowing broad Scottish accents to read the news on his new-founded STV.”
Kerevan went onto touch upon Murdoch's family backgroud, his grandfather, a Free Kirk minister who emigrated to Australia in the last 19th century and the legacy of a small daily Adelaide newspaper left to Murdoch by his father at the age of 22, where it all began for him, eventually creating a business method that is about 'short term profits'.
"He makes real things that people want to buy – newspapers, magazines, books, films, and television programmes – rather than shuffle financial assets.
“He takes risks with his own money. Worst of all he has a bad habit of producing things people like – how downmarket. In anyone else, all this would be praised as entrepreneurship. But at Westminster, Murdoch is deemed ‘unfit’.
“Meanwhile in Britain, Robert Maxwell, the crook and Labour Party grandee, was using his connections to build a newspaper empire and reward his political friends.
“In 1968, Maxwell tried to buy the then ailing News of the World in return for stock in his own company (which turned out to be worth less than he claimed). To fend off Maxwell, the owners of the NoW invited a little known antipodean, Rupert Murdoch, to bid.
“Rupert would transform NoW into the world’s biggest selling English language newspaper. I don’t condone how NoW was run in its final years but it is hypocritical to ignore its outstanding popularity.
“Murdoch was on a roll. He bought the bankrupt Sun and made it Britain’s most popular tabloid – to the animus of the pro-Labour Mirror. He bought the loss-making Times and Sunday Times and has kept them going ever since.
“He rescued the spectacularly bankrupt British Satellite Broadcasting and transformed it into BSkyB. The latter broke the cosy duopoly of the taxpayer-funded BBC and an ITV network grown fat and incompetent on its monopoly of advertising.
“Here’s my point: everywhere Murdoch has increased media choice, not narrowed it. He has done it by saving ailing businesses that would otherwise have gone under, or starting new ones.
“If Rupert Murdoch had opted to stay in Australia, Robert Maxwell would have controlled Britain’s newspapers and there would be no BSkyB. And you think there would be no phone hacking?"
Kerevan concludes on a note of warning that next week, during the Queen's Speech, a new law will be introduced in which the police and security services will be able to monitor both email and social communications of UK citizens, a law that Labour had previously failed to introduce.
“This latest plan will force internet service providers to gather the information and let the intelligence services access it. I look forward to the views of the Culture Committee.”