No free press while Murdoch reigns

Rupert Murdoch arrives at the 2015 Vanity Fair Oscar Party
 Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

Rupert Murdoch arrives at the 2015 Vanity Fair Oscar Party Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

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As Rupert Murdoch renews his bid to take over the remaining 61 per cent of Sky, it’s worth remembering how the unfreedom of the British media remains a central tool through which the establishment upholds its liberal, secular and profit-oriented ideology.

People seem to forget the power the media possesses in any western society to define what is valid as a belief-system and world view.

Put something in a newspaper or on TV often enough and soon everyone will believe the idea upheld as correct and dominant; we live today in an age that bears witness to the triumph of propaganda and disinformation so that defiant scepticism or, say, a commitment to Christian values, become almost wholly invalid ideological positions.

Yet, why must this be so?

Here in Northern Ireland, for example, our media are almost routinely obsessed with defining everything in terms of unionist and nationalist, orange and green, republican or monarchist, as though the Province would fall apart if this central binary fell apart. Tell people that they must at all times see the world in terms of an ‘us-and-them’ attitudinal bias and then build a seat of government that enshrines this division as the basis of legislative procedure, and what do you have as a result? A society that oftentimes is so obsessed by this deeply entrenched sectarian divide that amounts to very little other than allegiance to different flags, different denominational practices and whether you care for the Queen of Great Britain or prefer the queen of heaven, is bound to fail everywhere it supplants unity with division.

The career of one Rupert Murdoch is a prime example of how a monied elite obsessed with its own pleasure and power has been forced to surrender the common good and a commitment to Christian morality or utilitarian ethics time and again.

Murdoch owns such a large section of the British press that he could in effect instaniate a new world order if he alone decided to go all John Lennon and put peace and love before power and privilege. Imagine if tomorrow Mr Murdoch got up and decided leftwing ideology made much more sense than rampant, unregulated capitalism, that he had re-read the Bible and all of Karl Marx so that he appreciated that a broadly Christian perspective might be a better way to live than he had at first supposed.

That so much power could be discharged through one media magnate is a prime example of how compromised our concepts of liberal democracy have become.

In 2011 Murdoch was judged unfit to head another television company in a mighty deal that would have expanded his media portfolio so that it would include News UK, Times, Sunday Times, the Sun, Sunday Sun and other interests amounting to holding the ability to dictate to 40 per cent of newspaper readership in the UK today.

Successive prime ministers have been well aware that in order to win political agency one must get Mr Murdoch on side: in view of this, can we say we have a free press at all? Manifestly this is not the case and it remains a terrible indictment on democratic values if one man is able to hold so much influence on a vast part of a system that his philosophy can dictate the outcome of elections, governmental policy, and even sets the terms for public debate. So Mr Murdoch must be held in check if we are to have any hope of a press that is not merely his microphone.