Predictably, under Murdoch’s proprietorship, The Times evolved into a neo-Thatcherite paper as well. Murdoch appointed Harold Evans as his editor – someone he knew would have enough talent to reform the paper. But Murdoch and Evans clashed. Evans’s strong editorial leadership meant Murdoch was unable to ‘interfere’ as would have liked; instead he attempted to exert control by declining to fix a set editorial budget, so Evans would have to seek permission for any expenditures.Similarly, The Sunday Times editor Frank Giles was never given a direct instruction by Murdoch but was instead bullied in calculated humiliations.
Murdoch is said to have once entertained guests by firing an imaginary pistol at his editor’s back. 17 Giles retired early. Andrew Neil, editor of The Sunday Times in 1994 received a similar flogging from Murdoch when the newspaper reported that senior officials and Ministers in the Malaysian government had received backhanders in the building of the Pergau dam, funded with British aid.The report appeared at a crucial time in Murdoch’s efforts to establish his Asian satellite business, Star TV. The Malaysian government threatened Murdoch with reprisals against his business empire, leading him to immediately complain to Neil that he was “boring people” with “too much on Malaysia.
“18 Neil was whisked off to work in the US for the News Corporation’s TV sector. Meanwhile, Murdoch reassured Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir that the “rogue editor” had been “sorted out. ” The Pergau dam saga is by no means the only time Murdoch has put his Asian business interests before accuracy and integrity.In the same year, Murdoch removed the BBC World Service from his satellite broadcasts into China at the request of the authorities there, who did not like a program the BBC aired about Mao Tsetung. In 1998, the Murdoch-owned HarperCollins book publishers dramatically abandoned Chris Patten’s book ‘East and West: The last Governor of Hong Kong’. Murdoch’s sudden intervention reflected his conflicting business interests – on the one hand trying to publish a book critical of China, whilst on the other trying to increase his business dealings with China.Jonathan Mirsky, a former East Asia editor for The Times suggested Chinese influence on Murdoch runs much deeper. He claims that because of Murdoch’s interests, The Times “no longer covers Chinese news seriously” and that Times readers “would have thought that Hong Kong had been airlifted up to Pluto, that it had simply vanished.
” Murdoch bought The News of the World in 1969. Quickly dubbed “News of the Screws” the paper redefined the gutter for tabloid journalism. Other purchases such as the Sun, “Rupert’s s**t sheet” continued to use the same mix of sex, scandal and celebrities to sell copies.In the same way, Murdoch made his mark in US journalism when he ran the front page headline “Killer Bees Move North” in the San Antonio Express-News. It was totally fictitious story, but who cares? It sold papers and made money. In his book, Paper Tigers, Nicholas Coleridge claims, “it is almost axiomatic that a paper purchased by Rupert Murdoch will move downmarket. ” This doesn’t just apply to Murdoch’s newspapers – after buying Fox TV, Murdoch found his niche in the market with a similar diet he’d given his readers: reality TV.
Fox started broadcasting programmes such as ‘America’s Most Wanted’, which proved hugely popular.”He wanted to shock and amaze, scandalise and vulgarise. “Murdoch had battled to own a TV station in the US. Two regulatory problems had hindered him: firstly, only US citizens could own a TV station.
Secondly, cross-ownership rules were again getting in the way. After changing his citizenship, Murdoch’s US papers rallied round presidential candidate Ronald Regan, who promised to relax the rules governing US broadcasting should he be elected. Regan’s congressman Jack Kemp said afterwards, “Rupert used the editorial page and literally every other page necessary to elect Ronald Regan as president. “Interestingly though, Murdoch doesn’t like to be the voice of radicalism. During the Vietnam war, The Australian was the first serious broadsheet to demand the withdrawal of Australian troops. Murdoch wasn’t happy with this and dismissed the editor, Adrian Deamer for being so ‘radical’.
Murdoch feared that Deamer’s outspoken stance would jeopardise his relationships with the government. This is in total contrast to The Sun in 1970, which boasted, “The Sun is above all a RADICAL newspaper. And this time we believe the only radical proposals being put to you are being put by Maggie Thatcher and her Tory team . . .
“Twenty-seven years later, Murdoch had become disillusioned with the conservative government in Britain. Its failure to continue with Lady Thatcher’s attempts to deregulate the economy left him disenchanted with John Major, and so Murdoch, and his papers, made a political u-turn. “Sun Backs Blair” was the headline six weeks before the election. Blair had at least one meeting with the owner and gave the Sun an article suggesting he was not “wholeheartedly” committed to joining the euro. There were also rumours that in return for his support, Blair would more loosely regulate Murdoch’s broadcasting properties.
Murdoch certainly appears to have Tony Blair wrapped round his little finger. Accused of “pandering to Murdoch” the Blair government recently found BskyB not guilty of breaking competition laws. BskyB undermined the fated ITV Digital in a “wide-ranging campaign” which included giving away set-top boxes for free, therefore forcing its rival to match it. This is deeply reminiscent of the broadsheet price wars Murdoch initiated in the early ’90s, where he hoped to squeeze out The Independent by lowering the price of The Times to 20p. This reminds us of what Murdoch is first and foremost: a businessman.