Professor of Political Science Iva Deutchman was interviewed for a story about media mogul Rupert Murdoch that appeared in Pravda. The article discussed the scandal surrounding his attempts to acquire the BskyB television network.
“It’s hard to find anyone willing to say anything nice about Murdoch. In many countries people haven’t been able to stand him for a long time, so it’s difficult to imagine anyone coming to his defense,” said Deutchman.
The article also notes British MPs wanted to question Murdoch and his son, who initially tried to avoid questioning but ultimately conceded.
“I’m not sure that Murdoch’s questioning yielded anything at all, or that the MPs learned any serious information,” said Deutchman. “Asking Murdoch why his newspaper got involved in illegal, unethical eavesdropping, or if he thought he would get away with it, assumes that he would be able and willing to answer such questions. I don’t think either one of those applies.”
Deutchman, a member of the HWS faculty since 1987, holds a Ph.D. and a master’s degree in political science from the University of Pennsylvania, and a bachelor’s degree from Hofstra University in political science and economics.
The original Slovak article has been translated to English and is below.
Murdoch has created an empire on which the sun never sets
Andrej Matišák, Miloslav Surgoš • July 18, 2011
You can’t control all the media, unless, of course, you’re Rupert Murdoch. Thus sighed Mr. Burns, the main villain in the popular TV series The Simpsons. An episode about his attempt to buy all the newspapers in the Simpsons’ town of Springfield aired in Britain at the beginning of the week.
The story’s great similarity to the scandal that is occupying the whole country prompted a number of theories that it was not just coincidence. Murdoch, perceived as an unscrupulous businessman, was trying to control another TV network. Like Burns, in the end he had to back down due to public opposition. The deal was foiled by the scandal over the Sunday tabloid News of the World and its reporters, who had eavesdropped on thousands of ordinary people.
“It’s hard to find anyone willing to say anything nice about Murdoch,” says Iva Deutchman. “In many countries people haven’t been able to stand him for a long time, so it’s difficult to imagine anyone coming to his defense,” the political scientist, who lectures at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in New York, told Pravda.
However, Murdoch’s rivals could not hold back their admiring words. Conrad Black, the former owner of Britain’s Daily Telegraph, who waged a great battle with Murdoch over the newspaper, speaks of him as the most successful media magnate in history. “There is no possible argument about his boldness, vision and skill of execution,” he wrote for the Financial Times, adding that on the other hand Murdoch irritated his partners, didn’t keep his word, and had no respect for anyone.
Building an empire
Murdoch has succeeded in building one of the largest media empires. His power reaches from Australian regional newspapers to a rugby league there, to European television and newspapers, all the way to Fox, one of America’s largest TV networks. Under his thumb he also has Harper Collins, one of the largest book publishers, not to mention his influence on the world of movies through several film studios, which are among the most famous.
Nonetheless, he started from scratch, although it can’t be said that he comes from a modest background. Originally Australian, he was born into the rich family of Sir Keith Murdoch, who himself was a media magnate around Melbourne.
The younger Murdoch left Australia to devote himself to studies at Oxford. However, his father’s death put an end to his plans, and Rupert had to return home to take care of the family business. At the time, the 22-year-old youth wasn’t attracted to the well-run titles in his father’s portfolio. He saw his vocation elsewhere – he took over a regional newspaper in Adelaide and turned a money-losing medium profitable.
“My father left me with a clear feeling that the media are a different type of business,” the BBC quoted him as saying in one interview. Murdoch focused on still other regional periodicals, beginning later to buy up newspapers covering the suburbs of Australian metropolitan areas. This business strategy brought him success, and thus he could soon look around for further challenges. He founded the Australia-wide daily The Australian, took over several radio and TV stations and also jumped into the tabloid business.
Even then he wasn’t very popular. Intellectuals berated him, saying that he was just stupefying people with his newspapers and that he was flooding society with a lot of sleaze. “I’m sick of snobs who tell us they’re bad newspapers and of snobs who only read newspapers nobody else wants to,” Murdoch told critics and expanded his activities to Britain.
Helped by naked women
Even that didn’t happen without scandal. His News of the World bet on yellow journalism, and Murdoch revived the declining Sun by introducing “page 3”. There, for the first time, Britons could look at scantily clad models, who, with time, cast off what little clothing they had. He also mounted another revolution that made him a few enemies in the industry. He moved his titles from central London to the edge of town, fired thousands of people, and successfully embarked on a war with the unions.
However, for this Australian doing business in Britain, the promised land became America. At 80 years old, Murdoch even took US citizenship to fulfill business conditions there. His US passport allowed him to own TV stations, and Murdoch started buying them. One of his greatest successes is the Fox News channel, with which he entered into competition with CNN. Over time, the station began concentrating on conservative Republican voters, and soon surpassed all its rivals.
Murdoch says he doesn’t influence politics. However, the enormous global concentration of media in his hands gives him considerable power. Especially often mentioned is his influence on British politics, where newspapers still play a role. As a student, Murdoch supported the Labour Party, but later changed sides. He was considered a strong ally of conservative prime minister Margaret Thatcher and her successor John Major. After the rise of Tony Blair and the rebirth of Labour as a centrist party, Murdoch carefully supported the new prime minister, but before the last elections he again tilted his media toward the conservative camp.
However, after the scandal with News of the World and possible revelations at his other media, British politicians are keeping their distance from Murdoch. Even former prime minister Gordon Brown spoke up, dragging Murdoch and his media through the mud. Just two years ago, he was at the wedding of Rebekah Brooks, Murdoch’s right hand in Britain – even though he is now accusing her of unethical behavior. Brooks was friends with both the Blairs and with the current prime minister, David Cameron.
In an unusual step, the British parliament even planned to forbid Murdoch’s planned purchase of more shares in the BSkyB television network, and a majority of the lower house would have voted for the proposal, if Murdoch had not withdrawn on his own.
Successor to the throne
The MPs want to question the media magnate about his role in the scandals. However, as a US citizen, he doesn’t have to go before them. The summons went to James Murdoch, his son and “crown prince” of the media empire, who already manages several of his father’s media outlets. Both initially wanted to avoid the questioning but later consented.
“I’m not sure that Murdoch’s questioning yielded anything at all, or that the MPs learned any serious information,” Deutchman told Pravda. “Asking Murdoch why his newspaper got involved in illegal, unethical eavesdropping, or if he thought he would get away with it, assumes that he would be able and willing to answer such questions. I don’t think either one of those applies,” says the political scientist.
Charlie Beckett is also interested in what Murdoch’s role was. “Why didn’t he know what was going on, and if he didn’t know, why wasn’t he a better boss?” the media expert at the London School of Economics asked Pravda.
About himself, Murdoch said that he does not acknowledge aristocracy and is for people obtaining their positions through their own abilities. Despite all that, he gave his children the chance to start at the top levels of his business. James is considered the most probable successor. His second oldest son, and the fourth of six children, has also been in charge of British newspapers. However, due to the scandal at the News of the World, his position may be threatened.
* born on March 11, 1931 (80 years old)
* married for the third time
* his current wife, Wendi Deng, is 38 years younger than he is
* has 6 children, four daughters and two sons
* was born an Australian; lost his citizenship in 1985 when he got a US passport
* according to Forbes magazine, he is the 13th most influential person in the world, and the 117th richest