Private Eye | Official Site

by peterjukes

“WE HAVE never pushed our commercial interests in our newspapers.” So said Rupert Murdoch at the Leveson inquiry, speaking under oath. We must assume that either the DPP will prosecute him for perjury… or that incidents recorded in the Eye over the last 25 years have been complete coincidences.

Such as the “series of pieces examining the complex problem of deregulating television under headlines such as Smash The ITV Cartel” which we noted began appearing in Murdoch’s mid-market title Today at the time Mrs Thatcher was chairing a cabinet sub-committee on broadcasting in 1987.

Or the appearance of a puff-piece for Disney in the Sunday Times at the exact point, in 1988, when Sky TV was doing a deal with the company, negotiated by Sunday Times editor Andrew Neill, who was employed at the same time as executive chairman of Sky. Neill also recruited one Jonathan Miller to write a “Behind the Screens” column, which peddled some extremely Murdochian views of the TV industry in the early 1990s, without disclosing to readers that his previous job was as director of public affairs for Sky.

And imagine how furious Murdoch must have been in October 1998, when the Times just happened to publish a 36-page supplement on digital television on the very day Sky Digital launched, escaping censure from the Advertising Standards Authority for not making its sponsored nature clear enough on the peculiar grounds that Sky “had not paid to influence the editorial.”

Murdoch Snr must also have been fuming when the Sun reacted to a proposal to raise the BBC licence fee in September 1999 with an editorial which pointed out that “Our parent company, News Corporation, bet the ranch on Sky – the entire company’s future rested on its success. In the process, millions of Brits were given more choice, 24-hour news, the best movies and the best in sports. Now, a few years later, Sky Digital customers are to be asked to pay £24 to help its main rival, the BBC, catch up. What sort of a country is this?”

The decision of the Times to declare that Labour’s 2002 draft communications bill “should be broadly welcomed” on the grounds that “the lifting of barriers to cross-ownership between print and broadcast media will help promote new investment and ideas in the communications industry, to the consumers’ benefit” must also have come as a devastating blow to the press baron who “never pushed our commercials interests in our newspapers”.

“We were shocked by both what Mr Cable said and the unethical means in which that was deleted from the story in the Telegraph. They were clearly running a paper for their own commercial interests.”

Naturally, Rupert and the various editors of the Sun would never dream of failing to cover a story if it showed their commercial interests in an unflattering light.

They had completely different reasons, for example, for not reporting the suspension of two anchormen on Sky News after they had a punch-up in their dressing room in 1990, or the sacking of another when he punched his female co-presenter in 2001. Or the resignation of a Sky News journalist after one of his reports on the Gulf War in 2003 turned out to feature a faked missile launch.

Or the time a senior producer on Fox News was discovered to have fabricated quotes in an attempt to sabotage John Kerry’s presidential campaign in 2004. Or, of course, the ongoing saga about phone-hacking at the News of the World, about which the Sun failed to breathe a word until it absolutely could not avoid doing so.

And commercial interests naturally had nothing at all to do with the Sun and Murdoch listings mag TV Guide deciding not to carry any references whatsoever to channel BSB during its brief period as a rival to Sky in 1990.

“I was really shocked by the statement by Mr Dacre the other day… I was shocked when he said the editorial policy of the Mail was driven by commercial interests. It was about the most unethical thing I’ve read for a long time.”

Perhaps James or Lachlan Murdoch should buy a Private Eye subscription as a gift for their old dad. Since the I-Sky column (aka I-BSkyB and Plugged In) launched in 1990, Lord Gnome has run hundreds of examples of plugs for Murdoch businesses – not just Sky, but his film and web interests too – masquerading as news items in papers he publishes.

via Private Eye | Official Site.