Tuesday, 8 May 2012


Should we celebrate the end of Murdoch's power? His company still controls Sky and owns the Times, Sunday Times and Sun in the UK, but there is no doubt that his spell is broken.  Only days after he stepped out of the witness box at the Leveson enquiry, leaving behind a bubbling rumpus in the four corners of the British establishment, he was humiliated by the UK Parliament’s culture, media and sport select committee which finally published its long-gestating report into the phone-hacking scandal saying “We conclude, therefore, that Rupert Murdoch is not a fit person to exercise the stewardship of major international company."

Murdoch was not the only one hung out to dry although the committee’s conclusions exposed the cover up all the way to the top stating that Rupert “turned a blind eye and exhibited willful blindness to what was going on in his companies”. His son and assorted acolytes did not do any better. James Murdoch was excoriated for "wilful ignorance" and Les Hinton, his hireling for 50 years as complicit in a the cover-up. Colin Myler, News of the World editor and Tom Crone, News International's lawyer, were condemned for misleading parliament.

This is not the end of the matter. Far from it! Lying to Parliament is serious stuff and there are still plenty of horror stories ahead when former News of the World editor and David Cameron's former spin doctor, Andy Coulson, and former News International executive, Rebekah Brooks, appear at the Leveson inquiry. This may still reveal the true nature and extent on how News International and its executives misled the select committee.

But while the international media was still stuck in the unraveling of the Murdoch empire, little has been said about the response John Hendy, Queen's Council for the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), managed to squeeze out of Murdoch at the Leveson Inquiry. He quizzed him on press ethics, practices and culture, in particular the treatment of journalists/photographers and the culture of bullying as factors influencing unethical news gathering practices, his role in the creation of trade union laws in the UK and why he would not recognise the NUJ to represent its members at News International.

Murdoch denied that News International’s management and standards committee “disclosed any sources of any journalists at all”, and stressed that there has been no investigation within his company of allegations of bullying. “They always strike me as a very happy crowd” he said with a straight face.

When asked if News International had discussions with Tony Blair or his officials about trade union recognition provisions in labour law, Murdoch answered “no” and when questioned by Lord Leveson about the NUJ’s conscience clause proposal, he said “I think that’s a good idea.” 

On recognition of the NUJ, he retorted “Our journalists are perfectly free to make complaints and perfectly free to join the NUJ. If they could find a majority of our journalists who want to join the NUJ, we would have no choice…. I’d accept their democratic decision.”

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, wasted no time in stepping up the union’s campaign “It was heartening to hear Murdoch envisage a future where the NUJ will be back representing journalists in News International. Now that the owner of the UK’s largest media group has conceded that he has no problem with his staff choosing to be represented by an independent trade union of their choice instead of a management-imposed staff association, I’m sure recruitment and organisation across the titles will see a big boost. The NUJ will now step up its work supporting journalists and building the recently-established News International NUJ branch in the coming weeks and months.” 

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