‘The Absence of Trust’ – James Murdoch
Given the important position that News Corporation holds in the global media industry any major speech given by one of its senior executives, especially members of the Murdoch family, should be of interest to all journalists. When that speech is an all out assault on media regulation and state-funded journalism it should be compulsory reading.
James Murdoch’s MacTaggart Lecture at the 2009 Edinburgh International Television Festival is remarkable for the ferocity of its condemnation of media regulation and the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). Murdoch’s arguments go from considered, to shrill, to borderline hysterical.
Murdoch argues that trust should be placed in the markets. He illustrates his points with unusual analogies about creationism and bananas.
His strongest criticism is saved for that “unaccountable institution”: the BBC. The argument that state-sponsored broadcasters should not operate in commercial markets is well documented and has some merit. Murdoch takes his criticism to another level though when he describes the BBC’s ambitions as “chilling”. He describes state funding as being a threat to journalism itself and as ushering in something akin to the future suggested in Orwell’s 1984.
Given the conjecture that James Murdoch is one of the frontrunners to eventually take over from his father as head of News Corp, this lecture gives an important insight into the thinking of the world’s most influential media company.
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