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MOYERS ON MURDOCH
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June 29, 2007

All roads lead to an impending buyout of Dow Jones, which owns THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, shining once again a spotlight on media consolidation in America and abroad, and its effect on journalistic integrity.

Australian-born K. Rupert Murdoch has built one of the largest news, entertainment and Internet enterprises in the world, valued at around $68 billion. His "ability to adapt to changing political winds," says THE NEW YORK TIMES, has gained him favor with influential political figures on both sides of the aisle, not to mention the Chinese Communist government, former British Prime Ministers Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair, just to name a few.

The Bancroft family, which currently controls Dow Jones, has reportedly reached a tentative agreement assuring the editorial independence of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, if the buyout does go through. A similar deal was struck back in 1981 when Murdoch acquired THE TIMES of London, yet according to the recent NEW YORK TIMES story, "...There were clashes over the publisher's involvement from the very start...Harry Evans, who was editor at the time of Mr. Murdoch's acquisition but was forced out soon after...describes Mr. Murdoch's ordering the publication of a cartoon that that TIMES editors had deemed tasteless and his complaining that too many stories had a left-wing bent."

According to SALON's Gary Weiss, Dow Jones brought its fate upon itself when it became a public company in 1963, and that "public ownership and newspapers do not mix."

"Investor interests can be balanced against the interests of journalism, and compromises in either direction can be rationalized, but at bottom it is an irreconcilable conflict in which journalism will always lose."

Does the impending buyout of Dow Jones by News Corp represent a pillar of capitalism or a bane to democracy? Tell us on the Blog.

References and Reading:
Murdoch and the Dow Jones Bid
Journal Reporters Protest Over Murdoch Bid
By Richard Pérez-Peña, NEW YORK TIMES, June 29, 2007
"Many of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL's reporters did not show up for work this morning, to protest the expected sale of the newspaper's parent, Dow Jones & Company, to Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, and the fact that they do not have a contract."

Tentative Accord Reached on Dow Jones Control
By Richard Pérez-Peña, NEW YORK TIMES, June 27, 2007
"Negotiators reached an 'agreement in principle' today for guarding the editorial independence of The Wall Street Journal if its parent, Dow Jones & Company, is sold to the News Corporation, people briefed on the talks said."

Murdoch's Dealings in China: It's Business, and It's Personal
By Joseph Kahn, NEW YORK TIMES, June 26, 2007
"Many big companies have sought to break into the Chinese market over the past two decades, but few of them have been as ardent and unrelenting as Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation."

Murdoch, Ruler of a Vast Empire, Reaches Out for Even More
Reported by Jo Becker, Richard Siklos, Jane Perlez and Raymond Bonner, and written by Ms. Becker, NEW YORK TIMES, June 25, 2007
"Mr. Murdoch may be best known in the this country as the man who created Fox News as a counterweight to what he saw as a liberal bias in the news media. But he has often set aside his conservative ideology in pursuit of his business interests..."

Agency Problems at Dow Jones and the WSJ
Dean Starkman, COLUMBIA JOURNALISM REVIEW,June 21, 2007
"The interests of key figures both at DJ and, unusually, at the WSJ are geared toward a sale, and not just a sale, but a sale to News Corp."

Rupert, White Knight
By John Heilemann, NEW YORK MAGAZINE
"Expecting calm in the wake of a Murdoch megamaneuver is like expecting equanimity from George Steinbrenner after the Red Sox sweep the Yankees. Possible in theory, but in practice, hey, c'mon."

NEW YORK TIMES Feature: Rupert's Universe
Explore the interrelationships between Murdoch's vast holdings in this interactive feature from THE NEW YORK TIMES.

The Age of Murdoch
by James Fallows, THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY, September 2003
"Many see him as a power-mad, rapacious right-wing vulgarian. Rupert Murdoch has indeed been relentless in building a one-of-a kind media network that spans the world. What really drives him, though, is not ideology but a cool concern for the bottom line — and the belief that the media should be treated like any other business, not as a semi-sacred public trust. The Bush Administration agrees. Rupert Murdoch has seen the future, and it is him."

Thinking Outside the Fox
By Amanda Griscom Little, GRIST, May 9, 2007B
"Murdoch launched a company-wide plan to address climate change that includes not only a pledge to reduce the company's emissions (which has come to be expected at such biz-greening events) but also a vow to weave climate messaging into the content and programming of News Corp.'s many holdings."

Tribune Co. Sold; Cubs Soon To Follow
ASSOCIATED PRESS
"Tribune Co. has accepted a buyout offer from real estate investor Sam Zell in a deal valued at about $8.2 billion, the owner of the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, TV stations and the Chicago Cubs said Monday."

Murdoch Embroiled In Antitrust Trouble
By Parmy Olson, FORBES, May 24, 2007
"When he's not trying to wrest Dow Jones from the Bancroft family in New York, Rupert Murdoch is tussling with his arch rival Richard Branson in London, and getting in trouble for it, too."

The O'Murdoch Factor
By Gary Weiss, SALON
"Rupert Murdoch's bid to take over the Wall Street Journal is a dramatic illustration of why public ownership is a disaster for newspapers."

Murdoch's Game
By John Cassidy, NEW YORKER, October 16, 2006
"Like the legendary press barons to whom he is often compared—Hearst, Pulitzer, Northcliffe, Beaverbrook—Rupert Murdoch has relished playing kingmaker.""

More on Media Consolidation
Media Conglomeration Timeline from MOYERS on AMERICA

The Center for Public Integrity
The non-partisan watchdog group recently released a new study on the workings of the FCC called "Well Connected." The study contains several items of note:
  • A Travel report documenting FCC trips and expenses paid for by industry groups.
  • Databases enabling you to find out who owns what media outlets in your own neighborhood.
  • A survey of the media ownership in the hometowns of the five FCC commissioners.
  • Documentation on how the FCC gathers and disseminates its data on media ownership.

Colombia Journalism Review: Who Owns What?
"Who Owns What?" by the Colombia Journalism Review (CJR) features a list of media conglomerates and what they own. The page also provides a selected list of articles from the CJR archive on media concentration.

Consumers Union: Nonprofit Publisher of Consumer Reports
The Consumers Union Web page, devoted to telephone-telecommunications regulation, provides a long list of articles, studies, and research describing how the deregulation of the telecommunications industry in 1996 has hurt consumers.

Economic and Political Consequences of the 1996 Telecommunications Act
Thomas Hazlett of the American Enterprise Institute argues that the 1996 Telecommunications Act resulted both in benefits to consumers and in "megamergers" that have benefited stockholders and market function. He contends that increased competition in the market had an effect on the political process, where the Telecommunications industry outspent all other industries in political contributions.

Federal Communications Commission (FCC)
The Federal Communication Commission is an independent government organization accountable to Congress. The FCC regulates "interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite and cable" within U.S. jurisdiction. The FCC Web site features a special section on media ownership which includes information on the Broadcast-Newspaper Cross-Ownership Rule and the Local Radio Ownership Rule in the form of announcements, press releases, and policy studies.

The Telecommunications Act of 1996
This Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Web page is devoted to the landmark Telecommunications Act of 1996, which promoted deregulation of the telecommunication industry (cable, long distance telephone service, local telephone service, and broadband) to create a competitive communications market and deliver better services and prices to consumers. The Web site features the complete text of the legislation and provides relevant FCC materials related to the implementation and guidelines of the Act.

Free Press.net
Free Press is a national nonpartisan organization working on media policy. Free Press favors "a more competitive and public interest-oriented media system with a strong nonprofit and noncommercial sector." The Web site contains information on its net neutrality and anti-media consolidation efforts.

Eric Klinenberg
Eric Klinenberg spoke with Bill Moyers about media consolidation as part of "The Net at Risk." Klinenberg is an Associate Professor of Sociology at New York University and the author of FIGHTING FOR AIR: THE BATTLE TO CONTROL AMERICA'S MEDIA.

Published June 29, 2007

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MOYERS ON MURDOCH
A Bill Moyers essay on what the potential buyout of Dow Jones and THE WALL STREET JOURNAL meanS for business coverage?
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