News International’s death-rattle….
Nothing lasts forever. Things change, empires that once commanded all they surveyed fall. So, it is with News International which is entering its final days as a significant media player. Objectively, the base for this is the decline of the print media which has been the cornerstone of the empire. Subjectively, it’s about the cultural shifts engineered by the internet and new media which has produced an understanding that media monopoly is neither desirable or necessary.
Rupert Murdoch sealed the fate of his own company yesterday with his bold proclamation yesterday that Rebekah Brooks is his “number 1 priority” show all the signs of the mighty not catching up with the reality of their fall. It’s pretty obvious from his manner, tone and body language that Murdoch and Brooks have had intimate relations. At first you would think his stance was one of selfless compassion until you realise what an incredible narcissist Murdoch is; he sees the assault on Brooks as an attack on his divine personage. He’s not struggling to save somebody he cares about; he’s struggling to preserve the integrity of his own ego. This is why he has dispensed with the ruthlessness that had been a hallmark of his rise to power.
The interests ranged against News International are too numerous; significant sections of the political class, his rival magnates in the media, and according to polling the vast majority of the British public. Momentum which could have been contained has gathered an unstoppable pace and the diseased limb maybe gone but the disease is still spreading. It wasn’t contained because like all empires; Murdoch believes his to be the exception, the one that will last forever; he believes himself immune from public sentiment and feeling; indeed, as far as he is concerned, much like some tin-pot despot; he is the people.
David Cameron will come out of this a much smaller figure but the government won’t fold over #hackgate. Simply put, politicos are slightly overestimating the impact this is currently having mainly because it’s so fascinating for us. This could change if there is a smoking gun found but even if there is; the Conservatives, especially the Conservative right will simply junk Cameron. Labour and Ed Miliband will not be as bolstered as Labourites imagine with the wider public but it will give Miliband breathing space in the inner-party world.
The battle now is to ensure the right outcomes – to ensure the fall of News International does genuinely lead to a more democratic media. In practice, this means prohibition of monopoly within all media sectors and the restriction of companies to one sector. This is a demand to be placed on the government and is the only way the state should interfere. It also means in practice that self-regulation, as opposed to state regulation, of ethics and standards in media can only be effective when its undertook by a) the people who work in the media and b) the consumers of the media. On a community level, it means community ownership of local media; on a national level this does mean the most immediate likely casualties of this; workers within the media, taking matters and ownership into their own hands. This is a basic democratic demand and is the only way to ensure the net result of the collapse of News International is not a dark age but a new democratic dawn.