Who really ‘politicised’ the media committee’s Murdoch report?


8:30 am - May 2nd 2012

by Sunny Hundal    


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Yesterday’s bombshell report by the media select committee prompted the MP Louise Mensch to say it would be “correctly seen as a partisan report” because none of the Conservative MPs could support its key conclusions.

While the media initially led with the ‘Murdoch declared unfit’ line, most moved on to ‘MPs split over report,’ which was no doubt Mensch’s desired outcome.

But the idea that Tom Watson himself ‘politicised’ the report by declaring Murdoch being ‘unfit’ was outside their remit is a very odd claim to make.

The select committee didn’t investigate matters beyond its remit. MPs stuck to examining what they were meant to.

The bombshell note about Murdoch being ‘unfit’ to run a big company was clearly not a signal to Companies House; they were not recommending he be barred from running big companies in the future.

It was clearly a signal to Ofcom, to say MPs felt Murdoch should not be allowed to take over all of BSkyB at a later date. So, the people who say the committee went beyond its remit are just making a partisan point: there is no bar on the media select committee to send a signal to Ofcom.

And then there’s the claim that Tom Watson himself ‘politicised’ the report by pushing for that line to be included.

Look at the spread of voting (via Simon Rogers)

In a report that clearly found Murdoch and News International misled MPs several times, Therese Coffey and Louise Mensch MPs almost always voted to reject criticism of the Murdochs.

There are even instances where the two other Conservative MPs voted with Labour MPs to include criticism. So the idea that Tom Watson politicised it with over-the-top criticism isn’t credible.

MPs Louise Mensch and Therese Coffey behaved in the most partisan manner; they are the ones who undermined the credibility of the report.

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments


I don’t mind if Mr Murdoch is “a fit person” or not. He could be a lunatic, for all I care, as long as there are enough newspapers and TV stations that aren’t in his hands.
I don’t need a Parliamentary enquiry to see that something is wrong with the “Sun”. But nobody forces me to buy or read it. (And I don’t.)

Absolute tosh.

You state that “Therese Coffey and Louise Mensch MPs almost always voted to reject criticism of the Murdochs” and claim that means that they “behaved in the most partisan manner; they are the ones who undermined the credibility of the report”

And yet by the same logic the fact that 5 Labours MPs alwayts voted to accept criticism must surely means that they behaved in a an even more partisan way, thus undermining the credibility of the report.

Just to clarify, the line ‘not a fit and proper person to run a large international company’ doesn’t mean that, it means ‘not fit to hold a broadcasting licence’ ?

Heh, and out of the Labour MPs Tom Watson was actually LEAST critical, based on his voting record.

5. margin4error

Labour and LibDems took the almost universal position of backing criticism of the company and its people.

The tories with aspirations of being made ministers one day voted as their bosses at NewsCorp (sorry, should that be Downing Street?) would have liked (critical of those who don’t matter to the Murdochs any more – supporting the company and Murdoch’s proproty people) – the other tories (Damien Collins in particular) were a little more willing to break the party whip.

The great thing here is that while Mensch has managed to cloud debate with chat about partisan approach – I’ve not heard anyone offer a sensible defence of the bosses who are incompetent to the point of not knowing massive corruption is taking place under their nose, and who have been sent emails telling them that massive corruption under their nose – or a reposte to the view that the man in charge is ultimately responsible for the working practices of his company.

And that being the case – it is pretty hard to argue that either murdoch in this instance were anything other than contemptable and unfit to run companies.

6. Shrugged...

And didn’t the BBC love it, leading with “Rupert Murdoch is not a fit and proper person…”.

This is a very specific form of language from Company Law and could not be more misleading. I think that you are being disingenious…

7. Shrugged...

@margin4error You may be right, or you may not, but either way this would be for a Court to decide, not some random MPs

Good point Sunny. The tories just can’t kick their Digger drug habit.

Once Murdoch had control of Sky he would start to bang the drum to get rid of impartiality in TV news. So he could create British Fox news. He never stops demanding. He is moving into education now. Hence his former employee The ghastly Gove was to let him get his hands on tax payers money to run schools.

But the tories need another hit of the Murdoch drug, so they would give him the world.

9. flyingrodent

Well, Capone and Boss Tweed are dead, so I’m unsure who is fit to run News Corp, given that it’s been operating as a criminal enterprise and running a vast, highly complex conspiracy against the public that has also corrupted large sections of the police and political establishment.

Still, the idea that the inquiry into this cesspit of crime and corruption is itself problematic in any way is such a hilarious manoeuvre that you have to applaud Louise Mensch. Performing such an obvious, slapstick feat in public without getting publicly urinated over by every hack in the land is no smal feat.

No doubt it’s earned her Westminster Scout deflection badge for protecting massively wealthy criminals, which one of the major requirements for high office. A bright future awaits her.

10. Shrugged...

@sally Impartialiity in news? Seriously? At 7.50am this morning on Radio 4 there was a discussion about all this. Who was invited? A Labour MP and an ex-Labour MP…

Secondly though, why are you so scared of Fox News UK? What harm could it do?

But the idea that Tom Watson himself ‘politicised’ the report by declaring Murdoch being ‘unfit’ was outside their remit is a very odd claim to make.

What exactly does this mean? It obviously isn’t within the remit of the Select Committee to declare Murdoch an unfit person to hold a broadcasting licence (that’s exclusively a matter for Ofcom), and the words used, “unfit to run an international company”, are simply perjorative without any wider meaning – there’s no way that the UK Parliament could force Murdoch to step down as Chairman of NewsCorp.

It’s also outside the remit of the Committee on a strict reading – the question of Murdoch’s fitness to run a company wasn’t the question they were asking. It is, therefore, outside their remit to answer. The reason Watson gives for forcing its inclusion was that it reflects his “steadfast beliefs”, which is lovely, but not actually relevant.

In the past the Murdochs have been praised for being thrusting, dynamic businesspeople, who lead from the front, adding value, just the kind of example we need for entrepreneurs etc etc. Yet somehow, according to the same people, they were not to blame for the fact that a high proportion of the news stories they were selling had no obvious legal source. They were leading from the front but, apparently, they were unaware that what they were demanding could only be delivered by illegal means.

It would appear that this kind of behaviour is quite common. The stories coming out of banks suggest that top executives don’t understand the “products” that their subordinates have invented. But they ought to – they cannot claim that they are leading a successful company if they don’t understand the strengths (and weaknesses) of what it produces. The Seclect Committee report is a warning to those who claim to be dynamic businesspeople but fail to ask what is going on in their companies.

Once Murdoch had control of Sky…

Murdoch’s had control of BSkyB ever since it was created, a 40% shareholding will do that. You’re getting confused between control and ownership.

For some reason people seem to be ignoring the fact that the ‘unfit’ line would not have been in the report without the support of the Lib Dem member of the Committee: it was not somehow sneaked in there by the Labour minority. By the same token, it must have been discussed, otherwise how did it get there, and how did the Committee come to vote on it? Cross-party unanimity is great if you can get it, but once Mensch and Coffey had made it clear they would not accept any criticism whatsoever of the Murdochs or NI, there was never going to be unanimity. This is a point Paul Farrelly was trying to make on Today this morning, against the best efforts of the unspeakable Montague to stop him. (What’s Montague after, by the way? A column on the Sun? An invite to the Murdoch barbecue? Why was she harranguing Farrelly like that, as if it was him who’d been hacking people’s phones?)

Mensch is essentially following Rupert’s line in last week’s hearings – we all remember when it was supposed to be one rogue reporter who dunnit, now it’s three rogue executives who let Rupert down so hurtfully, but it’s never RM or JM. Unsuprisingly the majority on the committee didn’t buy this. The pretence of Murdoch’s supporters (and, oddly, the BBC on Today and Newsnight) that something unspeakably illegitimate has taken place is simply ludicrous.

They are all protecting Cameron and Hunt. They all know a lot more is yet to come out and what best way to cosy up to Murdoch to soften the blow.

Talking about impartiality This Morning has Anne Widecombe and Kelvin McKenzie discussing the headlines in the papers about Murdoch. Of course they both are sticking up for Murdoch.

C’mon Ofcom… deliver the coup de grace!

12. Yes, very good point. The right wing tory talking point that chief executives should get paid huge salaries because they are thrusting, dynamic , businessmen who are geniuses who know everything rather falls apart when it all goes wrong.

Bankers were a good example,and now this. Either they are lying or they were never that good in the first place.

This was a done deal. Everyone knows it bar the morons. Cameron gave the green light and Murdoch gave him support at the election. Brooks famous quote “my job is to get Cameron into 10 Downing Street”

Yes dear, and we know why.

@ Andreas Moser

“I don’t mind if Mr Murdoch is “a fit person” or not. He could be a lunatic, for all I care, as long as there are enough newspapers and TV stations that aren’t in his hands. I don’t need a Parliamentary enquiry to see that something is wrong with the “Sun”. But nobody forces me to buy or read it. (And I don’t.)”

So let me get this straight: it’s no skin off your nose if Murdoch’s employees routinely commit or cover up crimes against private individuals other than you. Ergo there’s no need for a Parliamentary enquiry into whether or not Murdoch is the sort of employer who encourages or enables such criminal activity.

It hasn’t occurred to you, I suppose, that Parliament’s interest in the industrial-scale crookedness within News Corp might be legitimised by something other than its impact on your choice of newspaper? Like, say, its impact on victims like the Dowlers?

20. margin4error

Why are people lying about Parliament to distract from criticism of the Murdochs?

No one has given any good argument why a person who is either incompetent in incidences of massive fraud and criminality within his organisation, or complicit in that massive fraud and criminality – is a fit and proper person to run a business in this country.

And fair enough – those who want to defend the Murdochs because that’s their side of the party divide – know that actually defending them would make some one look very stupid indeed. Just can’t argue with “the buck stops at the top”.

But by way of a distraction – pretending that select committees can’t pass judgement on anything they like as they undertake their mandated role of investigating issue of interest and importance to the public – is even more absurd than defending the murdochs – because it’s unambiguously not true. This isn’t a judgement issue. It’s not an opinion. You just plain can’t exceed a limitless remit – as Ms Mensch knows well, having been permitted to accuse Piers Morgan of a small equivelent to the criminality that the Murdochs are being criticised of – though in her case with no actual evidence to support her charge against the scumbag piers-

so – anyone want to be honest and just try to defend the murdochs?

so – anyone want to be honest and just try to defend the murdochs?

Against what charge? That Rupert Murdoch isn’t fit to run an international company? There’s no moral qualification to running a company, only a commercial one. Rupert Murdoch’s got a pretty strong commercial basis to be considered fit to run a company. His shareholders agree.

Or are we arguing that he’s morally less upright than Richard Desmond? Or Robert Maxwell? Or Conrad Black? Or Max Beaverbrook? Or Lord sodding Northcliffe?

pretending that select committees can’t pass judgement on anything they like as they undertake their mandated role of investigating issue of interest and importance to the public – is even more absurd than defending the murdochs – because it’s unambiguously not true.

Mensch et al weren’t arguing that the select committee couldn’t include a general condemnation of Rupert Murdoch that fell outside of the committee’s remit. Just that it shouldn’t. The committee could have included a stirring condemnation of Guido Fawkes and Harry Cole as “unfit to run a blog”.

22. margin4error

Tim J

It was in fact you I was referring to in regards to lying about the role of the committee (along with Shrugged). You said “It obviously isn’t within the remit of the Select Committee to declare Murdoch an unfit person to hold a broadcasting licence”

You may have been mistaken rather than just lying – but it’s all a bit of a distraction that the likes of Shrugged offered up because there isn’t much by way of defence against the “buck stops at the top” instinct that is crucial to any understanding of business practice and ethics.

and to be clear (and ignoring the rather sad attempt at distraction by listing other horrendous human beings too)…

against the charge that having been in charge of an organisation that engaged in fraud and corruption on such a massive scale in this country, and that had investigated the situation and reported internally on it – but to claim despite it being so widely known in the company, not to have known about it – makes them utterly untrustworthy or incompetent and so unsuitable for operating major news institutions in this country.

23. Shrugged...

margin4error

My point isn’t specific to this issue at all. it’s simply that in this country it is the Courts who decide who is guilty of what, and if guilty what their sentence should be (admittedly within parliamentary quidelines), not politicians.

We used to be innocent till proven guilty.
Are you seriously arguing that it should be otherwise?

It was in fact you I was referring to in regards to lying about the role of the committee (along with Shrugged). You said “It obviously isn’t within the remit of the Select Committee to declare Murdoch an unfit person to hold a broadcasting licence”

As I said, that’s Ofcom’s job and not the Select Committee’s. The CMS Select Committee has no more power to declare Murdoch a fit and proper person to hold a broadcasting licence than I do. You do realise that “fit and proper” is a real thing?
http://www.ashurst.com/publication-item.aspx?id_Content=6349

Since the Committee has no power to rule on this, the condemnation of Murdoch as unfit to run a company is nothing more than a perjorative opinion. Unfit on what basis? As I said, there is no moral basis for fitness to run a business, and certainly not one decided by MPs (thank God). Fitness to run a business is a commercial question, and it’s one exclusively for the shareholders of that business – it’s nobody else’s business.

25. Chaise Guevara

@ 23 Shrugged

“We used to be innocent till proven guilty.
Are you seriously arguing that it should be otherwise?”

Innocent till proven guilty refers to criminal charges. If Murdoch gets thrown in jail on the say-so of a bunch of MPs, we have a problem. If not, not. It’s not some magic rule that prevents you criticising anyone or using sanctions (not sentences, but sanctions) unless you’ve got overwhelming proof.

Trivially I think that M4E’s argument is pretty good. The Murdochs are arguably in a position where saying they were not complicit means claiming they were incompetent. In terms of whether they can be trusted with mass media, that one’s got them coming and going.

26. margin4error

Shrugged

As Chaise has outlined exactly why you are wrong to suggest the select committee is wrong to offer its view – I’ll just return to the actual issue instead of the distraction you wanted to create.

Do you agree or disagree that having been in charge of an organisation that engaged in fraud and corruption on such a massive scale in this country, and that had investigated the situation and reported internally on it – but to claim despite it being so widely known in the company, not to have known about it – makes them utterly untrustworthy or incompetent and so unsuitable for operating major news institutions in this country?

Because I’m slightly weirded out by the idea that anyone thinks such people are suitable for running news institutions in this country. I can’t find anyone that says they think that – but lots of people demonstrating classic deflection arguments suggests that plenty of those people are on the side of the murdochs. If they are Tory MPs, fair enough – you pay the piper and you choose the tue – but people not on the effective payroll? It makes little sense, other than perhaps a desperate loyalty to the Tory party and a desire not to see it cast in the negative light of lapdog to criminals.

Because I’m slightly weirded out by the idea that anyone thinks such people are suitable for running news institutions in this country.

The Times is, by a distance, the best newspaper in the country. Does that help?

There’s a disconnect between people who are nice, and people who are good newspaper proprietors. Who thinks that the Telegraph is better under the Barclay brothers than it was under Conrad Black – ditto the Speccie? Has the Independent noticeably declined since it was bought by an ex-KGB oligarch?

Above all, I’m more than slightly weirded out by the idea that Tom Watson and Jim Sheridan are either qualified or entitled to dictate who is and isn’t suitable to run a media company.

28. margin4error

Tim J

You are digging a hole here now Tim because you do have power to declare the murdochs not fit and proper people. I do to. Everyone does. Only Ofcom can take revoke their license for it – on the basis of a rather technical definition of fit and proper – but you can express an opinion and so can everyone else, including select committees.

And again – lots of distraction stuff because you want to back the murdochs but know you can’t defend their position – doesn’t answer the question. Do you think bosses who have been so incompetent or culpable in regards to widespread corruption through their companies should be in control of parts of the British media?

If you do – then fine – it’s a morally bankrupt position – but be honest that it is your morally bankrupt position. Stop distracting and evading. Just say so. You are, like a select committee, entitled to your opinion.

You stupid little man. Watson’s bias is blatant; he’s even written a complete hatchet job on Murdoch and published it last week, for God’s sake.

The voting record of all 5 Labour MPs always to accept criticism of the Murdochs (and, no, Watson’s “odd one out” on the green side doesn’t negate this) makes it clear what the Murdochs have been found guilty of by the Committee – switching the Sun’s support away from Labour in 2009.

31. margin4error

Tim

Thanks – pleased you could say it at last. (shouldn’t have taken so long)

You are of the view then, that if the standard of the product is high enough – then the corruption of our police service and the rather sick disruption to the lives of innocent people that the murdochs are responsible for through their ownership of press institutions is irrelevent.

As it goes – the Times is my paper of choice too – but some how that doesn’t quite take me to the same morally bankrupt opinion as you.

oh – and MPs are “qualified” on the basis of public mandate. That’s sort of the whole point of democracy. One could similarly argue how George Osborne is qualified to run the tax system – which in every regard he isn’t, but with his democratic mandate he is.

“used to be innocent till proven guilty. Are you seriously arguing that it should be otherwise?

Oh yes the innocent until proven argument is so appropriate for a man who has shown no sense in those views as he prints and be dammed and ruins peoples lives. A man who has run campaigns against a soft criminal justice system, who hates defence lawyers.

It’s always fun to watch right wing hypocrites who attack justice system for being to friendly to the crooks run to their own defence lawyers and demand due process.

Murdoch is a criminal crime family run like the Mafia. If there was any justice he would be hanging from a lampost with all his other right wing friends.

I can’t help feeling that Watson was being a bit clever here. By inserting this controversial language (which adds nothing of substance to the report) he set a bear trap for the tories which they walked straight into. The line now will be that the tories all lined up behind Murdoch.

34. margin4error

Jimmy

in fairness – it wasn’t just the use of “fit and proper person” that the tories lined up against.

They refused to delete a line about there being no evidence that james murdoch had read the email chain – at the same time as lining up against the line saying his lack of curiosity or wilful ignorance was astonishing.

Likewise they lined up against the line saying it was not credible that Rupert had no inkling about wrongdoing – and the line saying that he exhibited willful blindness. And thye voted together against the suggestion that the culture of a company flows from the top and that this demonstrated a lack of effective corporate governance.

That it was tory v labour and lib dem on these issues – and that it is already widely reported that the tories are close with NewsInt – makes that voting patern appear rather less like subjective consideration and more like a whipped vote to create a distraction from the conclusions themselves.

And that is all the more likely given that they seem to have been given license to make unambiguous criticisms of the likes of Hinton, who no longer matters to the murdoch family.

Thanks – pleased you could say it at last. (shouldn’t have taken so long)

Say what?

You are digging a hole here now Tim because you do have power to declare the murdochs not fit and proper people. I do to. Everyone does.

Christ. Yes, we can all declare people guilty of murder as well. It only actually means anything when a judge does it, but we can all say it. In the same way, we can all say that Rupert Murdoch is not a fit and proper person to hold a broadcasting licence, but it only means anything if Ofcom do.

Incidentally, there is no ‘fit and proper’ requirement to be a newspaper proprietor. As in Desmond, Maxwell et al.

oh – and MPs are “qualified” on the basis of public mandate. That’s sort of the whole point of democracy.

What, to decide who is sufficiently morally pure to run a company? They’re bloody not you know. That would be a decidedly totalitarian set-up.

36. margin4error

Tim

I was thanking you for finally offering a defence of the murdochs. Genuinely so few of their supporters are quite willing to bite the bullet – and instead just offer up distraction nonsense about other people being bad too or about the committee being partisan or whatever.

You offer a valid defence – that company owners should be judged only on performance not on behaviour, even if that behaviour involves major corruption scandals, and even if the companies are particularly influencial, like bskyb.

I find it a morally bankrupt defence – but it is at least an honest defence – rather than distraction tactics. Oh, but remember – we do live under a decidedly totalitarian set-up. The fit and proper person test is a reflection of democratic will, enforced according to rules agreed by our elected politicians. That elected officials might then sit through weeks and weeks of evidence sessions and form an opinion about it is thus, hardly a surprise.

The fit and proper person test is a reflection of democratic will, enforced according to rules agreed by our elected politicians.

So is the criminal law. Doesn’t make MPs suitable people to determine who is and isn’t guilty.

You offer a valid defence – that company owners should be judged only on performance not on behaviour, even if that behaviour involves major corruption scandals, and even if the companies are particularly influencial, like bskyb.

I think you’re missing the point slightly. Who is doing the judging, and to what end? Your angle seems to be that RM is so morally flawed as to be unworthy of owning a company. That seems to me to be both an impractical way of looking at things, and a highly dangerous one.

As it stands, in the absence of criminal charges actually being proved, the only people with the right to remove a chairman and/or chief executive are the board and the shareholders – the people who own and run the company. Extending that power either to the general public or to politicians looks to me like a nastily totalitarian step. “We don’t like you, we’re taking away the company you run”.

So my answer to ‘is RM suitable to run a company’ is that it’s not a question that really means anything. The only way of answering it is commercially.

38. Planeshift

“As it stands, in the absence of criminal charges actually being proved…………..“We don’t like you, we’re taking away the company you run”.”

If you do have a criminal conviction, the state can force you to sell assets under proceeds of crime act. So – and this is hypothetical – if the murdochs get a criminal record then logically they should be forced to sell.

Here is where it gets murkey. I think its unlikely criminal charges will stick against James and Rupert (perhaps more stuff will stick against James), but – assuming no more police and judicial corruption – there is a reasonable chance Brooks will go down, and in all probability Coulsen will. If this happens to what extent will it be possible to force them to sell their home/assets they have on the grounds that their wealth is based on a career in which they have clearly profited from the criminal activity.

39. margin4error

Tim

on determining who is guilty – It’s not a criminal matter we are discussing. MPs are elected, at least in part, for their opinions on law and policy and events. They are even permitted under parliamentary priveledge to accuse people of criminality without any evidence – hence Ms Mensch did just that to the dispicable nerk Piers Morgan some time ago and faced the embarassing situation in which she was being asked about it repeatedly in interviews and had to not even defend her position as, outside of PP, she would have landed herself in court.

on defence of RM

And as I say – I understand your defence that RM is morally fit to run a major broadcaster because corruption of the police and hacking of dead children’s phones are not a factor. Only profit matters. I appreciate you at least being honest about holding that opinion. Few would admit it in defence of Rupert Murdoch at the moment so fair play to you. It is of course a view I and the law disagree with entirely. Granted we are some what more that way inclined in the UK than in, say, the USA – where the man at the top goes to prison for not knowing the criminal activities of those below (something that the courts are indeed looking at in regards to RM). But then no one is suggesting MPs simply sack business leaders based on their behaviour. We rightly just ask MPs for form opinions on these things and have them put structures in place to sack business leaders if need-be.

ps – do you think the murdochs were incompetent in this because they didn’t know, or complicit in this and lying about not knowing?

Just curious.

40. margin4error

Planeshift

Sadly the UK’s business leaders tend to be well protected by law from having assets seized in this way unless the taxman is involved. When we talk about taking criminals’ assets away here, we tend not to mean millionaire business-criminals – and more millionaire drug-dealers who came from dodgy estates and know all the wrong people.

If you are born wealthy, your wealth is usually off limits even if it was largely acquired through criminal enterprises like NOTW.

In North America however, they are much better wed to capitalist notions of rise and fall – and of of the buck stopping at the top. So they are much quicker to hit such people hard – and as I’ve said before, there is more chance RM will find himself answering questions before a jury in the USA than in the UK. That is also influenced by the fact that in the UK, his party is in power – and in the USA his party is not in power. He has no influence over the Obama camp. He is part of the Cameron camp.

41. Planeshift

” I’ve said before, there is more chance RM will find himself answering questions before a jury in the USA than in the UK.”

If the FBI gets involved and finds something then both James and Rupert are going to die in prison. There was a rumour last year that they were investigating whether news international hacked 9-11 victims – I’m guessing nothing came of that because the level of seriousness of that would have ensured a major outcry that would have bankrupted NI in days.

I understand your defence that RM is morally fit to run a major broadcaster because corruption of the police and hacking of dead children’s phones are not a factor. Only profit matters.

I think it’s reasonably clear that either you don’t understand my argument, or that you’re wilfully misinterpreting it. I’ll repeat it though, very briefly.

There is no moral qualification needed to run a corporation

Therefore the question of whether RM is “morally fit” to run a company doesn’t mean anything. He might be unfit to hold a broadcasting licence (although, again, Richard Desmond apparently isn’t), but at least that’s a question that can have an answer. The moral fitness question is just empty sanctimony.

43. margin4error

Planeshift

I would be very surprised if the guys running NewsInt would have allowed that sort of behaviour in relation to the things that matter in America – partly because american law on the role of business leaders is a fairly good deterrant – but also partly because, as a corproration, they would have felt less detached and so perhaps less able to let slide such obviously disgusting practices.

Tim

firstly – yes – there is a moral justification needed to run a business. Our laws are quite clear on this. Or more accurately, our regulation of media is quite clear on this. Hence there is a “fit and proper person” test.

And secondly – I wasn’t asking for a legal justification of their morality. I was asking for anyone supporting murdoch to stop the distraction tactics and actually just defend the murdochs. Which you did. You offered a perfectly valid defence. It isn’t one I agree with – and as I say, it has led me to ponder whether you think the murdochs were incompetent for not knowing about the corruption or complicit in its cover up. But you did at least offer an actual defence that the corruption of the police and the hacking of dead children’s phones on their watch is not worthy of moral opinion because the profits their companies made mean shareholders are happy with them and that’s all that matters.

I’ll grant you that sounds a little bit like a “nothing to do with me” abdication of responsibility for forming opinions and caring about what happens across society – but actually it wasn’t that. You were quite explicit that you actively oppose such moral judgements on the principle that it is totalitarian to have society (through government) decide who runs companies. And that’s arguably reasonable since while I would say the criminality at NOTW is a valid reason to interfere, once there are “valid” reasons established it may be hard to stop that from widening to more sinister judgements – like that pornographers should be barred because government is a bit prudish.

So I do appreciate that you, unlike anyone else, offered a genuine defence instead of continuing to try to drown out genuine condemnation with distraction nonsense.

firstly – yes – there is a moral justification needed to run a business. Our laws are quite clear on this. Or more accurately, our regulation of media is quite clear on this. Hence there is a “fit and proper person” test.

Only for television, not newspapers. Only one person has ever been found not fit and proper, and with Desmond being granted his without a problem it’s clearly a low bar. But the Select Committee didn’t say unfit to hold a broadcast licence, they said unfit to run an international company.

45. Jonathan Brown

What Louise Mensch and forget to mention is that the original report had to be formally withdrawn because the committee was misled. By default, that fact alone extends the remit of the Culture Committee. Louise Mensch was not on the original committee.

46. margin4error

Tim

But the Murdochs do own television – hence the Ofcom investigation. Now you may think we shouldn’t have such rules about who owns our media – but society has long since decided that we do. And I would imagine quite a lot of the public would think that being responsible for widespread organisational corruption of our police services alone, even without the phone hacking aspect, would make some one not fit and proper. As such you may see the rules tightened if Ofcom do what the Tories want on this and let the murdochs off.

Not sure if tightening the rules will go so far as to stop Desmond owning media. Not really sure what it is you have against him.

47. Shrugged...

Margin4error

So the innocent Police were corrupted by the naughty journalists?
How do you think these transactions were initiated?
Do you not think that a copper might suggest that he ‘likes a drink’ before a journo offers him one?

Not sure if tightening the rules will go so far as to stop Desmond owning media. Not really sure what it is you have against him.

Well, if the test is solely about moral standing (i.e. if there are no criminal charges brought against Murdoch) then it’s hard to see a system that considers a pornographer to be fit and proper, but not a newspaperman, however lax or wilfully blind he might be.

49. Jonathan Brown

It is interesting to look at the history of the 2010 Bribery Act as it may parallel the “moral” divisions within the Committee’s Report regarding Rupert Murdoch’s “fitness”.

Initially the 2010 Act was given all-party support after its introduction by Jack Straw in 2009. The Bill was, according to The Guardian, subject to an attempted filibuster by Members of Parliament from the Conservative Party.

The Bill gained Royal Assent on 8 April 2010, becoming the Bribery Act 2010, and was expected to come into force immediately. The government instead chose to hold several rounds of public consultations before announcing that it would come into force in April 2011. In February 2011, Ken Clarke, the Secretary of State for Justice, had not published guidance on the interpretation and use of the Act, and announced that it wouldl not come into force until at least three months after such guidance was made available. The Ministry of Justice published the guidance on 28 March 2011.

Section 7 creates the “broad and innovatory offence” of the failure of commercial organisations to prevent bribery on their behalf. This applies to all commercial organisations which have business in the UK. Unlike corporate manslaughter, this applies to the organisation itself as well as individuals and employees.

I think most of us would agree that “bribery” is wrong. Yet the Conservatives were concerned that this legislation might place British companies at a competitive disadvantage.

50. margin4error

Tim J

But crimes are part of the thinking. So far as I know, and so far as there is any evidence on a quick google search, Desmond’s companies havn’t engaged in lots and lots and lots of illegal activity. Murdoch’s have. They’ve admitted as much in their own report into the matter which they then kept quiet. So it is hard to suggest that Desmond should have his broadcasting license taken away because he has overseen his company engaging in widespread criminal activity (by complicity or incomptence) in the way one can about murdoch. But fair enough – I get that perhaps you don’t like porn. I’m not inclined towards censorship so tend not to judge.

oh – and for what it’s worth – although you are effectively on the same side, don’t fret. I do not associate you with the unspeakably stupid argument made by Shuddered. You are clearly more intelligent and knowledgeable and have an actual thought out opinion – which contrasts quite sharply from that twit.

Jonathan Brown

make no mistake – not being allowed to bribe people does put british business at a dissadvantage. But then that alone doesn’t make the act wrong. Morrally I’m sure we all agree it is right. Sadly it is probably too late in coming into force to have much relevance in dealing with corruption under the murdochs. They have, on that count at least, got away with it.

51. Shrugged...

margin4error

Thanks for the constructive feedback.

52. Jonathan Brown

margin4error

I would suggest that bribery does not put British companies at a competitive disadvantage ~ what it does do is compensate, to some extent, for the pre-existing lack of competitivity. From first hand experience, I can say that there is an arrogance about many British businesses, particularly in the defence industry.

I think most of us would agree that “bribery” is wrong. Yet the Conservatives were concerned that this legislation might place British companies at a competitive disadvantage.

It makes it more or less impossible for British companies to do business legally in Nigeria, Russia, Angola and much of the middle east. Given that we have quite a strong presence in the international energy sector it’s hardly an unreasonable concern. It’s certainly one shared by the industry as a whole.

For example, the Act makes companies liable for the actions of their agents in other countries. So when you visit the DRC (for example) and hire an agent to get you through the airport (without one you are unlikely to be allowed through customs for a start, and if you do will find yourself robbed blind by immigration) you are guilty of bribery every time they pass a $10 note to officials. It makes it effectively impossible to do business.

You can argue that it’s wrong, and that corruption shouldn’t happen. You’d be right, and while we’re at it I’d like a pony.

54. margin4error

jonathan

actually I completely agree – our economy is woefully uncompetitive thanks to terrible records of investment in infrastructure and the woefully low standards of corporate management that we have in this country.

bribery might have helped to compensate for that rather than put us at a disadvantage. It’s the uncompetitive nature of our companies that that creates the disadvantage.

55. margin4error

Tim

it doesn’t make it nigh on impossible for us to do business in those sectors. As some one who works in the international energy sector (among others) I promise you, you have just listed several of our biggest international markets for energy infrastructure design, build and tech.

56. Jonathan Brown

Having lived, worked and not bribed in the Middle East, East Africa and the Far East, I know just how difficult it really is. Part of the problem is that by historically paying bribes it becomes the standard ~ how do you break that cycle?

One joke is typical: If you’re caught taking bribes in the USA you’re sent to jail. If you’re caught taking bribes in the Philippines you’re sent to the USA. There is also a good deal of hypocricy from the USA that doesn’t help. I watched dhows being loaded with American goods and supervised by Americans being shipped to Iraq at the height of the trade embargo. The USA was threatening sanctions against France at the time.

57. Jonathan Brown

Tim J

Part of the problem is the perception that business is impossible without bribes. I was held to one Middle East country for over three years because I would not pay bribes. For the last two years that I was there, I was offered dozens of straight business deals ~ trouble was no British company would supply if I was involved.

With Russia and some of the other countries you mention, I would agree with you. I walked away from one oil pipeline deal because it was so corrupt ~ 85% of the contract value was bribes. Eventually the deal did go through at 18% of the original contract cost but only because everybody walked away.

it doesn’t make it nigh on impossible for us to do business in those sectors. As some one who works in the international energy sector (among others) I promise you, you have just listed several of our biggest international markets for energy infrastructure design, build and tech.

It makes it very hard to do it legally – or at the least a lot harder than it now is for non-UK firms. As a lawyer who does quite a lot of work the energy sector, I’m quite aware of industry sentiment. This FT article was pretty prescient really. The only question’s going to be how fiercely it’s implemented.

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/99bb38ec-79ac-11e0-86bd-00144feabdc0.html#axzz1toYrxQPI

59. margin4error

I loved the day I was stopped for a bribe at customs in Tunisia – hardly the most corrupt nation in the region. I was heading out from Tunis to London and there was a really bewildered look in the chap’s eye as he stopped me to search through my stuff and I just let him. He even seemed to feel a little embarrased that he then had to check through a rather boring bag of clothes and a laptop. It is a shame that corruption becomes so normal that the lack of it makes things awkward. But I’d rather awkward than criminal, and the UK should take that view as a whole.

60. Jonathan Brown

To bring this back to the subject ~ it is the perception that Murdoch is a “star-maker” that has been underlying the power of Rupert Murdoch. How much, for example, of Louise Mensch’s much publicised objections were real and how much was seeking support from the Murdoch empire?

Tim J

Sorry about the pony, it’s on loan to the Wades.

61. margin4error

Tim

I’ll start by pointing out that I think you are just wrong on this. It is only fair that I do that as I’ve dealt with too many chief execs of major firms in the sector who, to put it simply, are atterly sanguine about the situation and the effect on their business. This is partly because they have to have taken reasonable measures to ensure no corruption down their supply chain – which they believe they do already – and because their advantages in those regions are such that they see these rules as no more stringent than those faced by other national firms.

And of course – brilliantly – you sort of evidence that yourself with an article highlighting that American firms have a good degree of enforcement and yet remain competitive in many of the same regions.

Now I’m not convinced that NewsCorp will suddenly become uncompetitive in the UK because it can no longer be corrupt, since most of its competitors here are not similarly corrupt. It is losing an advantage but it can rely on other advantages to keep it going. Our firms in key sectors and markets will find themselves similarly able to cope.

62. Jonathan Brown

Margin4error

Couldn’t agree more. All too often, bribery is seen as an easier way through the mire. In one East African country, I got stopped by the police looking for a bribe. I refused to pay but after talking to them took them for a meal as they had not been paid for two months and were hungry.

63. Badstephen

Just discovered there’s a professional cyclist called Jeremy Hunt who competes for Team Sky. At least this guy’s open about it.

And of course – brilliantly – you sort of evidence that yourself with an article highlighting that American firms have a good degree of enforcement and yet remain competitive in many of the same regions.

Facilitation Payments are legal under the FCPA. Illegal under the Bribery Act. It’s a big difference.

And also “Chief Executives are sanguine about the impact of new law” has, in general, a strong correlation with “Chief Executives are ignorant about the scope of new law”. The usual reaction to workshops/lectures explaining the Bribery Act is disbelief.

66. Jonathan Brown

Tim

In most instances, facilitation payments are not made via suitcases of cash. Bank guarantees are the preferred choice as they are virtually impossible to track.

66 – I think facilitation payments are more usually those small sums of cash so often used to grease the wheel of commerce in some countries. $50 to make sure your application doesn’t go to the bottom of the pile. $100 to make sure the customs officials don’t “lose” your paperwork. That sort of thing.

Strictly speaking, if a UK company’s local agent does this sort of thing in Nigeria, that company’s directors could find themselves in court.


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  96. sunny hundal

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  97. sunny hundal

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  98. Martin

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  99. Martin

    Media select committee view that Rupert Murdoch was "unfit" to run a big company was always just aimed at Ofcom anyway http://t.co/R5I6nPGO

  100. No ID

    Media select committee view that Rupert Murdoch was "unfit" to run a big company was always just aimed at Ofcom anyway http://t.co/R5I6nPGO

  101. No ID

    Media select committee view that Rupert Murdoch was "unfit" to run a big company was always just aimed at Ofcom anyway http://t.co/R5I6nPGO

  102. diana smith

    spread of voting on DCMS interesting http://t.co/nDbjxWhA Agree with Tony Wright unanimity would be desirable – but maybe not acheivable?

  103. diana smith

    spread of voting on DCMS interesting http://t.co/nDbjxWhA Agree with Tony Wright unanimity would be desirable – but maybe not acheivable?

  104. bernadette treadwell

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  105. //()()|]()79

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  106. Georgia Lewis

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  107. Nat Nollid

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