Rupert Murdoch doesn't have a monopoly, now quit whining!
The left can't compete with right-wing media. For punters, nor for cash - so they nationalise and subsidise their biased institutions.
Right thinking people were sickened by the revelations that the phone of murdered teenager Milly Dowler had been hacked by journalists from the News of the World. Disappointed not to find anything interesting, they deleted messages to make room for something hopefully juicier. This gave hope to Milly’s parents that she was still alive and receiving her messages. The people responsible should be jailed.
Some left thinking people saw all this as a chance to go after Rupert Murdoch. This week the euro lurched closer to disaster, the United States approached default, a forty year civil war ended in the creation of a brand new country, South Sudan, and the Syrian unrest continued. But you’d never have known from the British media which was obsessed with the fate of Murdoch’s ‘monopoly’.
The idea that Rupert Murdoch has a monopoly of British media or is even close to getting one is nonsense. According to an Ofcom report into News International’s bid for BSkyB, television accounts for seventy-three percent of the news people receive and seventy-percent of that comes from the BBC.
In internet and radio the BBC is similarly dominant. News International, by contrast, accounts for less than thirty percent of newspapers read and Sky News accounts for just six percent of television news.
Indeed, as a simple matter of economics it is be impossible for Murdoch to create a monopoly. A monopoly, after all, is a market where there is only one supplier. There are unusual cases of natural monopolies, where it is only possible for one provider to provide a certain good or service, for example, if there was only one gold mine on the planet its owner would have a natural monopoly in gold.
In real life there are very few of these. Lots of things which used to be considered natural monopolies necessitating government ownership, like gas, water, electricity and even telecoms, turned out to be nothing of the kind.
Contra the typically useless Marxist observation about capitalism’s supposed tendency toward monopoly the type of monopoly most commonly encountered in the real world is that created by government.
By granting a charter, government can give an enterprise the legal right to be the sole provider of a good or service. James I did it with cloth and Stanley Baldwin did it with broadcasting. Indeed, the closest thing we have to a monopoly in media is the BBC which, according to its veteran newsreader Peter Sissons and even its Director General Mark Thompson, has a long standing left wing bias.
Even so Rupert Murdoch has been phenomenally successful. He sells more newspapers in Britain than anyone else and in just 14 years Fox News in the United States has become more popular than left leaning CNN and MSNBC combined. Faced with this, do the left seek to compete with Murdoch? No. They seek to regulate him.
Left wingers in the United States have long sought to resurrect the old Fairness Doctrine, junked by Ronald Reagan in 1987. This was intended to guarantee a fair airing for all viewpoints but, instead, served up a diet of post war statism and crucified a man like Barry Goldwater.
The phone hacking scandal has prompted new calls for media regulation despite the fact that hacking and paying Police officers for information is already illegal. But the left never sees a problem that can’t be solved with more spending or regulation.
There’s a good reason why the left might choose to regulate Murdoch rather than compete with him; they aren’t much good at it. The BBC certainly provides stiff competition but then it is funded by a compulsory levy on all TV and radio consumers whether they listen to the BBC or not, a luxury Murdoch doesn’t have.
They have ventured into the private sector. 1987 saw the launch of News on Sunday, a left wing attempt to compete with the News of the World. 1987 also saw the closure of News on Sunday. The Today newspaper where Alistair Campbell served as political editor opened in 1986. It closed in 1995. Indeed, left wing media outlets seem to suffer the same fate as left wing governments; they run out of money.
It’s his success that drives the left crazy about Murdoch. He sells lots of newspapers in the UK to the sort of working class voter who, according to the left wing belief that people will act according to their class interest, should vote Labour.
But many of them don’t. This is because people are individuals who do not act as a mass with some single unifying sociological characteristic as the left assume. Human beings are infinitely complex and follow all sorts of impulses and motivations. The skilled working class C2 voters who helped Margaret Thatcher into office and read Murdoch’s papers actually believed that lower taxes and inflation and less union power were good things. Looking at the 1970’s who can blame them?
But if people are these complex, unpredictable individuals, then the entire left wing ideology of state guidance of undifferentiated masses goes out of the window. Every single working class Murdoch reader or Conservative voter is a living, breathing affront to the left, proof with a pulse that their ideology is garbage. That’s why Murdoch is hated. He has made a fortune proving the left wrong.
On the whole individuals are smart most of the time. That’s why they voted for Margaret Thatcher or John Major in 1992, not because Rupert Murdoch told them to. But this also means that his importance is overestimated.
Labour lost in 1992 because their policies were rubbish. Labour enjoyed opinion poll leads for years before Murdoch came out for them before 1997. And despite his support of the Conservatives they still didn’t win the 2010 election. Murdoch follows rather than leads opinion. If the left think that by taking him out his erring followers will come flocking back to the banner, they are in for a surprise.
John Phelan blogs at The Boy Phelan and has written for The Commentator, Conservative Home and The Cobden Centre
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