The alternative universe occupied by the Murdoch media and its consumers is facing a very expensive and damaging confrontation with reality. But how and whether this will affect the Australian operations are another question.
The latest confrontation with reality came with the Dominion Voting Systems $US787 million payout – a very expensive way of avoiding Rupert and Lachlan being cross-examined.
Of course, Dominion follows a series of other expensive collisions with the real world including: the UK phone hacking scandal which had cost more than $1 billion by 2020; the payout over the phone hacking of Milly Dowler in 2002 cost more than $1.2 million (with an additional $1.2 million Rupert himself paid to charities of the Dowler family’s choice) and more since.
The News of The World closed, The Sun was damaged goods and the coverage of the hacking, according to the UK Press Gazette, precipitated the end of the Murdoch proposed BSkyB takeover and a break free of more than $373 million. As late as last year News had set aside another $58 million for costs associated with The Sun for “allegations of voice mail interception and inappropriate payments to public officials.”
Incidentally, perhaps in keeping with Rupert’s republican sentiments, The News of the World phone hacking also targeted the Royal family.
In the US Fox News had confronted another expensive scandal when in 2016 it had to pay out $32 million to settle the sexual harassment claims of Gretchen Carlson and Megyn Kelly against Fox News CEO, Roger Ailes
But what will all this mean for Australia in the immediate and near future? In the short term the immediate impact on Australia will probably be negligible. Those who hate the Murdoch media will rejoice in schadenfreude. Those who enjoy its support will continue to cling to it.
Tony Abbott, Peter Dutton and their ilk will continue to heed the Murdoch mania for anchoring policy and outlook on the so-called ‘base’ – the ageing, reactionary, racist rump – out of touch with modern mainstream Australia and increasingly isolated from mainstream opinion and, in particular, the opinions and lifestyles of Australian women. This ’base’ market – old and dying as it is – will at least be secure until it drops off the twig.
But, in contrast, we probably won’t see repetitions of a Kevin Rudd carousing with Murdoch executives in New York nor will we see the obligatory genuflection from politicians if Rupert visits. There may be meetings, but they will be discreet.
The most immediate impacts will probably be on Murdoch staff as the Australian operations continue the downsizing programs already announced.
The inevitable speculation about Murdoch’s longevity and what happens when he dies will also play a role in how this plays out. Murdoch was apparently not much of an asset in the inquiries in the UK cases. Cross-examinations are not comfortable particular for those used to genuflections rather than clinical probing.
The parts of Murdoch’s depositions disclosed in the Dominion case are also interesting. There was a hint of a man not caring that much. It was obviously truthful – a wise course under oath – but curiously laidback although perhaps this was just an example of a hard, successful man facing reality and dealing with it calmly.
The Murdoch media outlook medium to longer term is a different matter. Fox is still facing another voting case threat from Smartmatic which is suing for $US2.7 billion and some similar cases to those that caused the UK problems are threatening for the organisation.
However, the longer-term implication is how it impacts on Lachlan and what happens when Rupert goes. When? What the rest of the family will want? Who knows?
…. and as for the latest case, the Lachlan-crikey one, who knows about that either?
STOP PRESS: Five minutes after writing this news came that Lachlan had dropped his case against crikey.