Page 12, 22nd September 2006

22nd September 2006
Page 12
Page 12, 22nd September 2006 — Why Rupert Murdoch is probably not a demon

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Why Rupert Murdoch is probably not a demon

nyone who, like me, was reduced by sheer fatigue to watching this week's Spooks two-parter instead of going to the pub will at least have been rewarded with a few good laughs, and laughs, at that, offered by most of the different means afforded by sloppiness and ignorance. There were continuity gaffes, but I'd have to get into detail about the plot to expatiate on those. There was the risible premise (notwithstanding rumours about Harold Wilson's government) that the head of MI6 would lead a plot to effect a coup and order the murder of MI5 officers in the process. There was a Cabinet Secretary describing himself as "a politician". There was a

hideously amateurish scene in which a passing member of the public delivered an impromptu dramatic speech to a news camera, the way passing members of the public never, ever do. And finally there was the composition of the conspiracy: said head of MI6, said Cabinet Secretary, a corrupt industrialist and... a renowned political philosopher? A senior army man? No, you guessed it: an evil media mogul, yet another fictionalised Rupert Murdoch to add to the list.

The earliest fictionalised Rupert Murdoch I can remember was played by Robert Hardy in an excellent comedy serial called Hot Metal all of 20 years ago; the most recent popped up as the villain in a James Bond flick in which, if memory serves, he had the front pages covering his fiendish atrocity ready to roll before the event – a device also shamelessly ripped off by Spooks.

I have never met the real Rupert Murdoch, but I'd love to know how he reacts to being a handy, off-theshelf demon for any script-writer in need of a PC-proof baddy. Perhaps mere scribblers of fiction are beneath his notice; or perhaps he keeps a much-loved collection of his avatars, all

those power-crazed media proprietors thirsting to start wars and change governments, along with Barry Humphries' joyous performance as a merely dramatised Murdoch in Selling Hitler.

For let us be in no doubt. Whatever the

nervous witterings of the networks' and film companies' libel lawyers to the contrary, they're all him, Aussie accent or no. They arc not conflations of him with Lord Rothermere, Ted Turner and Tony O'Reilly, they are all just Rupert Murdoch, for that is the name associated in the public mind with the megalomaniac at the top of a publishing and broadcasting empire perceived to exercise undue and scary power over the fate of nations. If Orson Welles were making Citizen Kane today, Murdoch, not Hearst, would he his inspiration.

And that would be quite unfair, for there is no evidence whatever to suggest that Murdoch has any interest in political world domination. His history is merely one of backing, at most confirming, the winning side in order to sell product. The reason he is regularly demonised on the screen by the frothier end of the . British artistic community is simply that it was he, some 25 years ago, who broke the power of the print unions; and even though there is now nobody left outside the funny farm who thinks this was a bad thing for journalism, he is still reviled for being the upstart foreigner who had the bad taste to upset the applecart.

Oh, and for being right, of course. He's well struck in years now and there are several obituary documentaries already in the can, just waiting for a bit of rapid update editing when the time comes. The one from Sky or Fox will be hagiographical , of course, but all the others will be undiluted boot. But to be remembered only with sycophancy or blind hatred is much less than the man deserves.

Nick Thomas

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