Tag Archive: Sky

You might have thought that in many respects the News Corp. story had largely run its course and that I had missed the boat in terms of jumping up and down on the dying embers of the paper and of Murdoch’s fortunes in general.  In some ways indeed the big news has already happened, the News Of The World has been closed, an act showing the utter contempt Murdoch has for his workforce, as if that were ever in doubt, additionally the bid for BSkyB has been withdrawn, and the government are talking up their new-found opposition to things that limit free speech and enterprise.  You might be forgiven for thinking that a job has been done and we are all the better for it.

I confess the closing of the News Of The World was a little bit of an initial surprise and in spite of the hatred very many of us may feel towards News Corporation and all of its publications most if not all the people who have lost their jobs have had nothing to do with the scandals and contemptible activity of the paper’s senior staff.  One must also not forget that News Of The World’s proportion of News International’s business is small, it’s £160 million turnover is far less than Sky’s £6bn so the company at large can absorb this in a blink of an eye and there has been talk for some time that News International’s intentions were to use The Sun’s branding over a 7 day period, so this could well be part of a sack all staff and get them to reapply for their old jobs on diminished pay and conditions, or am I just seeing grounds for cynicism where none exist?!

The removal of the bid for BSkyB was perhaps more of a surprise, the powers that be had done everything possible to smooth the passage of the hostile takeover bid including the removal of difficult ministers that had shown any signs of potential hostility to the deal such as Vince Cable, not usually known for his vehement opposition to this government.  They had sought every loophole to avoid OFCOM the regulator getting involved and had resisted any efforts for the case to be submitted to the Competitions Commission.  It looked for intents and purposes to be, what in fact it was, a stitch up.  The government have now done what governments do which is to quickly switch support from the side that has just lost to that which has just won and claim this was always their intention all along and how wonderful the world is with people standing up for their rights and freedoms.  These same politicians lest we forget have been the ones ceding our freedoms and control over the media at every turn for as long as I can now remember.  That the Labour Party should now be sabre rattling is only slightly less odious than the Liberal Democrats doing so, Ed Milliband has nothing to lose at the moment as he faces a minimum of several years in opposition as he looks to gloss over the past where his own party were the ones lauded by the very papers they now claim to despise.  Nick Clegg has even less shame as he is part of the current government and cannot even claim his silence was on someone else’s watch.  He is intent on making out that they have favoured for years reform to the media ownership laws, I cannot quite remember this as being at the forefront of their manifesto to be honest but then the Lib-Dems have campaigned for years for the abolition of tuition fees and the increasing of income tax to the highest earners and these seem to have been shelved mighty quickly with the merest sniff of power so one can’t really be surprised to see them as reeds blowing in the wind.  They as coalition whipping boys partners now do what they are told by work in conjunction with their Tory overlords colleagues, or perhaps you may be able to give me an example where this has not been the case?

What one must bear in mind at this point is that it is being claimed that it is the public outcry which has had the effect on News Corp and this is perhaps the most surprising of all the facts in this case.  That 150,000 voices through Avaaz and 38 Degrees should pique the conscience of the Conservative government and stymie the megalomaniacal tendencies of Rupert Murdoch is utterly astonishing and something just doesn’t sit quite right.  What also worries me is that if you look at many of the BBC pages about the scandal such as Robert Peston’s report the comments left are vitriolic, inaccurate and largely in favour of Murdoch.  Now one can never assume that such a straw poll in any way represents wider public opinion or that the voices that shout loudest are any more valid than others but it is interesting that there appears to be such a blanket whitewashing at a time when I would have expected a wholesale contempt for corporations and politicians alike and for this to be on the BBC of all places that stood to lose most is also a little unexpected.  Of course I cannot assert whether or not Peston’s report may have been subject to a reactionary viral campaign

Do not presume that there is any genuine contrition in the News International organisation, merely an awareness that something has to be seen to be done.  An example of the mopping up campaign is being done via Fox “News” in the US already, this not only seeks to portray this story very much as last year, or even last decade’s news, which it is not, but also alludes to News Corp almost as one of the victims in the hacking case rather than the actual perpetrator of it.  This is pretty low vacuous stuff but to those not at all in the know about the case and British politics in general it may fill the vacuum of their knowledge and this is precisely the insidious danger of the Murdoch empire.

Blanket media coverage remains as rife as ever, we presume we have access to much media whilst actually we have what appear to be a number of outlets that are mostly controlled by the same people and the diversity and depth of news is perhaps scanter than ever.  Sure you can find independent news if you choose to go and look at sources such as Indymedia, you can reference information from sources other than the Press Agencies such as Wikileaks, and there is a movement agains the global corporate empire that puts profit before people such as Anonymous, there are uprisings agains the oppression of governments, and here one can clearly contrast our access to genuine information.  Take that which we receive from Egypt or Tunisia or Syria where the governments are not always helpful to the West and we receive much information about the protests and condemnation of the governments now look at Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain where protesters are in some cases even more brutally repressed and the silence from the media is indeed almost deafening.  Take what you hear of the Castro regime and the actions of Hugo Chavez and compare with how much you are told about the government of Uribe in Colombia.  These actions over time suffocate the truth and force people to make up their minds and opinions based on a fraction of the facts.  Such opinions cannot be so forcefully held but are very useful to keep acquiescence, or as Chomsky put it years ago to “manufacture consent.”  Governments have been perpetrating atrocities on this consent for generations and only on the few occasions people say enough and take to the streets will they occasionally climb down before continuing the policies in less covert ways.

The same is largely true of News Corp which peddles its brand of ill-informed populist drivel wrapped in the promise of this being the news.  It’s methods of telephone hacking and deceit have led to stories that have quenched the thirst for gossip the market of which they have helped to create.  To obtain such sordid stories the methods must usually be equally contemptible, we should not be surprised it should merely highlight the wider point that the population is more often than not content with tittle tattle rather than factual information and this must be regarded as an anathema in a civilised society.  At best the Murdoch empire is wounded by recent actions but it is by no means mortally and it will like as not come back more canny, more angry and more powerful than before because people will allow it to do so.

I will leave you with this conversation from the 1890s that illustrates, at least in terms of consistency of quality, that the News Of The World managed to maintain a position of scraping the barrel for an almost admirable amount of time.  I trust it may be regarded as a fitting epitaph.

Frederick Greenwood, editor of the Pall Mall Gazette, met in his club one day Lord Riddell, who died a few years ago, and in the course of conversation Riddell said to him, `You know, I own a paper.’ `Oh, do you?’ said Greenwood, ‘what is it?’ `It’s called the News of the World—I’ll send you a copy,’ replied Riddell, and in due course did so. Next time they met Riddell said, ‘Well Greenwood, what do you think of my paper?’ ‘I looked at it,’ replied Greenwood, ‘and then I put it in the waste-paper basket. And then I thought, “If I leave it there the cook may read it” —so I burned it!’

Song Of The Day ~ The Jam – News Of The World

I am quite aware that such a use of inflammatory words in my title will like as not mean people will not even bother to read anything I write subsequently.  I feel that this is their problem and not mine.  Whilst I appreciate that the word holocaust is generally used to denote genocide on a massive scale such as in Nazi Germany, Rwanda or Bosnia the definition of the word is “any mass slaughter or reckless destruction of life” and therefore I feel its use is apposite.

I find it deeply and troublingly ironic that on the weekend of Holocaust Memorial day the BBC and Sky chose to uphold their decision not to broadcast an appeal by the Disasters Emergency Committee for aid to Gaza in view of the humanitarian crisis that has happened and continues to happen there.  The DEC itself is a group made up of major British charities which generally issues appeals for the severest of catastrophies.  It is usual when the DEC asks the major broadcasters to air an appeal that they do so.  However they reserve the right not to should they consider such broadcast to be against certain guidelines and criteria.

The Director-General of the BBC Mark Thompson issued a statement justifying the BBC’s decision citing concerns “whether aid raised by the appeal could actually be delivered on the ground.”  Since the BBC had similar concerns over the Burmese cyclone appeal but chose after consideration to air the appeal this seems something of a red herring, after all there will always be such concerns after a disaster, the greater the disaster the greater the likelihood of problems and yet of course the greater the need.  That the BBC should have in the end agreed to the Burmese appeal showed this is precedent even when one does not agree with the regime.   The main reason used however was a more cloak and dagger one, that the BBC did not wish to have its “impartiality called into question” as this was an “ongoing news story”.  Again there is precedent of the BBC broadcasting appeals in similar conflict situations as it did in the case of Darfur where there were warring factions, of course there was little support in the UK for either of the particular factions at war in this conflict and therefore this was a non-issue in the political sense.  Likewise the Burmese government would I’m sure have a very different view of the BBC’s impartiality than the editors and Director-General and in fact in the case of Zimbabwe the BBC has been banned for allegedly broadcasting on very partisan lines, would the BBC refuse an appeal on behalf of the people of Zimbabwe on the grounds of the possible impact on impartiality, I think it highly unlikely, but  as has been shown before in a country without political or economic capital there is little prospect of international pressure.

In such cases the BBC will always be accused of bias, after all were it to have broadcasted the appeal there is no doubt that the right-wing lobby and that of the pro-Zionists would attack it for in some ways bolstering Hamas, however the appeal is not for the Palestinian state or its elected representatives it is for humanitarian aid for those within Gaza and few if any are questioning the appalling state of the infrastructure there now.  What seems clear is that faced with a decision to offend the pro-Gaza lobby or the pro-Israel lobby the BBC chose to buckle under the pressure that was likely to come from the latter.  It should not come as a surprise, the pro-Israel lobby is extremely politically and financially powerful, it is also extremely reactionary and frequently uses threats and legal action to prevent any deviation from a Zionist bias.  I have shown how this has impacted on academic freedom before.

The BBC underestimates the very nature of the problem, firstly looking at itself the BBC has set itself open to criticism once again from those who feel the BBC is not representative of the public at large and therefore see no justification in its method of funding through the licence fee.  I have always been a strong advocate of the licence fee in order to preserve at least the structure to be impartial and autonomous even if the incumbent board choose not to use it, in this instance the BBC has weakened my position and that of all those that have previously given it support along these lines.  Secondly and incomparably more important is the failure of Israel and the Zionists to look at the more long term implications of a poverty-stricken infrastructure-starved Palestine.  If this is not the breeding ground for extremism then I am at a loss to explain what is.  How could one possibly expect any young Palestinian now growing up not to see Israel as his/her mortal enemy without a strong and independent education system to help them out of the poverty trap in which they will as things stand inevitably fall?

Poverty breeds anger and anger that is not dealt with or channelled breeds hatred, lack of education breeds ignorance and these two combined breed fascism whether you choose to call it by its name or use a more watered down term like fundamentalism be it political, religious or social.  If you wish to look at an example look no further than the Western world itself where due to the poverty of the working class during the recession-filled 1990s far-right wing parties have seen a resurgence that rivals their catchment in the 1930s.  People choose not to see it that way because the fascists now wear suits not swastikas, they talk about jobs for workers not killing foreigners but underneath the rhetoric the ideals are the same, intolerance, mistrust and anger because they are fuelled by at best ignorance and at worst hatred.  British workers are now standing up against their Italian counterparts rather than standing against a system that would allow the company the ability and the desire to undercut its workforce.

One cannot expect the Israelis to learn the lessons of history as they choose to see themselves only as the victims of it, this is a bad mistake.  The Irish question shows all too well that no matter how much you claim to be refusing to cede to the demands of terrorists if you rule by force you will face armed insurrection.  Had the Irish not chosen to take up arms the British would certainly not have seen the error of their ways and left and unpalatable though it may be had the IRA not waged its campaign on the British mainland in the 1970s and 1980s it is unlikely that the nationalist community in Ulster would have been able to gain a proper voice in the democratic process.  The more you suppress people the more people you will push past breaking point.

Part of the problem is outlined by Henry Siegman in an article published by the London Review Of Books in which he describes the fact that Israel’s version of events is simply not questioned.  Siegman is certainly no anti-semite being a former national director of the American Jewish Congress and of the Synagogue Council of America, so for him to level this attack in an article entitled Israel’s lies should really make those who acquiesce to the Zionists sit up and take notice.  One need only look to the recent reports concerning Israel’s justification of the bombing of the UN building in Gaza with its spurious claims of having been fired on from the compound.  Whether or not this had been the case there is no question whatsoever that in firing so heavily on the building the Israelis were fully cognisant of the impact this would have on the civilian population.  Personally I would liken the bombing to that of Dublin by the Germans in May 1941, a clear signal sent to ensure that the occupants knew only too well of the consequences of incurring the wrath of the aggressor.

The Israeli response is disproportionate the death toll of Palestinians to Israelis since December stands at more than 10:1 and it is immoral as they are not even bothering to seek military targets as well as firing white phosphorus into civilian areas.  Israel will find itself paying for the atrocities as more Palestinians are drawn to the notion of jihad, and people across the world see Israel as coming ever closer to representing the systematic ethnic cleansing policies of the state of Nazi Germany in whose aftermath it was established.  The settlements already represent the very embodiment of Lebensraum as described by Hitler in Mein Kampf.  The use of more aggressive and inhumane military hardware to massacre the population is not something we have not seen before, indeed phosphorus was itself used in Dresden by the Allies in WWII (because the atom bomb was not yet ready) but at the very time of year we are supposed to be remembering the most significant example of systematic killing in world history and perpetrated by the very people who had suffered this example in the first place I cannot remember the victims of the holocaust without a sense of knowing that we have learnt nothing from the barbarism of our own recent history.

*[I have referred mostly to the BBC thus far in this article to draw a distinction with Sky which one would, with any sense, expect to be wholly biased towards the right-wing agendas of its parent company in much the same way Fox News functions in the United States. It is rather ironic that Sky is suddenly concerned with maintaining a position of political objectivity now when you consider how its parent company has acted over the last twenty-five years.  One cannot call such channels news programmes, they are useful only in so far as they offer the opinions of the neo-conservatives and tolerate little or no dissent of that position, their goal is to indoctrinate not to educate and the “news” they appear to provide is skewed almost exclusively to provide a supporting of the message they want you to hear.]

Further reading – Quotes and reactions to the BBC position; Mainstream Media Headlines surrounding the reaction.

Song Of The Day ~ Julian Lennon – Salt Water