Staff Review by Chris Saliba
Paul Barry's brilliant Breaking News shows how the Murdoch media empire called the shots for a long time, installing prime ministers and taking down political foes, but reality and the truth eventually caught up with it. Essential reading for anyone interested in the power of media over democracy.
English born Paul Barry has
made quite a career for himself as a journalist, author of books on
key media figures and as presenter of ABC's Media Watch. His great
skill is to distill a lot of information in an easily digestible and
even entertaining fashion. He never seems to write a dull page.
Breaking News is a perfect example of this: every page leaves you gobsmacked. There is so much scandal, abuse of
power, illegality, irresponsibilty, arrogance and downright
callousness within its pages that it leaves you reeling in disbelief.
Everyone knows about the News of the World hacking scandal and
Rupert Murdoch's subsequent fronting at the Leverson inquiry to
answer questions from British MPs. Breaking News establishes the story in a
rather intriguing way. Firstly, it provides a speeded up
history of Rupert Murdoch's business empire, with a biography of
Rupert himself. The second part gives brief biographies of the three
Murdoch children from Rupert's second marriage, Lachlan, Elizabeth and
James. Lastly (and this forms the most substantial part of the book)
the News of the World hacking scandal is chronicled in full.
The whole affair is, of course, a train wreck from start to
finish, one that is still being played out in the courts. The amazing
thing is the sheer arrogance of the journalists involved who thought
nothing of breaking the law to get a good story and keep their
masters happy. Barry does substantial primary research himself, and
claims to have interviewed 100 people for the book. The culture that
emerges within News Limited is one where it was assumed you could get
yourself into all sorts of legal trouble and it didn't matter,
because it was understood you'd be bailed out by the company. No one
was under any illusion about what they were doing.
Perhaps worse than the horrible journalism, if you could call it
that, were the close relationships built up between the tabloid
editors, such as Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson, and British prime
ministers. Apparently Rupert Murdoch thought that it was he who was
running England, and he was perhaps in part right. The tales of
Rebekah Brooks deciding to take it out on various British MPs with
relentlessly aggressive media campaigns are sickening. As we all know, Andy
Coulson went to work in Tony Blair's office after working for Murdoch. British political
parties had to effectively govern jointly with Rupert Murdoch's News
Limited. Get him offside and he'd use his newspapers to full effect
to bring you down. As the book notes, The Sun had always picked
election winners since the early seventies.
The epilogue of Breaking News looks at possible successors to
Rupert Murdoch, if he should ever step down or even die: he claims to be intent on living to 100, at the very least. It's Elizabeth who appears the most
capable, but because she is a woman, and Rupert is old fashioned in
his views of women, she's not a favourite. Lachlan quit the business.
(Wendi Deng's two daughters have been dealt out of any succession
plan.) That leaves James, but insiders say he is not a patch on his
father. He's constantly described as someone who thinks that he's
smarter than he actually is.
Breaking News makes for important reading. It takes you inside the
media sausage factory and of course its shocking to see what goes
into the sausages. If you want to know how much of our politics and
opinions are shaped by this race-to-the-bottom journalism, then this
book is an absolute must. Highly recommended!
Breaking News: Sex, Lies and the Murdoch Succession, by Paul Barry. Published by Allen and Unwin. ISBN:
9781741759785 RRP: $39.99
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