Friday, September 2, 2011

#Murdoch in #America #Floorgraphics vs News America

News Corp. faces a litany of other accusations in the United States, ranging from credible allegations of computer hacking to the more amorphous charge of "Murdochizing" America through sleazy influence-peddling deals with politicians.

One of the biggest headaches for Murdoch has been the costly claim that News America Marketing, a highly-profitable subsidiary of News Corp., hacked in the computer databases of minor rival Floorgraphics Inc. and stole business strategies and data.

Floorgraphics took News America to court in 2009, but settled mid-trial. The company was then bought out by News America for an undisclosed sum, said to be far in excess of its estimated value.

Another case saw News Corp. shell out $665 million to silence two other rivals, Valassis Communications and Insignia, after they accused News America of abusing its market position in violation of anti-trust laws.

News America's solution was typical of Murdoch's pay-your-way-out-of-trouble approach to business ethics, and was emblematic of the wider News Corp. culture, according to media analyst Porter Bibb, a former Newsweek White House correspondent and Rolling Stone magazine publisher.

"Floorgraphics threatened to sue and News Corp. turned around and said 'don't sue, we'll buy your company' -- this is very typical of the approach and philosophy that Murdoch instills throughout the company," he told GlobalPost.
There are also parallels here with events in the U.K. where News Corp.
executives, including Murdoch's son James, have authorized payoffs to phone-hacking victims (while maintaining they had been unaware it was taking place.)

Likewise, just as Murdoch has tried to resist throwing trusted lieutenants such as former News of the World editor Rebekah Brooks to the wolves, News America's CEO Paul Carlucci not only retained his position but was also appointed publisher of the New York Post.

Such parallels seem to have raised alarm bells. Apparently prompted by the trouble Murdoch faces on the other side of the Atlantic, the U.S. Justice Department has launched its own investigation into the computer-hacking allegations.

Bibb predicts Murdoch will escape unscathed, just as he has from most of his brushes with U.S. legislators. This persistent immunity, according to journalist Frank Rich, can be attributed to the media mogul's relentless pursuit of friends and browbeating of foes in high places.

In an article printed last month in New York Magazine, Rich accused Murdoch of "hacking" America not via telephones or computers, but through desensitizing the public to his manipulation of the country's political morality -- what he calls "the Murdochization of America."

This, he argues, is characterized by the numerous prominent political figures that are now or have once been in receipt of News Corp. pay checks. Fox News, for instance, has counted Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum among regular paid contributors.

Rich wrote: "We've become so inured to Murdoch tactics over the years -- and so many people in public life have been frightened, silenced, co-opted, or even seduced by them -- that we have minimized his impact exactly the way his publicists hoped we would, downgrading News Corp. misbehavior merely to tabloid vulgarity and right-wing attack-dog politics.

Bibb cites the political support Murdoch has relied on when navigating stringent regulations over who can own newspapers and broadcast media in the States. "Murdoch is very famous for buying votes when he needs them," he said.

As in the U.K. prior to the hacking scandal, Murdoch's ability to achieve his aims in the U.S. so readily is partly the fault of the wider media community (with the exception of the New York Times) in failing to take him task, Bibb added.

"Murdoch is not the bogey man of a public figure here that he is in the U.K.," he said. "People are much more hostile towards the right wing politics of Fox News than they are against Murdoch, but that's not because of anything illegal, just its cultural and political bias.

"People expect it, they say: 'That's News Corp., that's Murdoch -- of course he's going to be extremely right wing, but he's not breaking any laws.'"