Simmering away like some evil stew, this story has been knocking around for a few weeks now. If you missed it (entirely possible, since it has been largely absent from the Canadian press), Rupert Murdoch, owner of NewsCorp and current front-runner for scariest Australian ever, made an unsolicited $5 billion bid for Dow Jones, parent company of the Wall Street Journal. This would be an impressive addition to a $70 billion media empire that includes dozens of newspapers, magazines, MySpace, satellite services, and the worst news network ever, Fox News. The most vexing thing about the proposed takeover is not the undercurrents of media concentration, although that is disturbing. Rather, it is the fact nobody seems to have any idea what he's going to do with the venerable WSJ. Murdoch's media holdings run the gammut from tabloid to prestige press, from salacious to serious. Murdoch's outlets also tend to align themselves with the political party in power. This isn't political. It's about ensuring the most favourable market conditions for Murdoch to make a mint. The NewsCorp profit motive thus leads to contradictory results. On the one hand, The Sun reversed its decades-old tradition of opposing leftist parties and supported Tony Blair and New Labour into power. On the other, Fox News is the most shameless of all the Bush-boosters in the American media. Whoever can help Murdoch make money becomes the darling of his media empire, and the immense communicative power of NewsCorp often translates into votes.
This kind of media-as-leverage for interference in the political system is a real problem. While there is no guarantee Murdoch will run the WSJ like his other holdings, the danger is real. And odds are, a Murdochized WSJ will support the pro-corporation, anti-citizen agenda (you know, the one hiding behind the fundamentalist christian agenda) of the small cabal now in charge of the Republican Party. And as anyone with any concern for our future sustainability as a species, this can only be a bad thing.
Citizens in the USA need to start paying more attention to Murdoch sniffing around their media. I think we can all agree one Fox News is more than enough.