LONDON (Bywire News) - For a brief time, the Leveson Inquiry seemed to show cracks in Rupert Murdoch’s empire. One of his newspapers had been shut down. His henchmen were facing jail and politicians suddenly seemed to treat him as a leper.
The power he had cultivated over decades seemed to be slipping away. The figure that appeared before parliament looked a shadow of his former self. Downbeat, remorseful and seemingly shocked to find himself suddenly exposed to the hate of ordinary people.
Surely, politicians would never want to be seen near Murdoch again?
However, as they say in the movies, you can’t keep a good villain down. Almost immediately News UK was back in business.
Research by the Media Reform Coalition and 38 Degrees showed that members of the company met with Ministers on 22 occasions between April and September in 2016 - more than any other organisation.
They included meetings with the Prime Minister, Culture Secretary and other senior executives. Rupert Murdoch himself attended eight meetings.
When Theresa May made her first trip to New York as a fresh-faced Prime Minister, she managed to have a meeting with Murdoch during her one-night trip.
These days, he’s in and out of Number 10 more than ever. Between August and September last year, Rupert Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks held seven private meetings with senior ministers, and both enjoyed separate chats with Boris Johnson. Rishi Sunak was taken to lunch by Murdoch on 26th August (although it’s not known whether or not they benefited from the Eat Out to Help Out scheme).
Murdoch has also met with Jacob Rees Mogg, Priti Patel, Michael Gove, and his wife, the Daily Mail columnist Sara Vine. The contents of these discussions have never been disclosed to the public.
The Brexit bounce
A huge vehicle for Murdoch's resurgence was Brexit. The biggest threat to Murdoch’s dominance during the Leveson Inquiry was the end of his perceived dominance of British political life. Ever since the surprise victory of The Sun-backed John Major in the 1992 General Election, Murdoch’s support had been seen as crucial for any aspiring politician.
Yet for a short time after the explosive Inquiry, the opposite seemed true. Nobody wanted to be seen near him.
However, Brexit reconfirmed the power of the Murdoch machine. His entire empire swung behind the vote to leave the European Union, a result which he described as ‘wonderful’.
The referendum led to the fall of David Cameron and the rise of Murdoch allies in the shape of Michael Gove and Boris Johnson. With the latter now firmly installed in Number 10, the relationship between Murdoch and the Government is closer than ever.
The relationship benefits both sides. Murdoch has the openly right-wing government he’s always wanted – one in which he seems to have open visiting rights. The Government, meanwhile, has a large bulk of the media working as their own propaganda arm.
The fruits of that show through in the polls. The latest figures give them a 12-point lead over Labour. This would be remarkable at any time, but in an environment in which the government has overseen the biggest economic crisis in recorded history - and in which their handling has been lambasted as incompetent by a senior advisor - it beggars belief.
Murdoch’s power is now greater than ever. CEO Rebekah Brooks has gone from the docks to personal meetings with government ministers. He has shown his ability to destroy the careers of those politicians who dare to do anything less than dance to his tune.
The big losers in this are the rest of us. With Murdoch pulling the strings, the Government has moved to neuter the biggest outlet for independent news, the BBC. With Tory sycophants installed at the Corporation’s head, any hope of accountability from the mainstream media is more or less gone.
Murdoch has destroyed journalism in the mainstream media. The only hope lies in the rise of independent media. These cannot be influenced by the Murdochs of this world - or the Government.
The likes of Byline Times, Bellingcat and many others, like us at Bywire News, are doing the journalism which the mainstream media seem to have forgotten how to do - and we don't need to appease to any millionaire media mogul.