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The Cozy Compliance of the News Corp. Board

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I Was Doing Foul Shit Very Young
I Was Doing Foul Shit Very Young

If there were justice in this world, Rupert Murdoch would have long ago been stripped of his media empire, and forced to rot in a dungeon. But since money and power trump justice 99 times out of a 100, Rupert Murdoch can continue smiling, and thumbing his nose at the law.

David Carr writes, in part:

There are many reasons Rupert Murdoch has avoided any serious consequences from the scandal despite hundreds of British citizens having had their phones hacked, dozens or more being bribed in law enforcement and several dozen more of his employees having been arrested.

…Mr. Murdoch also remains mostly unscathed because much of News Corporation’s business and most of its profits lie here in the United States, where the scandal is viewed as something happening on a distant island.

There have been reports of corporate misdeeds in America, including computer hacking at its News America Marketing division, but other than some faint rumbles in Washington about further investigations, it’s been mostly smoke, no fire.

…But the primary reason Mr. Murdoch has not been held to account is that the board of News Corporation has no independence, little influence and no stomach for confronting its chairman.

Like many media companies (including the one I work for), News Corporation has a two-tiered stock setup that gives the family control of the voting shares. The current board includes family members and several senior executives; the independent slots are filled by a host of familiars.

Viet Dinh, a former Bush administration official, is godfather to Lachlan K. Murdoch’s son. Roderick Eddington was deputy chairman of a division of the company in the late 1990s. Andrew S. B. Knight and Arthur M. Siskind are both former senior executives, and John L. Thornton, the former Goldman Sachs president, served as an adviser to News Corporation on several major deals.

The board also includes Natalie Bancroft, a trained opera singer who made a great deal of money when her family sold Dow Jones, which included The Wall Street Journal, to Mr. Murdoch in 2007, and José Maria Aznar, a former prime minister of Spain, who is a friend of Mr. Murdoch’s.

Being a board member of News Corporation is not a bad gig; it pays over $200,000 a year and requires lifting nothing heavier than a rubber stamp. The directors apparently haven’t asked why the company maintained its “rogue reporter” defense after it became clear that “rogue enterprise” was a more apt description. They appeared to sit silently by while Mr. Murdoch and his son James waited for law enforcement officials to finally ferret out employees of the company’s British newspaper division who were accused of engaging in criminal conduct.

Still, the board may regret being quite so quick to throw its full support behind Mr. Murdoch and the current management. The parliamentary report, as scathing as it was, is only the first of many dominoes expected to fall in the next few weeks and months. Ofcom, the British broadcasting regulator, is assessing whether News Corporation should be allowed to continue to hold its stake in British Sky Broadcasting. For its part, BSkyB was quick to get out the 10-foot pole, reminding everyone that the two companies are separate even though News Corporation owns a 39 percent stake.

(click here to continue reading The Cozy Compliance of the News Corp. Board – NYTimes.com.)

A public company in name only, in other words. A true public company would have to do what was best for shareholders, and a public company’s Board of Directors is supposed to lead a corporation down the Straight and Narrow. Instead, News Corporation smiles at corruption, blinks at lawlessness, and counts profit.  

Written by Seth Anderson

May 6th, 2012 at 10:48 pm

Posted in Business

Tagged with , ,

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