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25 July 2011

The Bigger they are…..

By: Latif Yahia

It may take decades or even a lifetime to build an empire, but it seems relatively easy to tear one down. Or at least that appears to be the case with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. ranked number 13 on Forbes most powerful people in the world list, it looks as the days go by that more and more high ranking politicians and policemen will be dragged into Murdoch’s phone hacking scandal, both in the UK and America, there are now calls to see if any of the victims of 9/11’s phones were hacked. Are we surprised?

Rupert Murdoch??

Not really, to do business on the scale that Rupert Murdoch was doing it, there had to be people “on the take”, but do not be fooled into believing that he was handing them the brown envelopes personally, well, maybe a few, but the rest were passed on from those who were sanctioned to do so or saw it as a way of doing their job to the fullness of their ability. Yes Murdoch is corrupt, but he would not be the first or the last to use money to his advantage.

There are several ways of attaining information, it can be given freely, it can be bought or it can be stolen. Thankfully we have not yet come across the fourth, torture, but that’s not to say that any newspaper, magazine etc. has not used information that came from a torture subject, known or unknown.

At the moment the world may be vilifying Murdoch but he is not alone and not the first of his kind, if he ran a country we would call him a Dictator but because he runs a company we call him (until very recently) a Success.

He very possibly never wrote a Manifesto like Saddam or stood and gave a rousing speech to his workers about the strength of the country (News corp. operates on three continents) but with so many assets he has as many workers as a medium sized country and they all want to keep their leader happy, sorry, I mean keep their jobs.

Like all good dictators he has passed the crown onto his son and heir, the next natural successor, after all he didn’t work this hard for it to go to some elected fool! And his devoted workers all know what is expected of them, which is why all of his newspapers, magazines and TV stations take the same line, not necessarily because he told them to, but because they know what pleases him and again they want to keep their jobs and prove how good they are. That reminds me of someone else I once knew.

Don’t think that Rupert Murdoch is the exception to the rule, he is the rule.

Take Tony O’Reilly for example, once maligned by the likes of Conrad Black (who has also fallen off his pedestal) and Murdoch, he has an uncomfortable monopoly on the Irish media as he has a large stake in all but two of the National papers, a fact that rarely sees him criticized but famously helped him to swing the general election in 1997 from the prevailing party (Fianna Gael) to the opposition with the headline “ Payback time” and why? Because O’Reilly had personally demanded reform of the libel laws, a ban on below cost selling by British newspapers and exclusive MMDS licenses (a wireless cable TV system) and his demands were rejected. Tony O’Reilly in Ireland??

The government report of the meeting with his representatives said they were told “We will mount a full frontal assault on you, as a government, in the elections”, O’Reilly’s representatives’ version of the same meeting simply says “We said that they would lose INP (Independent Newspaper Group, now International News and Media) as friends and would mean any future administration would have a large bill to pay”.

Fianna Fail the opposing party who had a more sympathetic ear to O’Reilly won that election and stayed in power for another 12 years.

Sir Anthony (Tony) O’Reilly, has stakes in newspapers on three continents, not to mention the controversial oil and gas deals with Exxon for the licenses to blocks in the Porcupine Basin some 200Km of the West Coast of Ireland, which have now been portioned off to Chrysaor to develop, but still leaving his company Providence Resources formerly Atlantic Resources with a 30% share in whatever gets pumped out.

O’Reilly campaigned between 1987 and 1992 to have the tax rate, royalties and licensing with regard to oil and gas exploration and production lowered, although they were already substantially lower than those prevalent across much of the world.

Mike Cunningham former director of Statoil Exploration Ireland has said “No other country in the world has given such favorable terms as Ireland”, it is projected that if any of the blocks are produced, that the Irish State may receive as little or less than 7% of the estimated 20 Billion that the blocks are potentially worth.

But why share when you are of the belief that it is a “simplistic public notion that Irish oil and minerals belonged to the Irish people at large.”

Sir Anthony, as he has insisted that he is called, is known for his support of Irish Charities, Opera and the Arts and has acquired an art collection that he is obviously very proud of, since he has had a catalogue printed at a reported cost of 125,000 euros for 500 copies one of which has been reportedly sent to the Queen of England another to the President of Ireland.

Sir Anthony did indeed consult the Irish Government before accepting his Knighthood / Knight Bachelor in 2001 for “services to Northern Ireland’, as an Irishman cannot constitutionally accept any award or title bestowed upon him by a foreign country without getting their consent, but after 1997, who is going to say NO to Tony?

As one of Ireland’s six Billionaires, (although his status may have fallen over the years) he is in the majority of the five that do not pay tax to Ireland. Having said that there are wonderful comments made in the Irish press about him, how “ if you cut him, his blood runs green”. Tony is now in his 70’s and has done as all Emperor’s/dictator’s do, handed everything over to his son Gavin.

If you want to control a country or should I say countries, then you must have control of the media. We may elect our politicians but it is the media men who control what is and is not said about them, they are the puppet-masters. We only see and hear what they want us to, or at least that was the case.

With the birth of the internet the game changed, people like Murdoch, O’Reilly and Berlusconi were slow to recognize the power that the internet has, the fact that less and less people are buying newspapers and more and more are not only getting their news from the internet but from the blogosphere, where articles like this are unhindered by the journalistic need to please. Here, on the internet we are free enough to write without editor-ship, I don’t know how many times I have been interviewed by journalists who at the time of the interview are understanding of my position and clear on my views only to read the story in the paper or magazine and find that I have been “Screwed royally” because their Editor didn’t like the first draft or it didn’t fall in line with their “paper’s policy” meaning their owner’s policy.

Will there be a “phone hacking scandal” in Ireland? Maybe, but probably not, not because there was, or is no corruption in the system, but because if they were to openly investigate it would mean a revolution “French Style” because 80% of all the police and politicians would have to go.

When one man has enough power to have his newspaper, even a local one, write against the Shell to Sea campaign in County Mayo, Ireland, as opined by a columnist

“Shell has been scandalously remiss in not employing someone to bump off a few of these fellows” as “The rule of law has to be enforced, by apparently harsh measures if need be.”

This also tracks back to Tony’s own interests in Oil and Gas exploration.

If you are interested in Shell to Sea they have a website and are organizing a large protest on Friday 29th July 2011 as Shell are starting to build their on land phase.