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October 21, 2013 / C H Thompson

Rupert Murdoch’s influence on politics

Before exploring the influence of Rupert Murdoch on UK and global politics it’s important to get handle on the extent and breadth of his News Corporation empire.

From following the above link it becomes clear that he meets the Marxist criteria of being described as a member of the ruling-class. Rupert-Murdoch-with-Tony--007This is largely because he owns the means of (media) production within News Corporation. Marxists would subsequently point out as a media baron Murdoch can:

  • have direct control of media content
  • can and do interfere with media content
  • follow this link for the remainder off these points

The extent of his power becomes evident in the way the Sun newspaper arguably influences UK politics. Polly Toynbee (Andrew Marr Show 24 November) said Murdoch had become key to electoral victories in the UK. The extent of the role of the Sun in shaping UK politics is briefly described on this page.

However neo-Marxists are critical of the Marxist approach. Simply writing one headline and expecting the Sun’s readers to do as they’re told is far too simplistic. Instead they are argue media effects occur over time. This is why the cultural effects model is so useful. The Sun will have had to encourage its readers over a significant period of time to vote a particular way – like a drip, drip, drip effect. This is because Gramsci argues the superstructure is cut in two halves, with political society using civil society to get its own way. Which is why some politicians and journalists have been concerned with the amount of private meetings Murdoch’s had with Cameron a process which occurred between Blair and Murdoch.

Notwithstanding the above points neo-Marxists say Media barons like Murdoch do influence the content of the media by:

  • owners don’t get actively involved in controlling content on a day-to-day basis. Instead control and content is left in the hands of journalists and managers
  • as managers and journalists want to protect their jobs they seek to attract advertisers and audiences by publishing suitable content. Sometimes audiences are attracted by media criticism of ruling-class, but such criticism is never threatening or damaging
  • follow this link for the remainder of these points

Despite the above points pluralists have an altogether different take. They see the media as allowing a diverse of viewpoints to freely disperse themselves in society. They argue:

  • owners do not have direct control over media content
  • there’s no dominant class but competing social groups
  • follow this link for the remainder of these points

Because of this they argue even with so many media outlets Murdoch doesn’t dominate the newspaper industry because there’s a wide selection of other newspapers giving alternative view points which is evidence of a pluralist press. In addition there’s a wide range of media outlets available for people to read and so get a variety of viewpoints.

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