Wednesday, February 29, 2012

James Murdoch leaves the UK - News goes for TV and Rupert Tweets

Whoever said the world is a simple place has been disconnected. Following the continuing unravelling of News International / Corporation in the UK, it is a challenge to get one's head around the entire enterprise of this "family business."

Here is a smattering of news from this date: March 1, 2012. All the news embodies aspects of the digital -
  • James Murdoch resigns even as the UK Government inquiry continues into digital phone hacking News of the World (NOW, closed); 
  • moving from newspapers to TV, which is converged digital video / applications by any other name; 
  • Rupert Murdoch tweeting;
  • members of the Inquiry tweeting him!
A non-digital aspect to the story stream is the news that Rebecca Brooks, former NOW editor saved a horse from the glue factory.!/rupertmurdoch/status/174810157082091520  This was Rupert Murdoch tweeting, so back to the digital. (This is, I'd suggest, a perfect communicative strategy for dedicated conservatives like the Murdochs - talk about animals in distress.)

James Murdoch has resigned as executive chairperson of News International, the British newspaper subsidiary of News Corporation.  At least one commentator - Michael Wolff, author of a recent Rupert Murdoch biography - suggested that James may face time in prison for his role in the hacking business. For such a possibility to play out, there will need to be a significant collapse of elite support for News - that may in fact be occuring.

Such an outcome would be the result of utilizing the Internet in the newspaper domain.

The standards for Internet behaviour in the un-regulated digital domain are or have been, unknown. You could do anything you wanted on the Internet - including hacking people's phones. The default is to rely on Enlightenment legalities about decency and civility - that is, allow people privacy on their telephones. (Frankly, you cannot blame the so-called journalists employed on English tabloids for doing anything but what their bosses instructed them to do or whatever was necessary to get the story. If I am correct, many of these "journalists" are uneducated well connected young people for whom the terms "critical thinking," "reflection" and "academics" are totally unfamiliar terms.  Hannah Arendt's Eichmann in Jerusalem: A report on the Banality of  Evil offers a take on this. A reading of Arendt on Eichmann should let the implications of "I was just following orders" explain itself to this generation of the mindless).

In many ways the Leveson Inquiry is an attempt to claw back the idea of civility in the face of the digital. A similar claw back took place in the US after the commercialization of the Internet and the Telecommunication Act of 1996, with the Copyright Millenium Act, the Digital Decency Laws, Children protection laws and a multitude of other post-factum efforts to regulate the otherwise unreglated. (See Uprising for more on this).

 I want to draw attention to what is possible in the uncivilized twittersphere. I want to repeat here the tweet from the Levenson Inquiry Committee Member Tom Watson after Rupert Murdoch tweeted about the horse.!/tom_watson/status/174811123030298625
"@rupertmurdoch You comment on her horse but not on her insider knowledge of a criminal investigation into your company. Have you no shame?"
Then again, maybe this is more of the same: is the appeal to "shame" anything more than an appeal to the civility of Enlightened values?
News Corporation is planning to focus on television. This is understandable given that so much quality visual media is around. Given what I have seen in the 3D and games platforms dimensions, it is only going to become more engaging and immersive, perhaps even transformational. The size of the global market for Internet-based communication is vast.

Rupert Murdoch in his letter about James's resignation said:
"He has demonstrated leadership and continues to create great value at Star TV, Sky Deutschland, Sky Italia, and BSkyB. Now that he has moved to New York, James will continue to assume a variety of essential corporate leadership mandates, with particular focus on important pay-TV businesses and broader international operations."

 It may as well say digital video.  Is it really possible for James Murdoch to end up in prison? If so he will have plenty of TV to watch, much of it very, very good! Complex indeed.