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Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Murdoch as Mephistopheles

By now you've probably read or heard about James Murdoch's OTT attack on the BBC at the Edinburgh Television Festival.

Murdoch was giving the James MacTaggart Memorial Lecture, as his father had done twenty years before. Well this reminded me of one of them I have never actually watched - the one Dennis Potter gave in 1993, widely regarded as the greatest ever.

Visibly suffering from cancer though Potter is, it is mesmerisingly brilliant. Vituperative and funny. Sentimental and disturbing (especially to the audience of television big-wigs, some learn forward, some cover their mouths).

In it he tells several tales of Murdoch. Here's one:
At the time Rupert Murdoch was anxiously trying to guild if not renovate his image while lobbying to prevent his cable television company coming under the same rules and regulations that apply to other British television companies, he announced that his main company was going to fund a new Chair at Oxford University to the tune of £3 million. It was to be called - I do beg your pardon, but I cannot keep a straight face – it was to be called the Murdoch Chair in Language Communications. But the announcement came with cack-handed timing on the very same day that the Press Council formally and of course ineffectively censured Murdoch’s Son for calling homosexuals “poofters”. Some language. Some communication.

Murdoch did not turn up for the ceremonial meal to mark the largesse at Oxford, always a place where the gap between the cup and the lip can be measured by more than an inch of the sardonic. But Rupert has a touch of pure cruelty in his make-up. He sent Kelvin MacKenzie, the sharp little weasel that edits that daily stink they call the Sun, and the maladroit fellow had to sit and chew and probably even dribble a bit between two professors.

Just before he died of cancer, he sat down with Melvyn Bragg for a final interview. Of course the subject of media mogul Rupert Murdoch came up.

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