The case against Rupert Murdoch

Rupert Murdoch (picture World Economic Forum)

Passing judgement on Rupert Murdoch appears to be today’s fashion, and this blog is not one to shirk a challenge.  His dislike of the EU is well-known, as are the anti-European opinions of his newspapers, as is the eurosceptic influence he has had on British politics, but those are not grounds on which to denounce him.  Anyone is entitled to an opinion, even – or perhaps especially – if those opinions are ones with which this blog disagrees.  And why should someone who owns a newspaper not put their opinions in the paper?  And why should politicians running for election not pay attention to what the newspapers are saying?

If there is a case against Rupert Murdoch here, it lies not in his opinions or behaviour, but in his scope.  His share of the news market grew too large for the health of British democracy.  But that is a criticism not of Rupert Murdoch but of the regulations and regulators that permitted it.

A healthy democracy requires pluralism of opinions in the media, and pluralism of opinions in the news reporting.  If a media company gets too large, that pluralism is threatened.  This is true of the Murdoch empire, but it would be true of any other newspaper or media proprietor, too.  Perhaps Mr Murdoch can be criticised for other aspects of the way he has run his company, in view of the widespread allegations of criminality among the journalists and editors he employed, but that would be outside the scope of this website.

What this website can criticise Rupert Murdoch for, though, is the way he has organised his company’s finances to avoid paying his fair share of taxesA network of company subsidiaries in offshore jurisdictions such as the Cayman Islands and the British Virgin Islands (how can any business need as many as 62 separate subsidiaries in the BVI?) shuffles his liabilities for tax around, reducing the overall tax rate to 6 per cent, or $324 million in taxes on $5.4 billion profits over a 4 year period in the last decade.  No law has been broken, but that’s the point: the law should not allow it.

On the plus side, Rupert Murdoch himself appears to agree.  Here is his tweet on 29 April: (@rupertmurdoch):

Social fabric means all. Must wake up before coming apart more. That includes closing tax loopholes for rich people and companies.

Let’s hope that he means it.

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