Woes of media moguls Murdoch and Berlusconi


Rupert Murdoch , the man who mainstreamed tabloid sleaze on the American television screen, faces a parliamentary probe in Britain for the underhanded tactics his journalists use to get their dirt in Old Blighty.

The scandal reaches all the way 10 Downing Street, and it shows no sign of letting up.

Seems that the Rupester’s minions were illegally hacking into the voice mails of royals, sports stars, and others in search of slime for his super-tabloid, News of the World, and the editor who headed the paper while all that hacking was underway now serves as the mouthpiece for Prime Minister David Cameron.

Murdoch, the scion of an Australian media mogul, has become an anchor baby for the worst sort of journalism in the U.S., where his empire embraces everything from Fox News to the Wall Street Journal.

As the employer of Glenn Back, Bill O’Reilly, and a legion of other smear and fear merchants and de facto patron of the Tea Party, Murdoch has emerged as one of the nation’s leading power brokers, so his travails across the pond should be of more than marginal interest.

Doug Saunders, a writer who serves as European bureau chief for the Toronto Globe and Mail, blogs about the scandal:

It began with an eerily familiar pattern: Soccer stars and politicians and members of the Royal family would check their voice mail, and discover that unheard messages were marked as “saved.”

Then, days later, they would see their names in giant letters on the cover of Britain’s red-top tabloids, over stories that quoted intimate conversations and described personal crises with uncanny accuracy. The Deputy Prime Minister’s affair with his private secretary was unveiled. At least two well-known MPs were exposed as gay. And princes William and Harry had their love lives and family interactions dissected in microscopic detail.

Scandals were exposed. Relationships were destroyed. Lives were ruined. Hundreds of people had their private messages stolen and used for dark journalistic ends – a practice that evidently continues.

At the centre of all this high-tech, A-list eavesdropping was the editor of the large-circulation Sunday tabloid the News of the World – a man who now sits in the office of Prime Minister David Cameron and serves as his chief communications aide.

Though Andy Coulson has adamantly denied any knowledge of the practice, he was editor-in-chief over a five year period during which his reporters used tricks, scams and private investigators to steal voice-mail messages off hundreds of private phones. His Royal family reporter and the private investigator he used went to prison for their front-page intrusions, the only criminal charges to date. Mr. Coulson ended up resigning over the controversy in 2007.

Now the political world is closing in on him. In an extraordinary parliamentary event Thursday, the House of Commons’ most powerful body, the Standards and Privileges Committee, voted across party lines to hold a full investigation that would require testimony from dozens of people, including News of the World owner Rupert Murdoch – and from Mr. Coulson.

This puts Mr. Cameron, whose Conservative-Liberal coalition government was elected this year on a pledge to clean up government, in a difficult political position.

Mr. Coulson will have a difficult time serving in 10 Downing Street when parliament is investigating his actions as newspaper editor – and he will have an even harder time serving as the government’s chief media voice when the top story on front pages, as is the case these days, involves his career.

The woes of sleazoid Silvio Berlusconi

While Murdoch’s foreign birth bars him from the nation’s highest office, no such constitutional obstacles kept another slime merchant from the leadership of his country.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s grip on his country’s media must turn Murdoch green with envy. Controlling all but one of his country’s television stations, Berluscoini also owns a newspaper empire, insurance companies, bankers, and even a soccer team.

Thrice elevated to the leadership of his country, Berlusconi has successfully survived a series of sex scandals — some documented by x-rated photos and videos — in a deft manner that must have Bill Clinton gritting his teeth in frustration.

His rise to power was greased by the notorious Propaganda 2, the pseudo-Masonic lodge that united politicians, spies, and crooked bankers and paved the way for the looting of the Vatican’s Banco Ambrosiano.

But the aging Lothario is facing new difficulties, as Ingrid D. Rowland reports in the latest New York Review of Books.

One-time allies are starting to desert him, his television empire is losing viewers, and Italian politics are growing more heated to the point where Berlusconi himself has been physically attacked twice by irate constitutents, more recently in December when he lost teeth and sustained a broken nose.

And just how sleazy is Berlusconi? Consider his now-infamous encounter with a public servant [a police officer] in front of television cameras:

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