Peter Mukerjea: Murdochgate update

02 Apr,2012

By Peter Mukerjea


As I write this, it’s Sunday 1st April. It’s April Fool’s day and I thought it was an appropriate day to remind myself that one should not take life in media too seriously at all even though each one of us secretly believes that we matter. If that is so, you live in a fool’s paradise as that’s simply not true. It’s almost a case of ‘Mirror Mirror on the wall – who’s the…. of them all? ‘And that doesn’t just apply to Snow White.


Do you believe that James looks himself in the mirror when he wakes up and asks himself that question?


I doubt that somehow. For if he did he would know that he is now toast. Certainly toast when it comes to running his dad’s empire, towards which he was sailing comfortably just over a year ago.


It’s been a while now, almost a year actually, since I suggested that James should step down. I guess he hasn’t yet done so from all his positions but almost 50 percent of them. But it’s not over yet. And it took him longer than I thought it would, but he did. At least from numerous boards in the UK that enjoyed his presence and executive prowess. The decision with regard to the ‘fit and proper’ test is yet to be taken by the regulator in the UK and in due course we’ll find out what their verdict is. The news which broke last week about the hacking of pay-TV codes will not bode well in their decision-making process even though James probably had nothing to do with it even though he was on the board of the company that claims that the allegations are ‘baseless accusations’. Oddly enough, the very same words used by the company last year when the phone hacking story broke. Since then much water has flowed under the bridge (of sighs) and as we now know, those accusations were never really baseless.


From what I hear, shareholders in the company are gathering ammunition and momentum to get James off the other boards too but Rupert seems to be paying them huge dividends to keep them from pushing him to pull the plug on James. How long will that continue? Another six months or a year perhaps? But James cannot be in the consideration set for the top job at the corporation. And I think that’s the right decision anyway. He’s simply not there yet. And Chase – he is by far a more charismatic, knowledgeable and seasoned executive and what he knows on the tip of his little finger is more than the man in the sharp suit with a strange accent and super polite manners that make you feel a touch weird. So why is he still there? Perhaps, because, where else will he go?


In India, where the presence of the Murdochs used to be regarded with the aplomb normally granted to that of a state visit, they now keep their head down and have their executives come to them rather than the ‘let’s visit the troops’ approach because reputations have eroded and some of the earlier public interest litigations may rear their heads once again.


The fact that there’s trouble in the UK across several fronts is now a well logged fact and getting James to the US may do some damage control but can’t stop the avalanche completely. There’s potential trouble in the US, with the possibility of there being an investigation into the companies’ overseas corrupt practices. There’s a possibility of an investigation in Australia. In China there was trouble a few years ago and the company contracted quite heavily when the companies’ offices were raided and executives were shipped out. So far they’ve been safe in India. So, an earlier suggestion of mine in this column that James should consider setting up base in India now must make more sense to him although his presence in India would be regarded as a predatory move, of course, which will raise the shackles of all competitors. But that’s not a bad thing for the corporation and indeed for the man himself to use this an opportunity to reinvent himself.


What finally happens will be known to all of us as time goes by but the there is a lighter side to all this. There’s the case of the horse that Cameron borrowed from Rebekkah (seeing as they have a home next to each other in the British countryside) and her hubby’s (who is Cameron’s school chum) laptop, that was found (and is still in the custody by the British police), in a bin in their garage that was ‘accidentally’ put there ! And then there’s the story of the German lingerie company that ran a series of ads in a campaign (last July) where they used James and his dad to full effect. They’re called Blush and if you were to Google – how to make Rupert Blush – you can see the ads for yourself.


Wonder how far we are from a similar ad campaign like this in India. Piyush, Prasoon, Balki et al, are you listening?


Sitting on the fence and watching these media moguls do a self-destructing act is motivating for those who don’t take life too seriously and recognize that being born with a silver spoon is as much a curse as a blessing. This entire episode to me is reminiscent of the late Robert Maxwell who was the owner of the Mirror Group of newspapers in the UK and who had a rather sad end. There were plenty of stories about Robert Maxwell but the one where he met two of his bankers on the rooftop of his building on Fleet Street and plied them with oodles of champagne is particularly noteworthy. After several glasses of champagne one of the bankers asked if he could go down to the loo for a pee but Robert Maxwell said that the best way was to pee from the edge of the building down on the street. Both Robert Maxwell and the banker then stood at the edge of the building and peed. When the banker asked “Will no one notice down there?” he was told by Maxwell “No – no one notices anything.”


I’m sure there are a few more revelations yet to come and we’ve not seen or heard the end of this saga, but maybe by next year’s Fool’s day we’ll have had enough and will be truly sick of the goings-on, unless the new ones are so juicy and closer to home that they make us all sit up and ask for more. By the way – there’s a movie doing the rounds presently called The Hunger Games and it’s all about reality television and the extent to which broadcast companies will go to get ratings, and how it can be manipulated. If you haven’t seen it – you should. Particularly if you’re in the business of buying ratings or selling them. Never mind the content, it’s all about the ratings. More on that next week.


Post a Comment 

3 responses to “Peter Mukerjea: Murdochgate update”

  1. Sai Nagesh says:

    Pete…..simply superb !!! Cheers to more of such stuff.

  2. Prriya Raj says:

    I was happy to see a blog on media from you – written with a good dose of humour. Enjoyed it!

  3. Pradeep says:

    Peter – I have never loved reading a blog more than this one. This has been one of your best and rightly timed on April fools day. Hilarious.

    Its true, some endings take a really long time to reveal themselves. That’s one thing about being on the top of the world, It gives you a long, long way to fall. Most endings come when you least expect them. And what they foretell is darker than you’ve ever imagined.

    The problem with inheritance is that it’s not always as simple as it sounds. Sometimes you get more than you bargained for. Or you discover that in gaining one thing you’ve lost something else. Sometimes the only thing left to do is wrap your arms around each other one last time and then just… let go.

Today's Top Stories