In the 11 years that The Guardian has been compiling its list of the 100 most powerful people in Britain’s media, Australia’s Rupert Murdoch has scored first spot on three occasions and has never been out of the top 10. And he would probably have done even better if the judges had known how often he and his chums met Britain’s politicians for brekkie, lunch, drinks and dinner.
But this year the 81-year-old tycoon has been relegated to #11, where, woe of woes, he suffers the indignity of being one spot below the man running Britain’s powerful press inquiry, Lord Leveson. Oh, how are the mighty fallen.
Meanwhile, Rupert’s son and could-have-been heir, James Murdoch, who was on the fringe of the top 10 last year, has won the prize for biggest loser, by plunging a terrifying 89 places to No. 100. Having resigned as head of News International and chairman of BSkyB, James no longer lives in Britain, nor runs any British companies. And, even though he is technically #3 in News Corporation, he is apparently being blamed inside the group for letting the hacking scandal get out of hand.
But one Murdoch must be thrilled she has done well in the list: Rupert’s second daughter Elisabeth, who gave James a roasting in her MacTaggart Lecture three weeks ago, has risen five places to #18 and earned the (no-doubt-unwanted) moniker of the “Anti-Murdoch Murdoch”
According to the Guardian’s judges, Elisabeth “was the only Murdoch not to suffer fallout from the phone-hacking scandal — she stood firm while everyone around her fell. She emerged with her dignity intact and her reputation enhanced, recognising what a mess it was before it became fashionable to do so”.
Well, they would say that, wouldn’t they? They agree with her.
The Guardian adds sagely that Elisabeth’s inheritance “is not what it would once have been”, but this suggests they haven’t been watching the News Corp share price, which has just about doubled from its lows in July 2011 and made the Murdoch family worth almost $4 billion more than when the scandal broke (making Elisabeth about $650 million richer).
There is, of course, a sense in which the inheritance has been diminished, in that the Murdochs’ power in Britain will never be the same again. But the centre of the empire moved west long ago, away from his (now-disgraced) British newspapers, even if Rupert’s heart (and the Guardian) did not.
Naturally, the Guardian is far too modest to mention that its own reporter, Nick Davies, precipitated Rupert’s and James’ fall, by revealing in July 2011 that the News of the World had hacked into the voicemails of murdered teenager Milly Dowler. Poor old Davies doesn’t even make it onto the list. Nor did he do so last year.
The paper is also far too modest in suggesting that the Guardian’s editor, Alan Rusbridger, should be 16 places behind Elisabeth Murdoch, however close to the throne she may now be, and however many MasterChefs and Biggest Losers her production company, Shine, now cooks up.
But that’s not the end of it. The British newspaper industry, which still sells 9 million papers every day and (arguably) sets the news agenda, gets only one person in the Guardian’s top 10, which is the editor of the Daily Mail, Paul Dacre, who comes in at #7.
Above him, from #1 down, are the people who run Google, Twitter, the BBC (two representatives), Apple and Facebook — which, speaking as a dinosaur and old print journo, I find thoroughly depressing.
Below Dacre, at #8, 9 and 10, are an adman, a TV presenter-cum-reality-TV format inventor, and good old Lord Leveson. Which makes me ask: 1.) does the Guardian have a future, given that it’s a newspaper and by its own admission an also-ran; 2.) is Lord Leveson wasting his time if the press has no power any more; and 3.) have the Guardian’s judges got it all wrong?
Despite savage falls in paid print sales, I don’t buy this argument that newspapers (and their hugely successful websites) have no power any more. And I’m not convinced that some twit who runs Twitter really rules the roost.
So what do you think?
This article was first published on LeadingCompany’s sister site, The Power Index.