Scrutinizing Rupert Murdoch and his media empire


"Rapist Caught by Own Cat."

That headline from the Sun, Rupert Murdoch's London tabloid, writes Robert Sherrill in the current the Nation, is part of the formula that has made it the largest English-language newspaper in the world. The rest of the formula is "nude women on page three, sex advice, fabricated news and racial scares."

Mr. Sherrill's dense, splenetic attack on "Citizen Murdoch" cautions that Mr. Murdoch's "empire building on the edge, financial loosey-goosey" has been propped up by the FCC's refusal to strip him of his Fox TV stations even though its May 4 ruling acknowledged him as "an outlaw in the industry."

Mr. Sherrill: "You may think television is a wasteland now, but if his British operations are any guide, when Murdoch really gets rolling, Fox's 'Married . . . With Children' will seem, in retrospect, like 'Hamlet.' "

The NAACP's "Freudian typo" in its legal brief against Mr. Murdoch -- it referred to Fox as a "newtwork" -- symbolizes the deal between the mogul and the Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich, to "turn Fox into what will become the right wing's principal voice in this country," writes Mr. Sherrill.

Did Mr. Murdoch violate foreign ownership laws when he bought his first stations in 1985? "Are they really his, and does he own them -- or do they belong to a foreign corporation that has no legal right to own them?" Mr. Sherrill asks.

Mr. Murdoch's CEO, Barry Diller, didn't know the answers either. Here he is, "babbling incoherently," Mr. Sherrill writes, when deposed by the FCC and asked to explain his remarks about ownership.

"Well, it has no -- there's no distinction other than the fact that what my meaning was, I was simply trying to convey meaning by statements that you're reading from underlying meaning as as to why I was going to leave the company is that while people may have thought that I was a principal in Fox, and Fox company, and, in fact, while I may function as one and to some degree do, in fact its common stock, so to speak, ownership, its equity was owned by Newscorp."

Prenuptial agreement

Daniel F. Halloran's "Reader, I Married Him: Charlotte Bronte's Marriage Contract" in the spring issue of the new renaissance is a fascinating look at the prenuptial contract of the author of "Jane Eyre," first disclosed only eight years ago, and the reasons for it.

Bronte's settlement was drawn up May 24, 1854, a month before her marriage to Arthur Bell Nicholls, the curate of her father, Rev. Patrick Bronte. Mr. Halloran theorizes that Charlotte's father lived in terror of poverty and that the dutiful daughter's contract to leave her money all to him was to ease his fears.

How irrational Patrick's fears were is mentioned in Margot Peters' 1975 biography, in which she cites this "pathetic example of the penurious excess to which (Patrick) was driven": "The time when she (Charlotte) was nineteen and would have been thankful for an allowance of a penny a week, and she asked him for a tiny sum, and he said, 'What does a woman want with money?' "

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