Rupert Murdoch and me

Updated: 
MurdochI never met Rupert Murdoch but he knew me. A News International executive once told me I was on a blacklist in Fortress Wapping. I had dared to threaten to sue over The Times using my work without paying the appropriate copyright licence. But my relationship with Murdoch goes back further. He has dominated my professional life.

Sacked

I was sacked soon after I got married, sacked again – from a job I had not even started – two years later on the day my first child was born (yes they phoned up repeatedly until I came home from hospital).

I have been banned, blacklisted and abused. And I have watched journalism standards slip. I blame Murdoch for much of that.

Wapping lies

I started in journalism soon after Murdoch had moved to Wapping and smashed the print unions – in some cases violently smashing print union members. The whole face of journalism had changed and was changing, particularly the relationship with unions.

Murdoch had twisted the truth to paint the print and journalists' unions as backward-looking and the cause of all businesses' ills. The reality was much less black and white.

When I started work, in 1987, publishing companies made huge profits. Unions had not got in the way of that. They had helped firms make fortunes.

Unions

Freddie Star holds Sun with anti Neil Kinnock headline: Wil the last person to leave Britain please turn out the lightsSuch was the relationship that on my first day, the personnel manager (before they were called human resources) advised me to join the union and offered to deduct my union dues from my pay packet.

But things changed rapidly. Under the influence – and possibly the instruction – of Murdoch, Margaret Thatcher brought in a succession of anti-trade union laws. These laws restricted the power of members to decide how their organisations were run – laws that did not apply to members of other bodies, only trade unions.

The first companies to derecognise unions were media firms. As each tried to out Murdoch Murdoch they turned on their former union partners, sacking and victimising union leaders and cutting the pay of members left behind.

The history of the first 100 years of the National Union of Journalists lists ten people sacked for being union officials. One of them was me. It was the same woman who had told me to join the union who had to sack me because publishing company policy had been reversed in just four years, influenced, I suggest, by Murdoch.

Profits

Media firms then made hay. The massive cuts to journalists' pay enabled them to make even greater profits – unrealistic levels of more than 30% (to put that into context, Tesco makes less than 10% profit).

Shares were snapped up by greedy investors expecting 30+% profits forever. When the advertising recession arrived and competition from the internet and other new routes for advertisers to reach audiences emerged, media firms responded by cutting to try to maintain unrealistic profit levels. Standards fell.

Murdoch set the rules and the rest of the media colluded. I remember the then managing editor of the Guardian, Brian Whitaker, bullying me, claiming he regularly met his counterparts and would "make sure you never work for a national newspaper again".

Innocent?

The Mail and the Mirror and the Express are all rejoicing in Murdoch's troubles but none of them are without shame of their own. Maxwell has gone but we still have the mainstream media run by tyrannical press barons and pornographers.

Murdoch changed the British press for the worse. He had begun to change broadcasting for the worse too but has been stopped, just, from getting the complete control of Sky just after securing the weakening of the BBC.

Politicians

Murdoch got away with it through terrorising politicians. I was once in Parliament asking a committee on freelancing for legislation to help with getting paid on time and for fair contracts.

The vice-chairman made clear that no government of any party would ever take on Murdoch so there was no point even considering our plea.

To get politicians to act took the public outcry at hacking the mobile phones of the relatives of terrorism and crime victims and soldiers killed in action. For them we owe it to ourselves to restrict media ownership and influence and create a fairer, more pluralist media in the UK.

And get rid of Murdoch for good.


SPONSORED FINANCIAL CONTENT