While Gingrich’s guilt is more obvious, Murdoch’s intention of inducement is equally culpable. It was unethical of him to create a conflict of interest situation for a high-placed public representative. Through the relationship Murdoch expected to be reciprocated with business friendly public policies and granting of legal concessions. Some other objections against the Gingrich-Murdoch deal focussed on “the source, magnitude, and timing of the profit, which rose legitimate questions of independence and fairness.” (Thompson, 1995, p. 206) Questions were also raised about other possible gains for Murdoch through the relationship, for he had “a substantial interest in pending changes in federal regulations and legislation that were to come before the next Congress.” (Thompson, 1995, p. 207) If one were to apply the triple bottom-line standard to this situation, it would certainly fail to qualify. Of the three P’s – Profit, People, Planet – that govern the triple bottom-line, the Murdoch-Gingrich affair fails the people of the United States. If their contract had remained valid, the democratic political processes of the country would have been compromised. Likewise, this event stands in breach of News Corp’s proclaimed SBC guidelines, as it has let down the company’s stakeholders – in particular the readership, and in general the broader citizenry.
- The Diminishing Ethical Legacy of Keith Murdoch
Incidents such as the Gingrich affair were one of numerous let-downs of the News Corporation’s self-proclaimed Standards of Business Conduct. Rupert Murdoch’s father Keith Murdoch had adopted a more balanced and moderate approach to business than his son’s more ruthless approach. He was a noted journalist in his day and drew upon Aristotle’s Ethics to set standards for his own company. In his correspondence to employees Keith Murdoch used to quote Aristotle, appreciating his practical wisdom, which “is less a capacity to apply rules than an ability to see situations correctly… Acquiring wisdom requires experience, one’s being able to see what matters in certain circumstances, and why.” (Rohm, 2002, p. 265)
Another simple policy that Keith Murdoch brought to work was his oft quoted mantra ‘Explain, simplify, clarify!’ It is fair to state that his son has not kept up with the acceptable standards set by his father. Merely going by Rupert Murdoch’s blinkered empire building vision it is obvious that ethical principles have been subsumed by profit interest and market expansion. Apart from the deviation from Keith Murdoch’s moderate business practices, the News Corporation of today has brought disrepute to journalism as a whole. To the extent that negative publicity and dilution of reputation have direct correlations with newspaper circulation and concomitant profits, News Corp has let its shareholders down. This is in contradiction to what is stipulated in the SBC. Similarly, under the TBL framework, the diminishing legacy of Keith Murdoch has an effect on Profits – one of the three P’s.