- Unethical Antecedents of Rupert Murdoch
For a business enterprise that is synonymous with its leader, it is apt to evaluate the ethical standards of the business with the actions of its top leadership. Rupert Murdoch has proved controversial right through his media career starting in 1968, when he “tricked his way into Fleet Street in a watered stock deal from which he emerged with 40 percent of the voting stock of News of the World” (Sherrill, 1993) News of the World, which is the flagship weekly paper of News Corp in Britain, is arguably also its most salacious. Media analyst Shawcross calls it a Sunday paper “specializing in randy vicars, homosexual housemasters, threesomes in bed, stolen underpants, misplaced virginities.” (Sherrill, 1993)
There are other glaring examples of News Corp’s ordinary ethical standards. When in 1976 Murdoch purchased New York Post from its proprietor Dorothy Schiff, he promised the latter that the newspaper’s cherished liberal values and liberal politics would be respected and continued. But in a matter of months of the takeover, the newspaper was turned into a hawkish right-wing rag. The organization was also restructured, laying-off many local employees. This again is a breach of the triple bottom-line standard as it placed ‘profits’ ahead of ‘people’ – in this case employees. Further, a personal friend of Murdoch from Australia was brought it to lead the business & finance section. The man was ill-reputed, having previously fought off drug addiction and having been involved in the brothel business. It was not surprise then that Reaganomics and attendant right-wing culture was the economic framework that was promoted strongly. These political affiliations make hallow the claims of objectivity and neutrality given lip-service in the Standards of Business Conduct document. In terms of the TBL, Murdoch’s actions are all the more dissonant, for they affect ‘people’ and ‘profits’ both.
- Poor Employee Relations within News Corp
The sort of employee relations that exists in News Corp makes it one of the least preferred organizations to work for. The numerous instances of summary dismissals by Murdoch are now legion. All employees from entry level reporters to chief editors are made to understand that their job is secure only as long as they toe the line. Any show of independent thought or personal discretion will be swiftly and surely quelled. For any editor, getting fired by Murdoch is almost a certainty, if their standards strike Murdoch as elitist and some because they are, in his words, “too nasty even for me”. (Sherrill, 1993) This remark proved to Tina Brown how sporting Murdoch was. If editors dare to show any measure of independent judgement, they are ripe to being fired. As one unfortunate such editor notes, Murdoch’s method of running the business is ‘by phone and by clone’. This practice proves very distasteful, especially when, “because of chaos or tragedies in their private lives, they are most vulnerable. He also likes to fire his most loyal subordinates by memo, preferably sending the memo through a third party. A real charmer. Needless to say, hardly a soul remains in his organization who started out with him.” (Sherrill, 1993) With the reputation of News Corp’s ubiquitous leader being thus dented, it undermines the ‘Maintaining Credibility’ criteria expressed in the company’s SBC.