Media and Advertising

The Fall and Rise and Fall of Danwei's Mentor, Rupert Murdoch

ICH060615murdoch.jpg
Now that Rupert Murdoch has proven that Western media companies can't get ahead in China through flattery, nepotism and the back door, we at Danwei will have to have to find a new model for our business.

In case you didn't know, Rupert is the world's last true media mogul - his company, News Corp., owns everything from 20th Century Fox Studios to ultra-conservative Fox News to the tabloid New York Post. Last week, Rupert stunned the media world by ditching most of his stake in Hong-Kong based Phoenix TV. In dropping from 38% control of Phoenix to 18%, Rupert indicated that a recent string of failures has forced him to scale back his dream of extending his broadcast empire to China.

Here within the mahogany wainscoting of our Danwei offices, we take Rupert's trouble as a warning. Rupert led his firm's sycophantic charge into China, compromising whatever principles he ever professed to hold in hope of securing deals. We opportunists at Danwei prepared to follow through the ethical breaches. We too can censor our content and criticize whatever Nobel Peace Prize laureates irritate China's elite leaders. We too can run government-approved content on our platforms - haven't you seen our hyperlinks to Xinhua's pin-up girls? We understand as well as Rupert that principles are as flexible as a quote from the Little Red Book of Chairman Mao.

Rupert was our model. We couldn't believe it when, shortly after buying the Hong Kong-based Star TV satellite network, Rupert announced in 1993 that such ventures would pose "an unambiguous threat to totalitarian regimes everywhere." How, we wondered, would challenging China's leaders help his business? Furious Chinese officials responded with demands that Rupert drop BBC World Service Television from his Star TV package of channels. Rupert complied, to our relief, and things got back to normal.

Rupert went on to set the standard for sweet-talk. In 1999, he called the Nobel Prize-winning Dalai Lama "a very old political monk shuffling around in Gucci shoes." He ordered his publishing arm, HarperCollins, to drop a book contract with former Hong Kong governor and critic of Beijing, Chris Patten. News Corp. even runs CCTV's news and propaganda on its U.S. satellite network, DirecTV, and moved a Los Angeles TV producer to Beijing to spruce up the content. In the entrance to his swank offices in Oriental Plaza, just off Tiananmen Square, Rupert hung a photo of himself sharing a chuckle with Communist Party chief Jiang Zemin, and another showing his son and heir-apparent, James, meeting with the country's most feared censor, propaganda minister Ding Guangen. Well, Danwei can also drop book deals and hang compromising pictures, and Hey! Dalai Lama! Love that chrome dome!

But then Rupert tried to leverage his good relations into revenue, and he over-reached. First, he attempted a back-door takeover of a satellite television channel in Qinghai province. Had the deal gone through, News Corp. would have provided the channel's content (as of now, such News Corp. content as the Mandarin-language Starry Skies channel is limited in China to five-star hotels and approved luxury apartment buildings). A key business partner was Ding Yucheng, son of the former propaganda minister and a proven opener of back doors. Unfortunately, President Hu Jintao then sent his own people to run the ministry that oversees broadcasting, and last year they forced Rupert to unwind the deal.

Then, Rupert's top China executives got caught selling programs illegally. News Corp. salesmen peddled a bundle of four channels, including National Geographic, to cable networks in the hinterland even though everyone knows that's not allowed. Since News Corp. couldn't book the illicit revenue, it set up a shell company to launder the proceeds, which generally arrived in cash. After the government learned of the scheme from a whistle-blower, officials raided News Corp's offices and carted away computers and documents. Shortly after that, Rupert declared in New York that his company had hit a "brick wall in China."

Now that he's sold down his stake in Phoenix, it seems that Rupert is cutting his considerable losses in China. That looks like an opportunity for Danwei. So Rupert, if you want to unload some office space, we'd be glad to trade you these mahogany walls for some of your Oriental Plaza digs. Or maybe you'd prefer we take Starry Skies off your hands. It seems Wendy will never get to watch it in that million-dollar courtyard home you bought for her near the Forbidden City.

There are currently 19 Comments for The Fall and Rise and Fall of Danwei's Mentor, Rupert Murdoch.

Comments on The Fall and Rise and Fall of Danwei's Mentor, Rupert Murdoch

From London Review of Books: http://www.lrb.co.uk/v26/n03/lanc01_.html

When Murdoch finally secured a meeting with Zhu Rongji, then one of the country's Vice-Presidents, in 1998, Zhu switched from talking via the interpreter to ask Murdoch a question in English.

He had heard, Zhu said, that Murdoch had taken out US citizenship when he wanted to operate a television network in America. Would he consider taking out Chinese citizenship to further his interests in China? Murdoch was clearly taken aback. Zhu watched his reaction for a moment, then turned to his entourage and repeated his question in Chinese - to general mirth.

Reminds me of the Woody Allen movie, Zelig.

Ironically if they had stuck with some of their earlier initiatives they could be in a much better position today.

I used to work for ChinaByte, a IT-focused website launched in 1997 as a JV with the People's Daily. Back then Shou, Sina etc were just launching and were coming to us to discuss working together. Unfortunately NewsCorp was focused on Star TV and ChinaByte never got the management attention that it deserved otherwise it could have been one of the top portals. Having the state run People's Daily as a partner didn't help either. ChinaByte is still around, seems to be doing okay as a second tier website and NewsCorp is still a shareholder.

They also invested in Netease during the dotcom bubble and then divested themselves around 2002 after Netease shares were allowed to be traded again after their accounting scandals. If they had kept their shareholding then they would have had a stake in one of the top portals in China today.

Murdoch has been successful in the west by peddling political support in return for favourbale terms on media ownership. Since China doesnt depend on a lynch mob Murdoch-owned media for support they can slam the door in his face with impunity.
Maybe things will change when Rupert dies (although when that might be who knows - his mum is still going strong). His soons and dughters have all proved to be business noobs. Maybe Wendy or their hunxue offspring will take up the reins.

To: Zhuanija,

Hey, can you say Racist???

Other than Jmmy lai in HKG there are how many Chinese media greats? Zero...

Wendy is out of the loop due to first wife Anne's position in settlement. Also, wendy is the one paved the way for Murdoch's passion with China...

Also there is Malone and Liberty Media, who is as old as Murdoch but has solid bench. Lachlan is a moron, but James is quite good.

Finall, although i assume that zhuanjia is an enemy of democracy and simple a chinese bigot, is china really better off with fewer foreign investors in media???

Not sure what points you're trying to make there, Mark. As Jeremy noted, Murdoch has been locked out of China. Is it racist of me to say that? His sons and daughters have not shown any sign of being able to match their father's success, despite nepotism that has parachuted them into high office. Murdoch may have Tony Blair at his beck and call, flying to Australia or the US to attend every shareholder meeting. But he has failed utterly in China, where his powerbroking tactics just don't work. Now he is an ageing mogul overseeing an empire of newspapers with shrinking circulations, a movie studio under threat from downloading/piracy and dwindling cinema attendances and he has dumbed down TV stations that have little more scope for expansion. His only opportunities for further growth were the internet and China. He bought myspace off the peg, but his China expansion plans have come to nothing.
The media moguls of the future won't be the big Murdochs or Malones, but the more modest Goldkorns who are working from the grassroots in young markets like China.

Not the first time someone has "failed utterly" in China, eh zhuanjia? Still I'm sure you bring all this up with Rupert and his kids on the beach.

Ichabod,

I had thought that such condescending, leftist, sneering was atypical of Danwei. Wrong. The contempt for RM practically drips from Ichabod's prose, as if anyone in this part of the universe cared a hoot for what you think of RM. It's all 'we did this' and 'we did that' while mentioning RM in the same sentence, as if to indicate some form of parity with him. I'm afraid, Ichabod, that you have wee wee'd all over yourself here.

Anyone could have found any of these little, risk-free slanders in any one of a hundred places where media losers congregate. There's nothing new in those sneers. And let's kill the socialist boilerplate, can we?

Remember, Ichabod, that RM is the media mogul, and you write condescending posts in a blog - possibly in order to inflate your saggy ego??? I certainly hope Danwei doesn't sink to the depths of the leftist echo-chamber (example, the London Review of Books) that it is starting to sound like. If you really feel the juvenile need to speak truth to power you all know who you can insult. The reaction would really have Ichabod pee in his pants.

And now what? People at Danwei cannot even write a post with sarky remarks about Mr. Murdoch and his business in China? Why is that, Mr. Barlow? Do you have to be a gazillionaire and a media mogul in order to have the "right" to write or speak about Mr. Murdoch?
I don't think so!
Take it easy, Mr. Barlow, no need to be so aggro...

Gunslinger,

The blogosphere is accessible to anyone who wishes to use it. Ichabod can write whatever he wishes, and criticize whoever he pleases. However, he has no claim to immunity from criticism once he's done it. The the blog is public, and offers a comments section where people can respond. This is exactly what happened. (In fact, I urged Ichabod to write more, not less - a critique of someone who might actually respond to him.) I maintain that his post was idiotic and self-serving, as well as insulting and un-representative of Murdoch. He has the right to respond.

Are you suggesting I can only write about things I agree with?

This is what I'm suggesting:
- Nobody said you cannot write a comment.
This is what I found distasteful:
- The patronising way you used to comment on Ichabod's piece...something along the lines of "who are you (insignificant idiot) to dare talking about Mr. Murdoch (mega-untouchable-media-mogul) like that?"
This is what I'm asking you:
Give Danwei readers an example of what should be, in your opinion, a post that is "representative" (?!) of Mr. Murdoch. Thanks.

And here is another suggestion:
-Don't need to be so aggro

for michael barlow:

whooosh...

either you have had a irony transplant and have completely missed the point and tone of this article

or you for some reason take any criticism of murdoch as a personal slight

neither of which explain your strange need to raise the spectre of the London Revies of Books!!

Good Lord man, loosen up a bit will ya

To re-present what Zhuanjia was getting it:

Murdoch must make his deals with the government as they have ultimate power over the media. The goverment already have a tightly controlled media that big-ups them at every turn and attacks their bogeymen. They even have some 'western' devices of allowing dissent within certain limits to deflate commentators.

They simply don't need Murdoch's services.

That's not a sneering attack on anyone. Barlow, you can present us with more info on Murdoch.

Andy, that should be "bigs-up".

zhuanjia, you are right on the button with this one.Dont worry about pansy Barlow. He probably gets raked over by someone like Murdock every morning, and suffers from some debilitating mental sarcoma. Look, Murdock's interest is money and power for ego's sake, like all these twats. And he will do whatever he can to achieve this including sleeping with 'the devil'. These people have no connection to us mortals anymore, except the final lesson: they are going to shift their mortal coil one day too.

Wendy can't save Phoenix ? I thought Rupert married her mainly to get inroads to China but apparently her insider contacts are limited. Media is something that the Chinese government strongly guarded so it is not easy, not even if you know President Wu.

A good remark concerning Jimmy Lai, one of the very few true living Kane on this planet, with balls as big as his ego... (unhappily his playground is a bit limited; otherwise a brief calculation, based on The Sun's or Next's figures for example, shows that there would probably be cheap broadsheets or tabloids printed by J Lai, or his "alter egos", every week all over China in the range of 20-30 million copies per title with the usual sexy pictures -well, look for the names of Tang Jiali or Qin Dai on Danwei, as well as the rear of most Xinhua bookstore in county seats, if your want to see truly "artistic" nudity-).

Maybe someone missed the point here, but there are other, quieter (almost invisible) foreign press moguls who discreetly for years, forgetting politics, made and still make money in Beijing... starting with Pat McGovern (the real winner on any cash scale, very smart, started early in 1979, with a still secret weapon, controlled circulation, the perfect business model), George Green (Hearst can thank in fact Wu Hong, best of the very rare small semi-independent print media bosses in the PRC), Gerald de Roquemaurel (HFM advertising-machinery helps discreetly of course lobbying in the background for the group aerospace deals -read defense-, the ultimate cash machinery), etc.
...Funny how Rupert Murdoch, master manipulator of heads of states on 3 continents during 3 decades missed the ATM machine and the big advertising party here in Beijing*.
...could be after all the ultimate political lesson given by the true world publicity masters, who marketed and still market so amazingly well the New China brand to the rest of the world.

*obviously a question of language ...or memory (or age ? or sex ?); once Rupert Murdoch himself said something like "I don't buy print media assets in a country where I can't at least read the headlines"; but after all so many of his avid readers open their wallet every week for fake cheap sexy pictures and stories ...could be the ultimate revenge of Mercury, true god of this 21st century (god of the Media, sold to the ruling class, as Marx said).

FROM MadeintheU$A:

To Danwei, please show some guts and post my comment, which I am sending for the 2nd time. What are you so afraid of?

***************

NOTE FROM DANWEI:
OK, Mr Madeinthe U$A, your wish is granted, you have your precious words posted here.

But please note that there is nothing in your words that makes us "afraid"; it's just that you come off like a drunk in a bar who cannot stop going on and on about something no one else is interested in discussing. In other words: boring.

We really don't need any screaming and shouting in the comments at Danwei, but we'll give MadeintheU$A his space below, perhaps for the last time.

Yours sincerely,
The neo-colonialist, neo-imperialist George Bush loving devil hounds of Danwei

Below is the comment posted by MadeintheU$A that we have been reluctant to publish:

***************

FROM MadeintheU$A:

This article by Ichabod is a classic piece of self-righteous Western bullsh*t. No doubt, he is another American or Anglo leech ... sorry expatriate, of some sort. He sounds just like George Bush and the American regime with its Doublespeak about promoting "democracy" around the world.

Despite his holier-than-thou criticisms of his "mentor," Ichabod has a lot in common with his fellow corporate media vulture Rupert Murdoch in that he avoids the real issue: What RIGHT do you, News Corp, CNN, or Danwei.org have to penetrate the Chinese market to begin with?

Because you are a champion of press freedom?! Dream on, boy.

Like most of these Western parasites, Ichabod's definition of freedom is the freedom for the West to colonize yet another (media) market; make a lot of money for themselves; and ultimately spread and impose THEIR political worldview and values to yet another non-Western/Developing nation.

That's what these Anglo-American predators actually mean with their Newspeak about spreading Free Markets, Free Press, and Globalization: American and Western (media and political) colonization of the world.

Ichabod even whines that News Corp. runs CCTV's news on its DirecTV. Apparently, Mister Ichabod takes for granted the God-Given right of the West and America to spread its "news" (i.e., propaganda) throughout the entire planet, but he is morally outraged that it might be a two-way street with other countries like China expecting reciprocity.

How dare they! Don't those Chinese know they should welcome with open arms the Gospel Truth peddled by Fox News, the Washington Post, Associated Press, or Danwei.org?! LOL.

BTW, if you want to find some propaganda, you might want to look at CNN, Fox News, or the American/Western capitalist press, which are the greatest spindoctors on this planet--and, worst of all, dominate and control the global media today.

Just check out all the Western media's Goebbels-like lies about Iraqi's mythical "Weapons of Mass Destruction" that were used to justify America's aggression against that country, for only one example. CCTV is a rank amateur compared to the self-styled American Free Press!

Whenever these American and Western crusaders start to run their mouths about "promoting freedom," what they're really talking about is promoting their own wealth and power, and, more generally, Western domination over nations that their filthy corporations lust after.

P.S. Since Ichabod and Danwei are such champions of free speech, let's see if they have the balls to publish my post.

***************

NOTE FROM DANWEI:

Here is another comment from MadeintheU$A, made at a later date. We have decided to reproduce it here with his other comment rather than keep the thread going so as to keep all the bile in one place.

Enjoy!

***************

FROM MadeintheU$A:

"We really don't need any screaming and shouting in the comments at Danwei, but we'll give MadeintheU$A his space below, perhaps for the last time."

What a wonderfully hypocritical abili. Looks like your new Comments (Censorship) Policy is working like a charm. Congrats.

And if Danwei.org is opposed to "screaming and shouting," you wouldn't have published Mr. Ichabod's self-righteous, chest-beating screed above. And you wouldn't have tolerated comments of a similar ilk in other threads.

"it's just that you come off like a drunk in a bar who cannot stop going on and on about something no one else is interested in discussing. In other words: boring."

In other words, any political perspective that challenges the pathetically *narrow terms of debate* on Danwei, you try to dismiss with a condescending wave of the hand as "boring."

That's Danwei.org democracy in action!

Perhaps, this is an example of the American-style "Free Press" that you, Rupert Murdoch, CNN, Fox News, etc. so benevolently wish to share with China.

***************

RESPONSE FROM DANWEI:

Danwei is not a democracy. Danwei is an oppressive dictatorship run by a sinister cabal intent on world domination.

Our Evil Minister of Internet Domination has looked at our server logs. We were surprised to find out that MadeintheU$A actually lives in the USA that he hates so much.

So we have dispatched a team of crack communications consultants to Corvallis, Oregon where MadeintheU$A lives. The team will disable MadeintheU$A's computer and hack into his Oregon State University Internet account to destroy it (if he is indeed a student).

After that, we will download the entire contents of the early 21st Century Mainstream Media Database into his head, so that he is brainwashed into accepting the MSM truth like the rest of us.

Our previous attempts to inject MadeintheU$A with a sense of humor have failed, forcing us to these extremes.

Why does this always degenerate to a US / Westermn world vs China mudslinging match?

This post, and the whole Phil Cunningham affair.

Isn't there something else to talk about?

China Media Timeline
Major media events over the last three decades
Danwei Model Workers
The latest recommended blogs and new media
laomo2010x80.jpg
From 2008
Front Page of the Day
A different newspaper every weekday
From the Vault
Classic Danwei posts
+ Culture and corporate propaganda in Soho Xiaobao (2007.11): Mid-2007 issues of Soho Xiaobao (SOHO小报), illustrating the complicated identity of in-house magazines run by real estate companies.
+ Internet executives complain about excessive Net censorship (2010.03): Internet executives complain about excessive Net censorship at an officially sanctioned meeting in Shenzhen.
+ Crowd-sourced cheating on the 2010 gaokao (2010.06): A student in Sichuan seeks help with the ancient Chinese section of this year's college entrance exam -- while the test is going on!
Danwei Archives