Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The BBC World Service's 80th Anniversary and James Murdoch's resignation juxtaposed: public good vs. private greed

While living in Singapore, I receive most of my news, commercial free, via the BBC World Service. For the last 24 hours there have been celebrations of the World Service’s 80th Anniversary. For a faithful BBC World Service listener, from afar, the celebrations have been moving.

Apart from celebrations, one of the news items reported was the resignation of James Murdoch, son of Rupert Murdoch, from his responsibilities for News Corporation management in Britain. Legalistic dissembling characterized the official announcement. Mr. Murdoch “denied any wrongdoing” and “denied any knowledge” of the malfeasance that police and Parliamentary inquiries uncovered. However the linkage seemed clear to me.

The BBC World Service began as a voice of the British Empire, an institution with many shortcomings. In recent years however, I think most dispassionate observers would conclude that “the public good” (however difficult that is to define) has been a principal motivating value guiding its broadcasts..

Would anyone say the same of Rupert Murdoch’s media and news empire? I can only infer from viewing its end products public face. The values that come to mind are “private power” and private greed.” A third phrase, too, comes to mind “private corruption.” As a sage observed: power corrupts and absolute power (an overriding value that appears to motivate Rupert Murdoch and James Murdoch) corrupts absolutely.

What constitutes “the public good” may be difficult to define. However whatever the definition may be, I see on the part of BBC World Service Management and Staff, a serious commitment to seeking and being guided by its dictates. I wish them well on the World Service’s 80th birthday.

We need more institutions like theirs, in this world. We need fewer that are guided, if news reports are to be believed, by the values of private greed and private gain that leaders of the Murdoch media empire appear to embody.

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