News Corp boss Rupert Murdoch has sought to remind Britain of the benefits his media empire has brought to journalism.
“Many of the defining moments of my career have been in Britain,” he said at the inaugural Baroness Thatcher lecture. “This includes fundamentally changing the newspaper industry in the 1980s – which has helped give us all the uniquely vigorous press we enjoy today.
“It also includes creating modern digital television. At Sky we built satellite television service from the ground up after others had abandoned hope and investment. At the time, one of my lordly critics suggested that this new enterprise was worse for Britain than the blitz.
“Nevertheless, we persevered – and the result is that viewers across the country now enjoy great choice, and we have created tens of thousands of new jobs.”
And he reiterated his passion for an independent press: “Our new world is one of modern mass communication, phone and text, without limit.
“Democracy will be from the bottom up, not from the top down. Even so, a free society requires an independent press: turbulent …enquiring…bustling…and free.
“That’s why our journalism is hard-driving and questioning of authority. And so are our journalists. Often, I have cause to celebrate editorial endeavour. Occasionally, I have had cause for regret.
“Let me be clear: We will vigorously pursue the truth – and we will not tolerate wrongdoing.
“Now, it would certainly serve the interests of the powerful if professional journalists were muted – or replaced as navigators in our society by bloggers and bloviators.
“Bloggers can have a social role – but that role is very different to that of the professional seeking to uncover facts, however uncomfortable. A free society also requires a government with backbone.”
In reference to his bid for a complete takeover of BSkyB, which the rest of the media industry is opposed to, he said: “I am something of a parvenu, but we should welcome the iconoclastic and the unconventional. And we shouldn’t curb their enthusiasm or energy. That is what competition is all about.
“Yet when the upstart is too successful, somehow the old interests surface, and restrictions on growth are proposed or imposed. That’s an issue for my company. More important, it’s an issue for our broader society.
“These are the small thinkers who believe their job is to cut the cake up rather than make it bigger.
“In my own industry, for example, digital technology is offering a chance for British companies to make their mark here and across the world.
“When The Times was founded in 1785, its influence was confined to a handful of important people in this city. Today, its content echoes around the world every day. And it has digital competitors who were not even conceived a decade ago.
“In the past too, television programmes were confined to a single screen. Now they can be watched whenever you want and wherever you are – whether on a mobile phone, a tablet or a computer. For all the change, we are still at the early stages of this revolution.”
(Source: Press Gazette)