Appalling NY Times Favors Press Restrictions for Murdoch-Led News in UK, Australia

February 17th, 2021 10:29 PM

New York Times’ London bureau chief Mark Landler’s obsessive hostility toward mogul Rupert Murdoch’s right-leaning media empire was on display Wednesday. His coverage of two fledgling right-of-center news outlets also documented the resulting panic of liberals like Landler: “Murdoch to Challenge U.K.’s Fairness Statute With Fox News Playbook.”

He began with a tiresome attack against Fox News:

Beset by declining ratings, upheaval in its on-air ranks and a multibillion-dollar defamation suit related to its election coverage, Fox News is staggering out of the Trump era -- blamed by many for seeding the poisonous political culture that brought a violent mob into the halls of the United States Capitol.

Evidently, there’s no TV news bias in the United Kingdom.

Yet in Britain, where television news is regulated to avoid political bias, Rupert Murdoch and a competing group of investors are seizing this moment to create two upstart news services that will challenge the BBC and other broadcasters by borrowing heavily from Mr. Murdoch’s Fox playbook.

Landler can’t see how UK citizens would possibly want two “right-wing news outlets”: “If the timing for a pair of brash, right-wing news outlets seems strange given Fox’s recent travails in the United States, it is no less odd in Britain[.]”

Journalism? Who needs that!

Meanwhile, “rejecting” the BBC’s unacknowledged liberal approach was a supposedly terrifying prospect (click “expand”):

Pronouncements like that set off alarm bells for some British commentators. While Britain has long had a freewheeling, unabashedly partisan newspaper industry, critics say the last thing it needs after Brexit is a Fox-like news channel -- one that could sow further divisions and open the door to the kinds of conspiracy theories nurtured by President Donald J. Trump, and amplified by Fox.


News UK TV obtained a broadcasting license, and executives said its programming would stay within the regulatory “guardrails.” But critics of the Australian-born Mr. Murdoch said he had entered other markets, including Australia, with similar reassurances, only to make the channels more politically extreme over time.

Landler even leaned on Britain’s regulator to suppress the speech of whatever the networks release, a sort of long-term prior restraint.

Critics also worry about how rigorously Britain’s regulator, known as Ofcom, will enforce the rules on impartiality. Mr. Johnson is said to be considering Paul Dacre as its next chairman. A longtime editor of The Daily Mail, Mr. Dacre is a staunch Brexiteer with a history of opposing restrictions on journalists.

Isn’t it rather appalling for a journalist to criticize an editor for having “a history of opposing restrictions on journalists”?

He continued dithering away with his narrative (click “expand”):

“It is at least plausible to argue that the BBC is seen as being institutionally left of center,” said Simon Jenkins, a columnist for The Guardian. “To that extent, it is plausible to say there is room for something that is right of center.”

The BBC’s reputation did suffer during Brexit, with critics saying it gave too much time to those who opposed leaving the European Union. But it has rebounded during the pandemic, its round-the-clock coverage helping to unite the country.


“We’re seeing the politics of resentment, which are often driven by older white men who are right wing,” said Rasmus Kleis Nielsen, director of the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford. He added, “It is a market that is well-served in print and online already.”

In September 2020 Landler used a cultural skirmish about patriotic songs to defend the BBC from the right’s attacks.

He took for granted the BBC’s "impartiality," all visible evidence to the contrary:

Meanwhile, two billionaire media moguls are hatching plans for 24-hour news channels that would be politically opinionated, bringing the model of Fox News to a market dominated by the BBC’s studied impartiality.


….the reflexive outrage over “Rule, Britannia!” and the Proms shows, picking a fight with the BBC will always be tempting to the Johnson government. And in the end, it is an unfair battle.

Landler also went to Kleis Nielsen for a hostile quote for this earlier story, and Nielsen similarly ranted about old white men.

Isabelle Kwai’s October 2020 story about a silly left-wing anti-Murdoch petition stunt in his native Australia somehow made the paper, “Web Petition Is Challenge Of Murdoch In Australia.” Former Australia PM Rudd turned up again like a bad penny: “Murdoch has become a cancer -- an arrogant cancer on our democracy.”