Up to now, we, the British public have had our share of fun and entertainment at News International’s expense. However, the whole circus is about to move into a new and darker phase. The only brief piece of theatre (or should I say “farce”) will be the performance of the Parliamentary Culture, Media and Sport Committee as it attempts to bamboozle the Murdochs into incriminating themselves. Or even better-still, to self-flagellate in front of the British population. I have news for them – it ain’t going to happen.
Not one of the Committee has any “big company” experience. Therefore there is a definite danger that they will not understand that in spite of the fact Rupert Murdoch ostensibly runs the whole corporation, he probably was NOT aware of the fact that certain rodent reporters were behaving illegally. In the same way that a Prime Minister would not be expected to know that certain MPs were submitting expenses claims for duck houses and batteries for their wind-up torches.
Murdoch sits at the very pinnacle of a very large corporate pyramid which employs tens of thousands of people. Consequently, his only contact with the “shop-floor” is via several layers of management. That means that the information which he is fed is extremely selective. Plus, if any part of an organisation is performing “to-plan” or even exceeding targets, the questions asked by management tend to be of the gentler variety. Possible naughtiness is rarely on the agenda.
Directors and very often CEOs do NOT micro-manage; their focus is NOT on the day-to-day running of a department . They look towards the horizon. The weekly focus is provided by the supervisors, the monthly focus by the managers, the quarterly view by senior managers and so on, up the pyramid. The Directors tend to devote themselves to the long-term strategic stuff.
Just like Army Generals, they have no idea that Private X screwed Private Y or that Private Z ran out of bullets.
A few years ago, I chaired a Citibank meeting and took to the stage with the UK board. I was the question-master and referee. Prior to this momentous and unique staff meeting, I had asked employees to let me have written questions well before the event because I have always believed in a “no-surprises” management culture.
The meeting progressed very well as I invited ready-primed, chosen members of staff to ask their pre-submitted questions. That enabled board members to demonstrate their “I can think on my feet” abilities, without the staff necessarily suspecting that it had all been well-rehearsed.
The meeting went so smoothly that we finished ten minutes early. The Chairman , who was sitting next to me turned to me and whispered, “As we have some time, why don’t we take a few random questions from the floor?” I whispered back, “Mr Chairman – I don’t think that’s a good idea. I’m sure that they’ll all appreciate leaving the meeting a few minutes early.”
“Nonsense!” bellowed the Chairman. He stood up, grabbed the microphone and announced to the assembled staff “We have a few minutes…so…. are there any further questions on maybe a few things which we have NOT covered? … Anything at all?” I could see a hand shoot up at the back of the hall.
“Fuck!” I thought.
Harry was a 65 year-old post boy who thought that management was “the enemy”. His moment had come. His 15 minutes! The Chairman had no idea who this person was. He pointed towards a smiling Harry.
I could see Harry pull out what appeared to be a ream of folded A4 from his inside jacket pocket.
“Mr Chairman. Are you aware that there are no bandages in the 5th floor First Aid box and that is contrary to……..” Harry went on an on…and on…., clearly demonstrating that this oversight by “the management” was yet another clear manifestation of the management’s and indeed the directors’ total lack of care or respect towards the staff. Harry was an ex-union man and made a very impressive speech which all but destroyed all of the goodwill which we had created in the previous 90 minutes.
When Harry had finally exhausted himself and had sat down to tumultuous applause, the Chairman turned to be and said: “Why the bloody hell was I not briefed on this?”
Chairmen have NO IDEA of what goes on within a business. They are interested in RoI, RoE, 5 year forecasts, cash-flows, share price etc. They don’t know or even give a shit about day-to-day operations.
That makes me suspect that Murdoch will be asked questions that he genuinely will not have the answers to. That is because his interrogators have neither the background nor the “feel” to understand exactly what goes on within a huge organisation such as NewsCorp.
Here in the UK, after more corporate obfuscation, a tsunami or PR, several newly-created lawyer millionaires and an inquiry, Murdoch will be rehabilitated, some of his ex-management team will be banged-up and by 2020, life will return to normal. THAT is how we do things.
The United States – that’s another matter. They have a darker tinge to the way that they operate.
Over here, the politicians have rolled out the Dowler family, Gordon Brown has made his assault on recent history and a few celebs have been upset. Nothing that a few quid, a bit of political sincero-talk and a good old-fashioned grovel from Murdoch won’t sort-out. Even Max Clifford should score a few grand.
In the States, it looks as if certain NewsCorp journalists tapped and hacked the phones belonging to family members of 9/11 victims. That was a VERY bad sin! “Distraught” relatives of the dead are making public statements with accusing fingers already pointed at Fox News.
Anyone in America who lost a relative on 9/11 has a special exalted status – that of a latter-day martyr-saint-by-association. You cannot and should not mess with those people.
If Fox News – that video-comic of the American Right is shown to have abused this precious sainted group, it will lose its broadcast licences. THAT’s how serious life may become for the Murdoch Dynasty.
So at worst, next week’s questioning by Tom Watson MP and the Gang will be a mild entertainment – not just for us but for the Murdochs too!
Compared to what could be awaiting them in the States, this will be a walk in the park.
p.s. Rebekah Brooks has gone. In spite of the Murdochs wishing to retain her services and possibly persuade her to “take the bullet”, we have to remember that although Murdoch claimed that she was “one 0f the family”, she never was and never could have been. She was the hired help and as such, she was and remains expendable.