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Peter Jukes


Today in Parliament

 


As expected, the appearance of James Murdoch, the Chief Executive of News International (and related to some other famous people) before the DCMS Committee today failed to produce any huge bombshells. Let's remind ourselves that the Parliamentary Committee has no real powers of subpoena, witnesses are not obliged to testify on oath, is not run by trained lawyers, and is not allowed to investigate anything that could prejudice the three ongoing police investigations.  

C-Span has the whole proceedings here

James is smart, lawyered up, and left no hostages to fortune in terms of his evidence. Tom Watson had some stellar moments, challenging James over various contradictory testimonies, naming three or four other private investigators working for News International (adding some cryptic reference to Operation Millipede), and at least landing a rhetorical blow by calling James

'the first mafia boss in history who didn't know he was running a criminal enterprise.'.

(This latter remark has caused some consternation among Watson's enemies and Murdoch's apologists - but my American friends will know that the Department of Justice IS looking at potential RICO violations by Newscorp)

All in all, another day in the ongoing Murdoch saga. As Britover puts it in an excellent rec-listed diary: Some top line people really need to face jailtime. The most senior executive of the sixteen so far arrested has been Rebekah Brooks: but though James might not feel the hand of the law on his shoulder, the media scrutiny of his performance could be just as damaging in the long run.

Unanswered Questions

 


But however evasive and well trained James is at avoiding direct questions ("I have no knowledge of that... I don't recall") there are three glaring contradictions that this appearance has underlined.

1. Someone has Misled Parliament over the information provided to James when he authorised an extraordinary 700,000 GBP payment to Gordon Taylor in a civil suit over his phone being hacked by News of the World. James' claim in his previous appearance in July that he had no knowledge of phone hacking beyond the rogue reporter Clive Goodman had been directly contradicted by evidence given by the editor of NOTW at the time, Colin Myler, and News International's chief legal adviser, Tom Crone. They claim they informed James when he made that settlement. James now claims they didn't tell him, and that they misled Parliament rather than him.

TW: Did you mislead this committee?

JM: No I did not

TW: If you didn't who did?

JM I believe his committee was given [evidence] by people without full possession of the facts or...it was economical. My own testimony has been consistent. I testify to this committee with as much clarity and transparency as I can.

TW: Was it Mr Crone [who misled the committee?]
JM: I thought it was inconsistent and

TW: So you agree he misled the committee
JM: It follows that I do. I believe their testimony was misleading and I dispute it

This is a kind of either/or argument that the Committee will comment on: both accounts cannot be true.

2. How can an Effective Chief Executive be so ineffectual? James consistent response to the mounting evidence of extensive phone hacking, blagging and other borderline illegal activities by his staff was 'how am I supposed to know that level of detail'. Fair enough. But when you're making multimillion pound payouts to Gordon Taylor and Max Clifford, with dozens of other suits pending, surely it's your corporate duty to find out.

This is now being called the Asda Moment - 'Asda' is the UK equivalent of Walmart.

After explaining that he used to work for the supermarket chain (owned by the giant US company, Walmart) Davies registered his incredulity that Murdoch could have authorised the payment of more than £500,000 (to Taylor) without inquiring deeply into the reasons.

"It all seems so cavalier to me," said Davies. "You agree to settle cases with no real cap but a ballpark figure. You agree that a company should have a legal opinion, but you don't even ask to see the opinion when it is written."

3. A Fit and Proper Person? Next month is the shareholders meeting of BSkyB, Britain's largest pay-for-TV operator, 39.14% owned by Newscorp. Though the public outcry and online petitioning (by groups such as Avaaz) effectively stopped the full takeover of the company this summer, James still chairs the board. Our broadcast regulator, Ofcom, has a statutory duty to make sure that owners of licensed broadcasters are 'fit and proper' and can revoke a license if a director fails that test.

By the time BSkyB meets next, the DCMS committee will have ruled whether James has deceived Parliament or not.

Is being either/or a 'liar' or completely incompetent enough? Or even better - both.

In other News

 


Your intrepid reporter made a fool of himself an appearance outside Parliament for James' testimony. Bedecked like a human press pack, Brit decided to protest about the 30 years of Murdoch influence by sporting a sandwich board illustrated by fellow Kossack Eric Lewis, bearing the understated message:

Murdoch Ruined my Life.

Above you can see him above talking to a French journalist. Tonight he will appear on Al Jazeera. Below he joins members of the Avaaz campaign also picketing parliament.

When it's processed, I'll also post a video of him picketing Portcullis House where James was supposed to arrive, only to be stopped by a policeman and told (much to his shock and amazement) that no protests or placards are allowed within a kilometre of Parliament without prior approval, and I could be arrested. I told the very polite and helpful officer that I wasn't protesting, merely advertising the book I'm writing with Eric Bad Press: Fall of the House of Murdoch. The policeman said he didn't hear that, because advertising without a licence could also earn me a night in the cells.

I'm not as brave as many in the Occupy Movement, and rapidly removed my billboards.

There will be more about the book in later posts. It will be loosely based on my Kossack series of diaries, and focus on the stellar 'crowd sourced' journalism, reportage and activism of my fellow bloggers. It will also be crowd sourced in funding, so we'll be hitting back at the command and control modus operandi of the main stream media both in form and content.

Meanwhile join me below to discuss what you make of this latest chapter in the FOTHOM saga. And do contribute to the dedicated Bad Press: Fall of the House of Murdoch website if you can

{jb_dropcap}No, there is no major news about the three major investigations into multiple phone and computer hacking, bribing police officials, or perverting the course of justice by News International in the the UK. Nor is there any major development in the DOJ investigation into the parent company Newscorp, for violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, or other examples of systemic criminality (RICO violations) like the Floorgraphics case. No, the simple stunning verdict on the Murdoch Dynasty has been delivered by Newscorps Shareholders

Shareholders Deliver a Damning Verdict on James and Lachlan Murdoch


As handsomely diaried by Ceebs, last Friday's Newscorp shareholders meeting, held in high security in LA rather than in New York, was still a tumultuous affair, with many of independent shareholders calling the management to task over issues of corporate governance, probity, possible further legal actions, and of course the underlying complaint that Rupert Murdoch treats the public corporation like a 'family candy store'. Usually as Murdoch's biographer Michael Wolff explains in a tellingly titled piece: Rupert Murdoch: News Corp's great dictator on the brink

Under normal circumstances, Rupert Murdoch doesn't have much patience for the annual shareholders' meetings that are required by law of American public companies. He regards them as a farce, because they cannot change the outcome in a company where a voting majority is secure, and as an exercise in liberal corporate law designed to put him personally on the spot.

This time it was different. This time the voices couldn't be ignored, and they were joined by the stalwart British Parliamentarian, Tom Watson, initially a victim and now a persistent campaigner against both the industrial scale phone hacking in the UK (among other illegal practices) and the coverup. The vote was supposed to be delivered here last week. Now you can see the reason for the delay. Pegasus Corporate Governance has just tweeted the independent votes:

2011 AGM James Murdoch: For 59,297,033 (19.23%), Against 232,013,203 (75.24%) Abstain 494,831 Non-Votes 16,564,060
2011 AGM Lachlan Murdoch: For 67,175,479 (21.78%), Against 224,151,616 (72.69%) Abstain 477,972 Non-Votes 16,564,060

It doesn't constitute a majority since, though only owning 10 percent of the shares, the Murdoch family have 40 percent of the voting rights. But this is like Thatcher winning the first round of the votes in 1990 - not by a big enough margin. She was holed in the water. The vote of non confidence is resounding. As the Guardian puts it:

James Murdoch's future at News Corporation looks increasingly precarious as shareholders delivered a damning verdict on his tenure amid widespread criticism of his handling of the hacking scandal. Following a contentious meeting in Los Angeles last week News Corporation shareholders lodged a massive protest vote against James and his brother Lachlan Murdoch. A majority of independent shareholders voted against the re-election of chairman Rupert Murdoch's sons James and Lachlan Murdoch. James Murdoch received the largest vote against his re-election at 35%. James, 38, faces a second grilling in the Parliament next month over phone-hacking at The News of The World, one of News Corp's UK newspapers. Some 34% of shareholders voted against Lachlan Murdoch 40. After subtracting the shares controlled by Rupert Murdoch, 67% of the votes went against James Murdoch and 64% against Lachlan, said Julie Tanner, assistant director of News Corp investor Christian Brothers Investment Services (CBIS), who last week called for Rupert Murdoch to step down as chairman after the "extraordinary scandals" at the company. "Shareholders are saying loud and clear that this board has failed as a group," she said.
Monday, 24 October 2011 10:28

What did I do to Lose your Love?

 

first love_6

What did I do to lose your love?
Did I keep too loose and let it slip away?
Or hold too close and stifle it?
If you could choose, what would you change?

What did I do to lose your love?
Did your patience fail you or your passion fade?
Where did the spark go from your eyes?
When did you know just what I’d say?

What can I do to win your love?
Should I stand on my head, whistle in the dark?
Write long letters, phone you more,
Pathetic, possessive, jealous of your heart?

What can I do to win your love again?
To regain the future and redeem the past
How can I put that spark back in your eyes
When you know just what I’ll say?

first love_5

Peter Jukes October 11

 

As you probably all know, the Square Mile of the City of London is the world's second biggest financial centre, and ever since the mid 80s has very much followed suit in the Thatcher Reagan concoction of deregulated markets, fluid global finance, strange derivatives, and the sharp increase in wealth inequality that comes from the 'Anglo Saxon Model'. Indeed, the problems of the last three years are very much an international problem, with a transatlantic origin. So it's about time the Occupy London movement took root.

I live on the edge of the City, only a ten minute walk from St Paul's where the demonstrations began at Noon today, so it hardly showed great radical commitment to head down there, be a witness and a supporter, before heading back to diary what I saw. I would have stayed, but my daughter is not well, and I didn't want to get 'kettled' (contained) by the police, and unable to look after her this evening.

So here are some images. It is a preternaturally warm day here in London, and the crowds were pleasant, well behaved and peaceful. It was a great mix of people

 

Over the course of these diaries, both myself and other FOTHOM aficianados have tried to stress that the UK hacking scandal is just one indication of the corrupt and anti-competitive practices that characterise the modal monopoly of Newscorp. Now another scandal is breaking which, like the looming shareholder rebellion, allegations of satellite card hacking in Italy and the Floorgraphics case prove once again that - like Watergate - the current scandal being investigated by no less than three large scale police operations in the UK, is only the tip of the iceberg, and that RICO violations are the best way for the current DOJ investigation to go.

Now the Wall Street Journal has news of the resignation of one of its chief executives:

Tuesday, 12 October 1982 11:40

Writer's Block

writers block

My Love said my Muse was faithless

And her fair words, being but a sham

Would turn in time to bitter fruitlessness

Leaving me no better off than I am

 

My Love said my Muse would desert me

And now my fate has confirmed her fears

Far away my Love can weep

Clear, exonerating, righteous tears

 

But since her predictions have proved so just

I hope all her maybes also turn to must

 

1982

This is partially inspired by a conversation on Labour List, the premier British Left of Centre blog, where a version of the Political Compass Test was taken by several diverse commenters.

Now most people who visit the political blogosphere know the parameters of that test: authoritarian/libertarian, socially interventionist/economically interventionist. Like Myers-Briggs, these are static and almost self fulfilling quadrants which test how much you believe in individual freedom versus social responsibility, whether in crime, foreign affairs, the economy, gun ownership or reproductive rights. We all know the tests, and probably where we come out in them. I think that the events of the last three years make that compass profoundly irrelevant, an old paradigm which can only provide a direction in an outdated map.

Follow me below the fold while I suggest that the old metrics no longer apply and we are in a new world looking for new bearings.

Saturday, 08 October 2011 12:08

In Deep Series Two

Apparently you can win a free copy of the second series of In Deep on TV spy: second prize is probably two copies

 

 

 

yes, the Murdoch story may be flying under the mainstream media radar, but with three British police investigations ongoing, two Parliamentary committees, a televised public enquiry with full powers of subpoena starting tomorrow, a DOJ enquiry stateside, and other investigations and legal cases in the US, Australia and Italy into Newscorp anti-competitive and/or criminal behaviour, this is not about to go away any time soon.

Hackgate: A Pattern of Criminal Behaviour

 


 

As an early indication of this, it has just been announced that over sixty separate claims (some filed in multiple names) have been filed in the UK civil claims court against News International: these include dozens of celebrities and prominent politicians, but also the families or partners of murder victims, or casualties of other high profile incidents such as the 7/7 London bombings. These weren't people who thrust themselves into the limelight - but people who had already been violated by some awful event, only to have their own privacy violated by illegal means by a company whose only interest was profit and using press exposure to exert political power. According to The Guardian

The overwhelming majority of the writs have been issued jointly against News Group Newspapers, the News International subsidiary that published the now defunct News of the World, and Glenn Mulcaire, the private investigator who worked under contract for the Sunday tabloid. However, one – by singer Cornelia Crisan – also names the former News of the World chief reporter, Neville Thurlbeck, and another of the paper's former reporters as defendants in her claim. It is the first phone-hacking lawsuit to target Thurlbeck. He was arrested and bailed in April for alleged phone hacking but has not been charged. He is suing News International for unfair dismissal. Thurlbeck said: "As I said last week, the truth will out. But this will be in the law courts and at a public tribunal." The number and range of the claims has taken some legal observers by surprise. One source said it suggests that News International's £20m contingency fund to deal with legal claims will not be anywhere near enough to cover the final total.

Now this is all based on the files of Glynn Mulcaire, but as the Mark Lewis, the lawyer who broke the current storm with news of the hacking of the phone of Milly Dowler (a teenage murder victims) explains:

"So far, fewer than 5% of the victims of Glenn Mulcaire have been notified," said Mark Lewis, a lawyer for some phone-hacking victims in an email. "He was just one agent used by one paper. When the final tally takes place, we will see thousands of claims and more than one paper." SNIP Mr. Lewis said that, as the number of plaintiffs grows, his own estimate that the New York-based company would need at least £100-million to settle such claims looks like "a serious underestimate." News Group agreed to pay one of Mr. Lewis's clients, the family of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler, £3-million, a person familiar with the matter said last month. Mr. Lewis said that the rash of suits may have been triggered by a deadline set by Judge Geoffrey Vos to consider claims ahead of a January trial to determine how much News Corp. should pay in damages to five of the victims.

So this is just phone hacking, and just the UK. But let's be clear. This is still just the tip of the iceberg. .

RICO: A Pattern of Criminal and Anti Competitive Behaviour

 


Now we know that financially, Newscorp has paid much more than $200 million in the past to settle lawsuits, and indeed has paid out three times as much as that to settle various lawsuits against its profitable marketing division, News America. Apart from the hacking allegations and the FCPA violations (suborning foreign officials) there is now ample evidence, in the US and elsewhere (cf Italy and Australia) that Newscorp has a standard modus operandi when dealing with the 'free market'.

1. Establish leverage over politicians to change anti monopoly legislation

2. Dumping - artificially lowered prices to destroy competitors (cf News America, London Times)

3. Industrial espionage against competitors using a variety of means (Floorgraphics, Daily Mirror etc.)

For those following this story in Newscorp's home country, the US, there is now ample evidence of a sustained pattern of behavior liable to a RICO violation. My firm belief is that the heart of this problem is an abuse of power which comes from a monopoly position in cross platform ownership. It is at it's worst in Australia, only marginally better in the UK, but the US is where both the power lies, economically and politically, and where Murdoch's combination of tabloid blackmail, highly leveraged acquisitions (Miliken is a good friend of his) and ultimate commercial and political power ultimately resides. And it's only there he will be defeated.

So keep digging. Keeping on adding your own comments and sources. Just like the Wall Street occupations, this is an example whete the power elites can be held to account: by occupying their channels of communication and spin.

Originally posted at DailyKos



Thursday, 16 December 1982 00:00

Songs of the Auvergne

 

auvergne1

No oboe rang through the city
Except on walkmen or in rush-hour cars,
And pedestrians milling to a morning's work
Past blood-shot headlights, slashing through the rain
Are drowned out - volumes of traffic reduced
To the smooth envelope of stereo-sound.

But no oboe rang in reality
Through the city

We have come so far
So far out of our way
But whatever we've lost
At least
We have found a place
At last

Look around again

auvergne2
Peter Jukes Brussels 1982

First photo from the hpphotocontest.The second from Chris Jordan's great photoblog

Links and Contact Details

Live Tweeting

Over the last few years I've created some attention with my live coverage of the phone hacking trial in London, the most expensive and longest concluded criminal trial in British history. There are various accounts and articles about this on the web, including a radio play. My Twitter feed can be found here, and a collation of evidence from the trial, and all my live tweets, can be found at my Fothom Wordpress blog. There's also a Flipboard magazine and a Facebook Page. My Klout ranking is here.

More Journalism and Books

Various journalistic articles of mine are scattered throughout the web. There's some kind of portfolio at Muckrack. The most extensive reporting is for the Daily Beast and Newsweek, but there's more at the New Statesman, the New Republic, Aeon etc. I have two non fiction books published in the last year: The Fall of the House of Murdoch, available through Unbound or Amazon, and Beyond Contempt: the Inside Story of the Phone Hacking Trial, available via Canbury Press or also on Amazon. I am currently contributing to a new site for open source journalism, called Bellingcat, and advisor (along with Sir Harry Evans and Bill Emmott) to an exciting new crowdfunded journalism startip Byline

Getting in Contact

My generic email is my first name at peterjukes.com. That should get through to me pretty quickly. My Linked In profile is here. For non journalistic inquiries, for television stage and film, contact Howard Gooding at Judy Daish Associates. Examples of my television work can be found on IMDB. This links to the site for my forthcoming musical, Mrs Gucci. My radio plays can be found in various audiobook formats on Amazon and elsewhere.

 

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