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by spocko

Murdoch’s Favorite Editor, Rebekah Brooks, Cleared of Phone Hacking Charges

4:12 pm in Uncategorized by spocko

News International in front of the Select Committee

Former News of The World editor Rebekah Brooks cleared of all charges. Fellow former editor Andy Coulson found guilty of conspiracy to hack phones.

The former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks has been cleared of all charges in the phone hacking trial at the Old Bailey.<

Brooks, the one-time editor of the News of the World, was overcome with emotion as she was found not guilty of involvement in a conspiracy to hack phones between 2000 and 2006, as well as misconduct in a public office and perverting the course of justice.

But while Brooks walked free from court to a waiting black cab today, her fellow former editor and ex-Downing Street spin doctor Andy Coulson was found guilty on one count of phone hacking.

The jury returned this morning after continuing its deliberations for an eighth day, following the high profile trial that began in October last year.

Brooks and Coulson, along with retired managing editor Stuart Kuttner, had been accused of being part of a conspiracy to hack phones over the course of a six-year period.  – The Independent, Adam Withnall

In July of 2012 I hosted a Book Salon on Tom Watson’s and Martin Hickman’s book: Dial M for Murdoch: News Corporation and the Corruption of Britain. At the time I remember thinking what a great story it was and I wanted to learn how we could have a similar impact on Fox News and News Corp here in the US.

Now we see what political power can get you. I’m sure there is a lesson for us here in the US. I remember thinking, “With a combo of good journalists, lawyers and politicians we could uncover dirt at Fox News.” We could even use the Corrupt Foreign Practices Act. But the trick was to find others who felt as strongly as I did.

I’m an idealist and a fighter. I’m not a prosecutor or politician. One of my big take aways from this trial is that your target and goals don’t have to be the same. The King will protect his favorites but he will also sell out almost anyone else to do it. Aim for the top knowing the King will even burn the Prince if necessary, which gets you the Prince! The Prince’s crimes are just as bad, and that can lead to reforms.

Always Look on the Bright Side of Life?

This last week I’ve been rather depressed about the ability of powerful people to skirt and use the law, the political system and a cooperating media to avoid accountability. 

But I don’t want to discount all the good work that was done by the journalists, lawyers and politicians like MP Tom Watson who brought this hacking case to light. It was used to reign in some of Murdoch’s power.

I sometimes wonder, “What can we do to reign in Roger Ailes power?” Is there a strategic campaign to make it happen? We can see that it’s not just money in politics that has an impact, it is also the media in politics. Murdoch loses 100′s of millions of dollars on some newspaper properties because he knows that is a different kind of power. (Which reminds me of the old joke, “Sure we lose money on every paper we sell but we make it up in VOLUME!”) Murdoch wants and has VOLUME!

LOL Comedy Media, But We Need the Real Media Too

The people that really cover the media today are the comedy media. The comedy media is great, but their work doesn’t lead to prosecutions, firings, civil damages and prison time. I’m sure Colbert and Stewart will have a hilarious story about this case but they are just reacting to and mocking the media. The non-comedy media shouldn’t be afraid of taking on Fox News, but they are since they think they might get a job there some day.

Maybe Fox News Shouldn’t get the Press Exemption 

I don’t think Fox News is a “Press entity” but the house PR and advertising firm for the Republican party and the conservative agenda. (FEC might even agree with me see press exemption part some day.) A story about illegal actions going on behind the scenes at Fox would help make this clear. The story about Alies and his PR guy could have been a criminal case if we had some of that zeal for prosecution here in the US instead of pay offs.

Read the rest of this entry →

by spocko

The Cost to Destroy a Left-Wing Institution? For ACORN It’s Under $300,000, so far

3:57 pm in Uncategorized by spocko

James O'Keefe - Caricature

Fired ACORN Worker Wins $100,000 Settlement From Republican Con-Artist James O’Keefe

Former San Diego ACORN worker, Juan Carlos Vera will receive $100,000 in a settlement from federal criminal and professional liar James O’Keefe, after being secretly video-taped in violation of California law by the Rightwing propagandist. The tape was just one in a series of similar videos, all deceptively edited as part of his 2009 ACORN “pimp” hoax series.

The story of the settlement was originally broken by Wonkette, which published the 3-page settlement document [PDF], yesterday.

    -Brad Friedman, Brad Blog

I was listening to the Emmy award winning comedian David Feldman’s show yesterday talking about the great new film “Janeane From Des Moines” and Feldman kept asking questions about the Presidential candidates that the film maker met and filmed during the Iowa caucus.  He wanted to know, “How can they sleep at night?” specifically he wanted to know how they reconcile in their minds their actions and policies they promoted and their proclaimed Christian beliefs. Jane Wilson, the film maker, had a very insightful response.

People who are quote unquote evil never see themselves as [evil]

- Jane Edith Wilson, Film Maker Janeane From Des Moines

For years people asked me about right wing radio hosts,  ”Do they really believe what they say or is it just an act for the money?” My response is, “Does it matter? I can’t see into their soul, all I know is what they publicly say, and what they do. And what they say is nasty. I will act to lessen their impact, because I think it is the right thing to do.” Then I proceeded to develop a program to separate them from their sponsors and their money. That was my way to go after an institution and individuals that I believe are bad for our democracy and our country.

If you are someone in power, who believes that a left-wing institution, group or person is bad for your goals there are a number of ways you can go about destroying them.  If you need to act quickly one shortcut is to manufacture “evidence” of wrong doings at that institution or from that person. This is useful when you can’t find any real wrong doings. For a price someone will do this for you. It’s good to get someone who believes in your same cause, so they can think they are doing good. But if you can’t find that person, get an actor who will pretend they are doing good. Another trick is to play the journalism “free speech” card so that you can get support from people who love journalism and free speech.

Last year I attended what I called “James O’Keefe University” to learn his techniques and methods. He talked about his real desire to be an actor and how his editing of videos was just like the editing of videos TV news shows do all the time. He encouraged people to do what he did. He then showed clips from the Daily Show from before they were revealed to be deceptively EDITED.  It was all presented as great fun. Stickin’ it to those hypocritical liberals!  I found the entire seminar profoundly depressing for a number of reasons.

First, the people funding O’Keefe, the Koch’s via Americans For Prosperity, understood just how powerful O’Keefe’s deceptive practices were, especially when teamed with the RW media and the more little O’Keefes they can unleash the better.

Second, AFP easily filled rooms with hard core right wingers whose internal beliefs convinced them they were doing heroic work taking down “bad guys” like ACORN. One of their biggest targets? Unions!

Third, and this was the one that hit me the hardest, there was nobody on the left who would fund me to go after Right-Wing institutions like O’Keefe did ACORN, but in an ethically and legal fashion. I have a track record, I have skills, but unlike O’Keefe, I didn’t have a Koch sugar daddy to support me taking on right wing institutions and media.

The AFP  seminar a.k.a “O’Keefe University” pushed the idea of “Citizen Journalist” while using the O’Keefe’s deceptively edited videos as a model for winning. And why not? As far as the Kochs and AFP is concerned O’Keefe was wildly successful.  As Brad Friedman put it:

Thousands of ACORN workers were left unemployed by the O’Keefe/Giles/Breitbart stunt after the U.S. Congress also fell for it. In 2009, shortly after the deceptively edited tapes were released, they passed legislation, signed by President Obama, that federally defunded the four-decade old community organization which had advocated to end predatory lending practices and helped millions of low- and middle-income Americans obtain housing loans and legally register to vote. The group was forced to shut its doors in the wake of the manufactured scandal.

O’Keefe achieved Koch’s and AFPs goals, and it was cheap.  Based on what O’Keefe has said I estimate it cost 70K for the cross country, illegal-taping tour of ACORN offices, 100K for this current settlement and let’s say 130K for those high-priced Republican lawyers. $300,000 to destroy ACORN. What a bargain!  Of course hopefully this settlement will lead to more.

If you knew you could take down Fox News or the Heritage Foundation for $300,000 would you? What if you didn’t have to manufacture evidence to do it? Would you do it then?

Many of you might remember the Book Salon that I hosted with Martin Hickman who wrote the book, “Dial M for Murdoch” In the book he described how a small team consisting mostly of a politician, some journalists and a lawyer exposed the phone hacking scandal at News of the World which led to it being shut down. They did the work legally using real journalism, the legal system and political pressure on a merger deal. I’m pretty confident that something similar could be used on New Corps properties here in the US.  But will anyone? Since Obama won the election does that mean that we stop focusing on right wing media institutions and get back to helping people? It would be nice, and that is the attitude of a number of funders, they really don’t want to fight the right. I think that’s a mistake, because the RW media and institutions are more vulnerable now than they have been in awhile.  Shall we let them regroup? Did they back off attacking us when they had the White House and the senate?

The right has to fund liars and deceivers like O’Keefe because they know they need to cheat to win. We don’t have to, but we do need the will to fight. One thing that I’ve learned over the years is that the mainsteam media will not go after the right wing media. They hate to cover them, they would rather ignore them. As Cenk Uygur said on The Young Turks the other day, one reason nobody on cable goes after Fox is because they either have friends who work there or they expect to work there some day. 

Here’s the deal, the ideas and attitudes of the right wing media and their belief tanks are killing our country. They are the ones who push the failed austerity ideas. They push cuts to earned benefits as a “shared sacrifice” instead of demanding raising revenue. They push ideas that the economy is a deity who must be sated with the lives of your friends and neighbors to support the profits of the one percent. They attack our values and ideals. They support the destruction of our democratic institutions.  And some of them get rich doing it. It doesn’t have to be that way.

I don’t want O’Keefe’s fine to scare off people who want to do real journalism and activism against corrupt institutions and people. If we have the goods we don’t have to deceptively edit. We also have to be smart about the law. I would hate for someone to have good video that could not be used because they didn’t know the law. Here is a link to “Can We Tape?” put out by Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

My friend, Angelo Carusone, at Media Matters wrote an article about the impact of the campaign to separate advertiser’s money from Rush Limbaugh one year after his attack on Sandra Fluke. Nobody is going to jail for alerting advertisers about the vile things Limbaugh has said and continues to say.  Dial Global, a radio syndication company, reported roughly $100 million in losses for 2012 and publicly cited Limbaugh as a significant contributing factor.  I celebrate this success. It was done legally and ethically.  Let’s keep pushing our success and learn from their success and failures.  The country is counting on us.

Creative Commons Attribution image by DonkeyHotey 

by spocko

Dear Irena Briganti: Anyone Ever Fired for On-Screen Errors at Fox?

5:02 pm in Uncategorized by spocko

The information coming out of Fox News is often misleading or clearly incorrect. People ask me, “Spocko, is there anything we can do about this? Can’t the FCC do anything? What about the FTC and truth in advertising laws?”

How can Fox employees get away with calling themselves journalists when they are acting more like lobbyists or employees of a PR firm?

Are there every any negative consequences for people who intentionally lie while calling themselves journalists?  Can’t some groups who give credentials for being “the press” take them away? Why should Fox get a higher level of protection from libel than other corporations? Is having a tagline, “Fair and Balanced” and the word “News” in your logo all it takes? (If so I’m launching Spocko’s Brain News Network with the tagline, “Vulcans Never Bluff.”)

Why do they get all the benefits of being the press without any of the responsibilities?

I had some of these questions myself so when Fox News recently broadcast a chart that was clearly wrong (but wrong in a way that made Obama look bad) I decided to ask them of the SVP of media relations at Fox News.

Here is my letter.

Irena Briganti, Senior Vice President
Media Relations Fox News

Dear Ms. Briganti:

On Monday December 12, 2011, Fox News Network, L.L.C., broadcast a chart entitled Unemployment Rate Under President Obama. The source was listed as the 2011 Bureau of Labor Statistics. Numerous writers have pointed out the visual errors in this chart (link) and called into question whether they were genuine mistakes or intentional efforts to mislead.

I would like to hear your official statement about this chart and its errors; and how it came to be created and broadcast. I would also like to know if there will be any consequences for the people who created and aired this chart. Read the rest of this entry →

by spocko

Who Profits from Violent Rhetoric? Can We Reduce The Profit?

3:46 pm in Media, Politics by spocko

Put people before profit in media as well as banking. (photo: eigi via Flickr)

Following the shooting of Democratic congresswoman Gabrielle Gifford there have been thousands of stories asking, “What does it mean?” As my readers know, I’ve been concerned about violent rhetoric and what it can lead to for years.

The next question that gets asked is, “What can we do about it?” Here are my thoughts and suggestions based on how I successfully fought violent rhetoric on right-wing talk radio.

First, two questions:

•  What are the positive financial rewards to the people and corporations who use violent rhetoric?

•  What could be the negative financial consequences of violent rhetoric to these same people and corporations?

When I focused on violent rhetoric at right-wing talk radio I wanted to ensure there were negative financial consequences for this kind of rhetoric. Historically right-wing radio only received positive financial rewards typically in the form of higher ad rates and salaries based on higher ratings. We live in a corporate world where the financial bottom-line results drive attitudes and actions. Right now a CFO or CEO can safely say, “I don’t care what he says, as long as he makes money.”  . . . Read the rest of this entry →

by spocko

What’s News Corp’s ROI When Someone is Shot at a Tea Party?

12:57 pm in Uncategorized by spocko

News Corporation will release its 1st Quarter Fiscal 2010 today. (webcast link) I wrote a few financial analysts and asked them "What is the ROI to News Corp if some politician is shot at a Tea Party Fox organized? Some people say that Glenn Beck losing 80 advertisers had no impact because of the "great PR". Has this resulted in actual greater revenue on other shows?

Certainly Murdock can lose money on Beck for as long as he likes. But is the money coming out of his own pockets or out of the pockets of News Corp shareholders? Shareholders, as we all know, insist in maximizing shareholder value Quarterly! Show us the money!

Knowing how the world works, none of these questions will get asked. They will be dismissed as beneath the notice of the financial wizards of Wall Street. However, I just wanted to get them "out there" so that in the future when the "Nobody could have anticipated" event happens you and the plaintiff attorneys can point to this and say, "You were warned News Corp, you ignored the signs, just like the Entercom radio station did. Now you need to pay the price."

Here was my letter (slightly edited for posting here)
.
.

Jason Bazinet,Citigroup

Jason: I know you have your own questions for News Corp’s earnings call today, but could you do me a favor and ask a few of the following questions during the Q&A session?

What steps has Fox parent News Corporation taken to protect their assets in the event of a shooting at a Fox sponsored tea party event?

Last week a jury ruled that Entercom Communications Corp (ETM:NYSE) subsidiary has to pay 16.6 million to the family of a Sacramento woman who died in a radio station water-drinking contest.. (Link) Although she signed a waiver and the station claimed they were not responsible for her actions, the jury still ruled that the subsidiary was negligent in the wrongful death case.

News Corp subsidiary Fox News has been actively organizing and promoting "Tea parties". Angry Fox viewers have brought weapons to these events to intimidated the President and other politicians. If someone is shot Fox will of course claim that they are not responsible for the actions of individuals just like Entercom did. But as we have now seen in the Entercom case that defense does not hold up in court. especially when the station is the driving force for getting people to participate.

It appears that Fox is not only ignoring the danger signs, it is actively calling for action that they have no way of controlling in an effort to boost ratings.

.

What steps have you taken to protect your assets in the event of a shooting at a Fox sponsored tea party event? Have Fox News competitors taken steps to protect themselves from shooting deaths at tea parties that they organize and support?
Has Fox taken out more insurance? Has News Corp? Can you name the insurers? Have the insurers taken into account the Entercom ruling yet for your premiums?

What steps has Fox News taken to recoup the revenue lost from 80 advertisers leaving the Glenn Beck show? (link to list of lost advertisers)

If the Beck show has high ratings but low revenue how long does the network plan to keep losing money on the show? Is there a path to profitability?

If the "high ratings" of the show is supposed to result in greater revenue for other parts of the company, is there any documented figures to make this connection? Third party audited figures? (The myth of Fox News ratings bump)

Which departmental budgets are subsidizing the Glenn Beck salaries and production costs?

If internal Fox budgets are not subsidizing the Glenn Beck show, is the funding coming from Chairman Murdock?

If Fox News is not subsidizing the Glenn Beck show and Chairman Murdock is not personally funding it, then funding is coming out of a News Corp budget. What form does the company expect the return on investment to take? Better relationships with the current government? A better Federal regulatory environment?

The Wall Street Journal is still an advertiser on the Glenn Beck show, does this mean that the marketing budgets for News Corp in-house properties have been told to subsidize the Beck show by News Corp management?

Thanks,
LLAP
Spocko

P.S. See Spocko v. talk radio hosts in the New York Times for a bit about me