Rupert Murdoch—he just wants things


This is not Rupert Murdoch but a generic clipart representation

Rupert Murdoch likes to hoard media properties. At 83, his insatiable acquisitiveness has to be irrespective of whether he needs more media properties. It has to be about his wants. He just wants things. I suspect media properties are his version of Viagra.  There is no other way to explain as his 21st Century Fox goes about making a bid on Time Warner for $73 billion.

As the world’s biggest and most diverse media mogul, Murdoch has long been past the stage where he acquires properties for influence. Political and cultural influence are now an almost incidental byproduct of his ravenous appetite. It is a measure of his success that he now sounds like an apocryphal character. If a novelist had created a Murdoch-like character before Murdoch existed, they would have been dismissed as ridiculous fantasists.

That Murdoch’s media grab is not good for the media is a given. It is obvious and needs no stating. I am merely fascinated that a character like him can exist in real life. Intimations of mortality do not stand in the way of a character like Murdoch. He is like a bizarro Yogi in the sense that he wants as much as he can get without being particularly attached to any specific property once he has acquired it. Real yogis, as some of you might know, renounce worldly possessions. Of course, there are karm yogis but I would hesitate to call Murdoch that even though he has some attributes of one.

It is reported that among the main factors motivating Murdoch to go for Time Warner is the latter’s HBO which the media mogul really covets. As someone who has a long track record of eventually getting what he wants, there are possibilities that he might end up owning Time Warner as well. Media watchers are justifiably worried that at a time when television is enjoying an extraordinary golden age of diverse creativity because of competition, the kind of consolidation that Murdoch is seeking to pull off could effectively end it. It is a valid fear but it seems counterintuitive to me that Murdoch, who is a thorough entrepreneur first, would embark on something self-defeating. Those who follow him and know him say his mind his sharper than ever notwithstanding the vagaries of age. However, the question still remains—why does he want so much when what he needs has been met several times over? This question is moot, of course, for someone like Murdoch because he now does things simply because he can.

I sometimes wonder whether he even knows what he owns any longer. At a very trivial level, I am reminded of an Indian newspaper owner who once “fired” a tea vendor delivering cups of tea in his office because he did not know the tea boy was not his employee in the first place. I have this vision where Murdoch wakes up one morning and declares that he wants to acquire News Corp. and 21st Century Fox only to be told by an obsequious lackey, “But sir, you already own them.” Murdoch replies, “So what? I still want them.”


About chutiumsulfate

South Asians can infer from my name what I am. View all posts by chutiumsulfate

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