Rupert the Bleaurghh

Rather disappointingly, I seem to have inherited very few of my father’s redeeming features. Not for me the fine aquiline nose, the easy athleticism, the ability to be at ease in any social situation or the capability to enjoy a good political argument without resorting to mild violence. Disappointingly, my make-up features clear opposites of all of the above, plus a rather jaundiced view on genetic inheritance.

Where we stand, however, father and son together, is in our clear enthusiasm for taking a stand against some of societies irritants, to the point of boycott and damnation. If you want to see my father worked up into a furious, blue-nosed frenzy, just mention that you’re a glowing admirer of Dame Shirley Porter, the London Evening Standard, or Rupert Murdoch. If you want to see me seething in a similar fashion, you can achieve a similar effect by expounding the virtues of Bill Gates, Michael Winner, or, funnily enough, Rupert Murdoch.

In my father’s case, his sense of moral frustration has some dire consequences. He lives a long way away from the distribution of the Evening Standard, and only recently have I realised that he’s managed to put a good 10 miles between him and the nearest branch of Tesco’s, which was probably a key factor in choosing his location for retirement. He still believes that every penny spent there personally bankrolls Dame Shirley, and for all I know, he may well be right. His love of cricket is tempered on a regular basis, depending on which network has got what contract – he’d rather make a 250 mile round trip to see a county game than even consider watching a test match on Sky.

Anyway, the fantasy disembowelment of Rupert Murdoch is a passion shared, and I guess we’re both equally pleased to see the real-life Monty Burns start to get irritated about copyright law. As far as I understand the argument, the sense of outrage that News International currently has, is against the notion that its journalistic data be shared on the internet for free. As such, it is planning to introduce a new model for Times subscribers, whereby they pay for online content. And presumably NI plans to sue the backside off anyone who has the audacity to use the copy & paste facility. (Which, I might add, was not invented by Bill Gates.)

Since the first salvoes were launched on charging for online content last year, it’s all gone a bit quiet, but I can’t imagine the ambition has gone away, so the likes of me are still looking into the middle distance, jaws dropped on the floor. If it had been suggested 10 years ago, we would have pointed and laughed. To suggest this as a valid business model now is kind of missing the point of the internet, of social communication, and of how the whole realm of journalism is heading. It’s not as if there isn’t a model to base the future challenges on – I’m not sure what parts of the music industry NI owns, but there’s a pretty strong precedent there in the way that old business models just don’t work any more. In the same way that musicians are going to have to find different ways of getting people to listen to their music, journalists and writers are going to have to find different ways of communicating. And that’s no bad thing. When I buy a newspaper I’d really quite like to have a different type of paper every day. Generally I would rather buy than have something sold to me, and I’m sure I’m not alone there. The bigger point is that the days of the fourth estate and journalistic privilege are truly numbered as long as there is a persistence that the public needs to pay in old fashioned ways for new delivery. Which means that News International, Fox, The Sun, Sky and all the rest might all yet be under threat. And I’m sorry if this sounds childish, but good. And ner ner ner ner ner ner*.

For now of course, I’m pretty happy the way it is. When Principle Skinner got together with Marge’s sister in The Simpsons, they realised that their common bond was that they hated the same things. It might not be the strongest basis for a relationship, but I do quite like having something in common with my Dad.

*admittedly, that was reasonably childish.


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