The Listening Post

The Murdoch empire strikes back

We examine Rupert Murdoch’s relationship with the UK government; plus, Nigeria’s ‘brown-envelope’ journalists.

Concerns are growing that the UK’s Conservative government is trying to reshape and influence Britain’s media landscape as it continues to befriend media mogul Rupert Murdoch’s empire.

Shortly after David Cameron’s outright election victory in May, his government announced a review of finances at the BBC, an organisation some Conservatives had denounced for harbouring a liberal agenda, slashing one-fifth of the publicly owned broadcaster’s annual budget.

Just weeks before making that announcement, Rupert Murdoch – a long-time critic of the BBC and owner of News Corp, which includes pro-Tory newspapers The Sun and The Times as well as SKY TV – met senior members of the government twice.

Murdoch’s UK newspapers have a long history of lending support to the Conservatives, and in recent months have joined ranks in deriding Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

And in the past week, Trevor Kavanagh, a former political editor at The Sun who had deplored the investigation of Sun journalists over the phone-hacking scandal while at the paper, has been appointed to the board of a new press regulator – the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO).

Despite talk from a few years ago of the need for greater press regulation, the appointment of a Murdoch loyalist to IPSO has had critics talking of foxes in the hen house.

Talking us through the story areNatalie Fenton, a director for the campaign group Hacked Off; Tim Fenton, a blogger at Zelo Street; Matt Tee, the CEO of IPSO; and Charlie Beckett, a professor at the London School of Economics.

Other stories on our radar this week: It’s never been easy for journalists to get access to the US prison at Guantanamo Bay and the Pentagon has just changed the rules to make it even harder; Al-Tayaar, a Sudanese newspaper, was shut down after running an editorial critical of the government’s policies; and the mystery surrounding just who owns the biggest-selling newspaper in Las Vegas has finally been solved.

Nigeria’s ‘brown-envelope’ journalists

Nigerian journalists are among the worst-paid reporters in Africa, seldom given money to cover travel or other expenses, let alone paid their salaries on time.

This has affected the way stories are reported, with some of the country’s most pressing events either underreported or ignored altogether.

Amid this climate where investigative journalism is severely stifled, corrupt and illicit practices have begun to flourish.

Reporters are often seen waiting for cash handouts from politicians and government officials at press conferences, and then rarely questioning them or fact-checking.

The Listening Post’s Nic Muirhead travelled to Lagos, Nigeria’s media capital, to report on “brown-envelope journalism”.

Finally, this is the time of the year when news organisations summarise the stories that dominated headlines in 2015.

Google does it too, but the search engine also provides users with a little more data – such as how many times a certain story was searched, which countries were most interested in it and what were the most frequently asked questions.

The information provides a good insight into how news consumers felt about that story and the issues that were important to them.

We leave you with some of the most searched news stories of 2015 and a few of the questions they brought to mind.