Saturday 10 December 2016

John Boland: It wasn't exactly rupert laid bare

How Murdoch Ran Britain CHANNEL 4
Darren's DestinyBBC1
Dance OffRTÉ1
The HourBBC2

Published 30/07/2011 | 05:00

'What have you done to my country?" According to actor and phone-hacking victim Hugh Grant, that was the question he'd ask Rupert Murdoch if he ever met him, and it proved to be one of the best soundbites in Peter Oborne's high-mindedly aghast but largely uninformative Channel 4 documentary, How Murdoch Ran Britain.

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Certainly it didn't reveal anything new to anyone who had been following the News of the World scandal over the previous two weeks and who had been reading all the ancillary articles, analyses and commentaries about Murdoch's global operations and aspirations.

So when Oborne breathlessly announced at the outset that his film would "reveal how Rupert Murdoch wielded secret power over our politicians for decades", the reaction of most viewers would have been to point out that this was already common knowledge.

And so it proved to be. Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger noted that being nice to Murdoch was "an unwritten law of the British constitution"; John Prescott confided that the Labour government in which he served was "scared of him"; and former Liberal Democrat leader Paddy Ashdown opined that politicians were mere "commodities" to the magnate, but everyone has long known all of these things.

Indeed, the two politicians had their own reasons for decrying the Murdoch papers -- IT'S PADDY PANTSDOWN was how The Sun had disclosed an Ashdown dalliance, while Prescott's extra-marital exploits had won him the headline CHEATING PREZZA IS A TOTAL DISGRACE.

Given such front-page revelations, couched in such shaming language, it was hardly surprising that so many British politicians were terrified of the Murdoch media. Hence the craven sucking-up to the man and his minions by one leader after another, and whether or not the electoral fortunes of their parties were dependent on Murdoch was neither here nor there -- the leaders had allowed themselves to be persuaded of his power, and that was all that was required for them to cosy up to him.

By the end of the film, all of this was being presented in the past tense, as if -- now that politicians have suddenly discovered their ethical cojones -- such a baleful media monster could never terrorise them again.

So it was salutary at the very end to hear lawyer Geoffrey Robertson sounding a warning note -- observing that politicians "will always gravitate towards the media they love and loathe" and that the public has been just as complicit in the success of Murdoch, who "has made a profit out of our prurience, out of our love for sex and greed on a Sunday morning".

Two nights later, Channel 4 followed this documentary with another on the same theme, this time titled The Mogul Who Screwed the News, but by then I was suffering from such acute Murdoch fatigue that I didn't bother watching it.

Instead, I had a gander at Darren's Destiny, made by BBC1 Northern Ireland, which three weeks ago had delighted us with Rory's Glory. I imagine it's only a matter of time before we can expect the completion of a provincial golfing trilogy with Graeme's Greatness.

Fans of the genial Open winner will have found a good deal to enjoy in this unashamedly hagiographic film, and even those of us less besotted by the sport couldn't fail to be moved when the beaming champion arrived home from his triumph, embraced his two boys and suddenly burst into uncontrollable tears. It was an extraordinarily affecting moment.

I myself felt like crying, though entirely about the waste of a precious half-hour, while enduring Dance Off (RTÉ1), the first episode of a reality contest involving hoofers auditioning for a post-Riverdance show that was being dreamed up by terpsichorean maestro Breandan de Gallai.

Not that it was going to be anything like Riverdance, in which Breandan starred for seven years. "What is your vision?" colleague Dearbhla Lennon asked him earnestly. "Is it dark?" "Oh yeah, it's very dark," Breandan assured her, proceeding then to describe its intended theatrical effect: "It's sort of like the dancers are almost ready to attack the audience."

Jeepers, I don't know if I'd like that, not after paying for parking, an early-bird meal and a babysitter, but, hey, if that's Breandan's vision, who am I to argue with it when it opens in the Gaiety or Olympia or wherever I'll probably content myself with a few pints in my local instead, being averse to the prospect of violent dancers.

Unfortunately, I'm also averse to reality shows that don't make me care what's going on. And one other thing: why is every second RTÉ1 series now being made in Irish? Isn't that why TG4 was invented?

Most of the British critics are having orgasms over BBC2's drama series, The Hour, though I fail to see why. I gave last week's opening episode the benefit of the doubt, while noting that the young turk of a reporter, played by Ben Whishaw, displayed none of the talents ascribed to him by his colleagues.

This week he was even less convincing. Indeed, I can't think of a newsroom or current affairs show in the world that would tolerate him for a second. And it doesn't help that the rest of the cast seem to be playing at being media figures rather than persuading us of their authenticity. I blame the silly, soap-opera script.

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