Murdoch is no puppet master: the power is now in the web

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Opinion Digest: the end of the newspaper baron, Cameron's shame, the upside of poshness and artistic collaboration

LAST UPDATED AT 11:53 ON Fri 27 Apr 2012

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THE ALL-POWERFUL NEWSPAPER BARON MYTH
PHILIP COLLINS ON MURDOCH
It's a fallacy that proprietors exercise power through their partisan newspapers, says Philip Collins in The Times. Half the population don't read newspapers. Those that do mostly read the football, and those that read the rest of the paper tend to choose one that "neatly packages up what they think already". Murdoch's Sun did not win the 1992 election for John Major. The opinion polls just hadn't picked up that Major was always set to win. The idea that Murdoch is a "puppet master" is sheer "conspirational nonsense". Newspaper circulation has fallen dramatically. We now get our news from the TV, and more often, the web. If there is a media mogul with power, its Jimmy Wales, "who can switch off Wikipedia if he doesn't like the colour of a government". It's fascinating to listen to "old generals reminiscing about the war" in Leveson, but the real power has moved on.

MURDOCH AND CAMERON'S SHAME ON SHOW
POLLY TOYNBEE ON LEVESON
The cascade of revelations about the intimacy between Cameron and the Murdoch empire at Leveson may not bring down the government, says Polly Toynbee in The Guardian, but it will hobble it in the next election. Links between the government and Murdoch are hardly news, ever since the days of Thatcher - but the Leveson inquiry forensically lays out the shameful tale for all to see. This is no "navel gazing media story". If Murdoch had been allowed to get his way with BSkyB, within a year or two he would have packaged all his newspapers on subscription or online together with his movie and sports channels at loss-leading prices to drive other providers out of business. "His would be the commanding news voice." Except for the BBC - which his media have attacked relentlessly for years. "If it does nothing else, this scandal will stop the government daring to give anything more to Sky."

TORIES! EMBRACE YOUR POSHNESS
HUGO RIFKIND ON PRIVILEGE
Being posh isn't always a negative, says Hugo Rifkind in The Times. Nadine Dorries and Ed Miliband have attacked David Cameron and George Osborne as "posh boys", meaning privileged, but really it's a way of "belittling their integrity, compassion and worldliness". But being privileged isn't necessarily a personal failing. It can offer wider experience. The Conservatives need to embrace their poshness. The Government is dominated by people who are far richer than everybody else. It's "hilariously obvious", so they need to stop panicking about it. It's at the core of everything they want to do. If Conservatives want to keep the NHS free at the point of use, but have it function more like private healthcare, it's because they've experienced both systems and seen which works best. For similar reasons, they want to promote free schools and academies, alongside comprehensives. Poshness doesn't always mean out of touch, it can actually open the eyes.

EVEN GENIUSES NEED A HELPING HAND
ALAN MASSIE ON SHAKESPEARE
Don't be surprised that Shakespeare had a helping hand, says Allan Massie in The Daily Telegraph. This week, two Oxford academics concluded that parts of two Shakespeare plays – All's Well that Ends Well and Timon of Athens – were written by Thomas Middleton. This isn't remarkable. It's widely accepted that Shakespeare collaborated with John Fletcher on Henry VIII and The Two Noble Kinsmen. Theatre is by its nature a collaborative art form. Plays are closer to films than to novels. The French have exaggerated the role of the sole "auteur". Producers, writers and actors all influence a film. We may like the idea of the lonely genius, but even poets get advice from other poets, and editors often play a major role in shaping works of literature. In an age of mass media, "we should have no difficulty in accepting that not everything in Shakespeare is Shakespeare's work, and we shouldn't think that it diminishes him in any way". · 

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