Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 2 October 2014

Murdoch warns over 'enemies within'

Elisabeth Murdoch is the third member of her family to give the MacTaggart lecture

Elisabeth Murdoch has warned that "profit without purpose is a recipe for disaster" in a wide-ranging speech to television executives.

She became the third member of her family - following father Rupert and brother James - to give the celebrated MacTaggart lecture at the Edinburgh International Television Festival.

She also warned of the threat to Press freedom from "enemies within" - a remark which will be widely seen as a criticism of News International employees caught up in the phone-hacking scandal that has rocked the business.

Her speech was in stark contrast to one made by her brother in 2009 in which he lambasted the BBC and accused the corporation of a "land grab".

Speaking at the annual industry get-together, she said News Corp was "currently asking itself some very significant and difficult questions about how some behaviours fell so short of its values". She said "one of the biggest lessons" was the need for "a rigorous set of values based on an explicit statement of purpose".

Ms Murdoch, who founded production company Shine which is responsible for shows including MasterChef and Merlin, quoted from her brother's lecture in which he said profit was the only "reliable and perpetual guarantor of independence". But she told her audience he left something out, adding: "The reason his statement sat so uncomfortably is that profit without purpose is a recipe for disaster."

She added: "Let's see what the Leveson Inquiry recommends but, when there has been such an unsettling dearth of integrity across so many of our institutions, it is very difficult to argue for the right outcome - which must be the fierce protection of a free Press and light-touch media regulation. Sadly, the greatest threats to our free society are too often from enemies within."

She also quoted with approval another former MacTaggart speaker, Dennis Potter, who said television should "make hearts pound". The playwright famously used his lecture to demand that her father be put on trial and even named his cancer Rupert after him.

Ms Murdoch took the time to praise the BBC and the "vision and leadership" of outgoing Director-General Mark Thompson and described herself "on the record" as "a current supporter of the BBC's universal licence fee". But she warned Mr Thompson's successor, George Entwistle, that he would have to demonstrate how "efficiently" the corporation spent its money.

The speech ended with a hymn of praise to her father, telling how he "had the vision, the will and the sense of purpose to challenge the old world order on behalf of 'the people'".

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