Politicians lack business savvy: Murdoch

MADELEINE HEFFERNAN
Last updated 13:26 18/07/2014

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Media mogul Rupert Murdoch has lambasted "self-serving politicians" who could not run a business, but said businesses should expect every word of their conversations with government to be made public.

In a spirited defence of the role of business in shaping public policy, Murdoch told a business summit in Sydney: "Everybody in this room knows dozens or hundreds of very, very fine businessmen. How many people know a politician who can run a business?"

Murdoch, the executive chairman of publisher News Corp and chairman and chief executive of entertainment company 21st Century Fox, said it was "very important, if we live in a democracy with real entrepreneurship, we've got to have a world of ideas and debate.

"That means business is just as entitled to express its opinions as unions are."

The comments came as Mr Murdoch's 21st Century Fox unit was revealed to have made an audacious $US80 billion bid for US film and TV giant Time Warner.

It's an offer that Time Warner has refused, but few expect this to be the final word given the two companies have common shareholders and have retained advisers.

Murdoch, who described the former Labor government as "wildly incompetent", said business needed to be transparent in its dealings with government.

His businesses are lobbying for a crackdown on online piracy, with Murdoch saying between 15 and 20 per cent of Fox's revenue is being eaten up by illegal downloads.

"It doesn't mean to say you can't have dinner with a cabinet minister and talk over an issue," he said. "But you should be quite prepared for every word to be made public."

Murdoch is in Australia for a long celebration of the 50th birthday of News Corp flagship newspaper The Australian.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who recently had dinner with Murdoch in New York, described the publication as  urdoch's "gift to our nation" and "one of the world's very best" at a power-packed party this week.

The bid could have local implications, though not immediately, with Channel Nine holding a content deal with Time Warner until 2016 that gives it shows such as The Big Bang Theory, The Mentalist and Two and a Half Men.

Time Warner is the owner of hip TV production company HBO, which is behind hit programmes Game of Thrones and Girls. News Corp Australia's half-owned pay TV business Foxtel was criticised by Game of Thrones devotees for its exclusive deal that meant fans needed to buy a subscription for hundreds of dollars to watch the latest season as it aired.

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The government is also set to introduce changes to media ownership laws that could lead to a flurry to takeovers among media companies such as News Corp, Seven West Media and Fairfax Media.

It has been widely speculated that struggling commercial broadcaster Network Ten will be bought by either News Corp or Foxtel. Channel Nine owner Nine Entertainment is also rumoured to be interested in radio and regional TV company Southern Cross Austereo.

- Sydney Morning Herald

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