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The feeding frenzy continues

How I misread News Corp’s taxes | MediaFile.

When you run a media business you make enemies. Not least the friends who believe they were insufficiently favoured. Rupert Murdoch's, especially those with axes to grind, love his current discomfiture. Especially the BBC, a state corporation* with a near-monopoly on electoral opinion-forming in Britain; a monopoly that Murdoch sought to challenge. It doesn't make what happened right, but it does explain the focus on a media group that is (as Cranmer has blogged) by no means the worst offender. Analysing data published by the Information Commissioner on the unlawful trade in confidential private information, his Grace came up with the following;

Trinity Mirror: 1663 incidents by 139 journalists
Mail Group: 1248 incidents by 95 journalists
News International: 182 incidents by 19 journalists

He did this by consolidating the data in this table by media group (click to enlarge).

Screen shot 2011-07-14 at 10.52.23

So why is there no hue and cry for the group publishing the papers that are the worst offenders? I can't be bothered to waste pixels on so obvious an answer.

While right-wingers are content for the Guardian and the New York Times to exist (and rather enjoy critiquing their idiocies) left-wingers find the existence of competing views offensive. Indeed, they are marvelously creative when it comes to taking (or pretending to take) offence in order to suppress free expression. In its quest to get its man, Donal Blaney now thinks the Left is overplaying its hand. It seems to me rather that, in their excitement, left-liberals are now firing off random shots like Palestinians celebrating mass murder.

Columnist David Cay Johnston (13 year veteran of The New York Times and author of the snappily-titled Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (and Stick You With the Bill)) published a story (deleted now, but cached here) claiming that News Corporation received tax credits of $4.8 billion in the last four years. In fact that was the tax it paid. His 'apology' for this 'bonehead error' restated the other critical comments in his original piece:

The other facts I reported remain:

* Among the 100 largest companies in the United States, News Corp has the third largest number of subsidiaries in tax havens, a Government Accountability Office study found in 2009.

* On an accounting basis, which measures taxes incurred but often not actually paid for years, News Corp had a tax rate of under 20 percent, little more than half the 35 percent statutory rate, its disclosures show.

* Murdoch has bought companies with tax losses and fought to be able to use them, which reduces his company’s costs.

* News Corp lawyers and accountants are experts at making use of tax deferrals, though the company’s net tax assets have shrunken from $5.7 billion in 2007 to $3.3 billion last year as the benefits were either used or expired.

Gracious eh? He continues:

So I hope readers will trust that while I made a whopper of a mistake, it has been corrected forthrightly and promptly.

Not exactly, sir. All the damage you could have hoped for is already done. Your original piece has been picked up again and again as a weapon against Murdoch. Just as you hoped it would.

I am no friend of Murdoch, but the more I see of his enemies, the more I warm to him. And the more I worry that, without him, the left-liberal establishment will strangle the free press.

*Please don't ask me why a free country needs a state broadcaster.