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VINE VOICEon 27 July 2012
This book is amongst many that will appear about Murdoch and his media empire. Hopefully the others will be better. Certainly, they could hardly be worse than this semi-biographical account of John Lisners and his relationship with News International since 1966. His account of the unscrupulous nature of Murdoch's methods is provided in detail but without judgement, apart from the odd obsequious nod towards ethics. He quickly establishes the role of executives in the Murdoch empire was to agree with the master. "They have to follow the corporation's aim of beating the opposition at all costs. Colleagues must be part of the cult of the 'Mini-Me', a cloned version of Rupert Murdoch." The master, meanwhile, established relationships with decision-makers, a trail blazed by his father, Sir Keith Murdoch, which was to prove his ultimate downfall.

Although Murdoch claimed his father was not a rich man his base line was far in excess of the average wage. Sir Keith Murdoch received kudos on the back of a highly emotional letter to the Australian Prime Minister, with a copy to the British Prime Minister, Herbert Asquith, in which he blamed Sir Ian Hamilton and the British military leadership for the heavy losses suffered by ANZAC troops at Gallipoli. It was, "a compound of truth and error, fact and prejudice" which led to the dismissal of Hamilton and set the tone for the Murdoch method of writing news for effect rather than for truth. Owning newspapers gave him the opportunity to meet and influence decision-makers, a strategy adopted by his son. Keith Murdoch boasted he had Joe Lyons elected as Prime Minister in 1932, his son backed Gough Whitlam in 1972 and, of course, "It was the Sun Wot Won It' in 1992.

It's difficult to deny Lisner's claim that "News Corporation dominated the world, as the largest and most successful multimedia organisation" until cracks started to appear in 2005. In that year the News Of The World's royal reporter, Clive Goodman, placed two bland stories about Prince William. The Royal Family do not, as a rule, become embroiled with the press but, on this occasion, it was apparent that William's phone had been hacked which led to an investigation by the Scotland Yard anti-terrorism commander. In court Goodman and a private detective, Glenn Mulcaire, admitted intercepting phone messages with Mulcaire admitting a string of non-royal interceptions. The method was simple. The miscreants would ring a mobile phone and when the answer message came into play would punch in a security code which came as standard for most mobile phones. This would give access to all messages left on the phone.

Goodman claimed he was driven to break the law because of pressures to perform. The judge, Mr Justice Ross, dismissed the claim that the defendants were practicising press freedom and decided the issue was one of privacy. He called it "low conduct, reprehensible in the extreme" and concluded that Mulcaire had not confined his dealings to Goodman "but with others at News International". The Press Complaints Commission (PCC) carried out a formal investigation which cleared everyone at News International and News International claimed it was the work of one 'rogue' reporter. Undeterred, Murdoch continued his pursuit of power by bidding to bring the whole of the very profitable BSkyB organisation under the complete control of News International. The bid was controversial and was only withdrawn when the extent of the News Of The World's phone hacking became clear with the revelation that the paper had accessed the phone of the murdered schoolgirl Millie Dowler. The News of The World, badly hit by an advertisers' boycott, was shut down and replaced by The Sun On Sunday. By then the Government had set up the Levenson Enquiry " To inquire into the culture, practices, and ethics of the press" and make recommendations. Soon after criminal charges were laid against senior executives at News International.

The Sun's predecssor was the Daily Herald, owned by the Trades Union Congress and the IPC group which also owned the Daily Mirror. It was sold to Murdoch to prevent it being bought by Robert Maxwell. It was an expensive mistake. The Murdoch-owned Sun went downmarket immediately as a daily News Of The World. IPC's Hugh Cudlipp's bitter comment when the Sun's sales overtook that of the Mirror was that it catered for 'the mentally underprivileged'. One observer described it as 'being put together by people who can't write, for the benefit of those who can't read.'

It was not in Murdoch's nature to allow editors too much freedom and he would remove those who did not understand that policy. He encouraged those who achieved his objective of increasing circulation even if it meant publishing the falsehoods that characterised its coverage of the Hillsborough disaster. He knew how to divide and rule, taking the journalists to Wapping in 1986 and leaving the print unions and their restrictive practices in limbo. Therefore, it was surprising to hear him deny ultimate responsibility for the hacking fiasco. When asked who was responsible he replied, 'The people that I trusted to run it and then maybe the people they trusted." It formed part of the collective amnesia in which no-one apparently knew anything and which no-one with half a brain believed.

Much of the book is devoted to Lisner's own journalistic escapades, most of which should deter anyone from becoming a journalist. He quotes Kelvin Mackenzie as saying he never checked sources whereas he (Lisners) "did have to check my stories". Unfortunately, this did not extend to checking facts. It was the long-serving Kingsley Martin who was editor of the New Statesman in 1932, not Kingsley Amis. On the other hand Bramshill Police College is correctly identified in my copy of the book. However, the reader would have been served better had the book carried an index. Three stars but best borrowed rather than bought.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 25 October 2012
Hardly does justice of its name, this book is something you could do without, if you don't desperately want to know what a great journalist freelancer the author is. I suppose he mixed Murdoch in his semi-autobiography just to make me take the book from the library. Hardly can say it was a great read. Full of clichés, tactically right (for whatever happens with the Murdoch saga) and comfortably avoiding expressing the straight opinion of the author about the whole million pounds Murdoch circus.

Misleading name on a mediocre work.
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on 10 June 2012
Though I've never personally worked for newspapers, I spent three years working for Paul Raymond Publications, then located in Chronicle House, directly facing the Daily Telegraph, so I met a lot of the journalists in the glorious Street of Shame, retain fond memories of it, and love reading books about it. I bought The Rise and Fall of the Murdoch Empire for that reason, but also because I am presently fascinated by the ever-widening swamp of Rupert Murdoch's present troubles and the related phone-hacking and BSkyB scandals.

I was not disappointed. A practicing lawyer as well as a journalist, author John Lisners worked for various Murdoch newspapers as an investigative reporter, personally met Rupert Murdoch, was once temporarily banned from working for Murdoch publications because he offended the Great Man with certain sensational exposes, and clearly knows what he is talking about when he charts the rise and fall of News International and those associated with it, including Messrs Coulson, Hunt,Osborne, Cameron and the reportedly charming Rebekah Brooks. However, I also loved this book because it is filled with fascinating glimpses into the lives of a wide variety of dodgy characters, including crooked cops, violent criminals, dodgy politicians, professional prostitutes, demented celebrities, sinful men of the church, and general weirdos. How John Lisners managed to survive them all, I just can't imagine.

If you want a definitive picture of Rupert Murdoch and his empire, if you want to know how journalists interact with politicians, the police and the general public, if you want to be shocked, outraged and amused, I'd recommend this book. Personally, I loved it.
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on 10 July 2012
I suppose the first thing to say about this book is that the title is something of a misnomer - the Murdoch empire has hardly fallen. The Rise and Slight Stumble of the Murdoch Empire wouldn't have been as catchy or as commercial. As Murdoch has said, the News of the World was a tiny part of News Corp's business.

Lisner's book is a good introduction to the world of Murdoch and News International but if you already know a fair bit, then you probably won't learn anything new apart from that Lisner earned a fortune as a freelance journalist writing for the Murdoch press and others when the Street of Shame actually existed.

The book begins with the phone hacking scandal before moving onto Murdoch's family - his father, Sir Keith, also owned newspapers, but unlike his son was happy to accept baubles: Murdoch's mother is a dame. Lisners is strongest on Murdochian matters when they occurred in Australia (Lisners also hailing from Down Under) - how Murdoch engineered the sacking of an Aussie premier is truly shocking - but is also good when detailing how Murdoch outfoxed not only Robert Maxwell but also the Carr family, then owners of the News of the World.

Lisners recounts some tales from well-known scandals but many have already been covered and in more depth - Gerry Brown's autobiography gives a more detailed account of Jeffrey Archer and the package at Victoria Station, for example. Andrew Neil's book gives you more of a feel of what it is like to work closely for Murdoch. Tom Watson is better on phone hacking.

Lisners wrote many stories for the News of the World and says that Barry Askew could possibly have been the greatest editor of that paper but blotted his copybook when he was admonished by the Queen. Her Majesty had called all Fleet Street editors to ask them to lay off Lady Diana Spencer. In the book, Askew asked the Queen if Diana could not send a servant to do her shopping to which HM responded by calling him pompous. In fact, Askew asked if Diana could not send a servant to buy her wine gums - much more colour. Askew did stand by Lisners when the reporter exposed the crooked John DeLorean only to see his story spiked and to be banned from every Murdoch office worldwide for a year because Murdoch was a friend of the bent car tycoon. This is, for me, the most interesting part of the book. Askew sat in the editor's chair for just a year. I'd have liked to have learned more about the notorious and, by all accounts, corrupt lawyer Lord Goodman.

Two of the reviewers make great play of the fact that Lisners has met Rupert Murdoch. So what? So have I. I don't think that adds anything to the book (Lisners having met Murdoch, not me.)

There are some glaring errors - Lisners writes of Kingsley Amis writing in The New Statesman in 1932 when Amis would have been ten. Condoleezza Rice's name is misspelled as is Col Allan, the editor of the New York Post and when Murdoch was asked about his number one priority in July 2011 he didn't say "She is" when referring to Rebekah Brooks, he said "This one." Rupert was 21 when his father died, not 22. The Queen's Silver Jubilee celebrations were in 1977 not 1997. Les Hinton wasn't Murdoch's chief lieutenant for 52 years. The captions for the pictures of Sean Hoare and Peter Hain both miss off their names. The police training college is Bramshill not Bramston.

Lisners's book is entertaining but it is just as much about John Lisners as Rupert Murdoch. But since Lisners is a character and a more than decent investigative reporter, that's no bad thing.
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on 3 June 2012
This book provides amazing insight into the inner workings of Rupert Murdoch's murky world. Lisners is not just some media commentator who gives his thoughts on what may have happened when Murdoch was at the top of his game, he is a man speaking from experience. The author actually wrote for a number of Murdoch's titles, knows a lot of the top execs and has met the top man on on occasion. Intriguing read from someone who has been inside the camp.
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on 4 July 2012
This book reveals the backstory to a number of events in Murdoch's business life which could be described as unsavoury. With attention to detail characteristic of the reporter and lawyer he is, John Lisners shows the true nature of the man Murdoch and his approach to business, and desribes the world of journalism over the last 40 years via some of its highs and lows. A must-read for both journalists and politicians.
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on 28 March 2013
Worth a read for anybody who thinks that the Empire is dead. The Empire will strike back, this time it's the Digital Media that needs to be cautious.
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