In the MacTaggart Lecture at the Edinburgh International Television Festival in 2009 the media tycoon James Murdoch delivered a devastating attack on the BBC, and by implication public services in general, arguing that there ‘is an inescapable conclusion that we must reach if we are to have a better society. The only reliable, durable, and perpetual guarantor of independence is profit’. It is a view neatly summing up an entire lifestyle that goes under various names: neoliberalism, market fundamentalism, globalisation, or to bring out its negative side more forcefully, ‘casino capitalism’, as it was dubbed by the political economist Susan Strange. If people in Murdoch’s position are telling us that profit is the primary motivator of human action then so are their many media outlets. That has a far-reaching effect on the public consciousness, encouraging us to believe this is our true nature and free-market capitalism our destiny as a species. In the aftermath of the phone-hacking scandal we are all only too well aware of just how far the Murdoch media empire was willing to go in its pursuit of profit, which puts an interesting spin on what James Murdoch means by ‘independence’.

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