Lis Murdoch: ‘We need a moral compass, I back BBC’

Lis Murdoch has used her turn at the MacTaggart Memorial Lecture at the Edinburgh Television Festival to claim that profit for its own sake without a moral agenda is dangerous.”It is increasingly apparent that the absence of purpose — or of a moral language — within government, media, or business, could become one of the most dangerous… goals for capitalism and for freedom,” she said, delivering the speech which her brother gave in 2009 and Rupert Murdoch has also delivered. She said that her brother “left something out” [the moral dimension] when he told the same event three years ago “the only reliable and perpetual guarantor of independence is profit.”

Lis Murdoch is chairman of News Corp’s UK television production firm Shine. The Murdoch family controls News Corp. Ms. Murdoch made only an indirect reference to the scandal, noting that “obviously News…is currently asking itself some very significant and difficult questions about how some behaviours fell so far short of its values. Personally, I believe one of the biggest lessons of the past year has been the need for any organisation to discuss, affirm and institutionalise a rigorous set of values based on an explicit statement of purpose.”

Referring to the Leveson inquiry into British media practices, she noted that “when there has been such an unsettling dearth of integrity across so many of our institutions, it is very difficult to argue” for “light touch media regulation.”

She also diverged from her brother on the role of the BBC. In his 2009 speech, James said the BBC had an unfair advantage over commercial media companies. Ms. Murdoch said “let me put in on the record that I am a current supporter of the BBC’s universal licence fee.” She also spoke positively about the BBC’s digital efforts, saying it “seems to be the furthest ahead in understanding that our new world demands new ecosystems.”

Ms. Murdoch said more high-quality original content on websites will be a true competitor with television. Citing material shown on YouTube, she said “believe at your own risk that their platform is based on homemade videos of cats in washing machines.”

She said the key risk was that media companies failed to create lasting ties with consumers that would prevent them from walking away, as in the experience of CDs and digital music. “We seem to have got the emphasis wrong between building a community and selling a commodity.”

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