Hundreds of protesters overtook the sidewalks outside 20th Century Fox Studios on Pico Boulevard and Motor Avenue to protest what they consider objectionable practices being carried out by Rupert Murdoch and his media empire, News Corp. “Occupy Fox Studios” was timed to coincide with the company’s annual shareholder meeting, which was taking place inside, and where, reportedly, some shareholders had planned to introduce a motion against the reappointment of Rupert Murdoch and his sons.
Amid chants of “This is what democracy looks like” and signs that read, “News Corp. is not above the law” a cohort of watchdog groups and media advocacy organizations voiced their grievances with News Corp. over the phone hacking scandal and what they perceive as the company’s outsized political influence.
“Get big media out of politics,” chanted one protestor.
Dave Saldana, communications director for the media reform group Free Press, based in Washington D.C. said, “It is a real danger to democracy when politicians curry favor with news organizations and vice versa, creating a vicious cycle of money, media and politics that leaves the public out of the picture.”
Citing the first amendment, Saldana spoke out against media and government collusion, insisting that the purpose of media is to hold governments accountable. But, he said, it is not News Corp. alone that is to blame. “About five major organizations control all of cable, news, television, internet, radio and film media in this country, and these organizations are not responsible to the public, they’re responsible to shareholders and their interests.”
Saldana said he would like to see shareholders “vote with their conscience and not with their pocketbooks.”
As chants about corporate tyranny and media destruction of democracy continued, Murdoch endured a grilling at the shareholders meeting. According to The Guardian, Tom Watson, the Labour member of British Parliament who led the charge into investigating the News of the World phone-hacking scandal flew to LA promising to hold Murdoch’s feet to the fire. “I want to leave investors in no doubt that News Corporation is not through the worst of this yet and there are more questions for the Murdochs to answer,” he told The Guardian.
At the meeting, Murdoch reportedly said there is “no excuse” for the events that led to the hacking scandal and he promised to continue “confronting” the issue.
“If we hold others to account, then we must hold ourselves to account… which is why we have devoted so many resources to get to the heart of this matter… and why I am personally determined to right whatever wrong has been committed and to ensure that it does not happen again anywhere in our company,” Murdoch said, according to reporters from TheWrap.com who attended the meeting.
On the street, in front of wall-to-wall advertisements for the Fox shows “Glee” and “New Girl” protesters unequivocally called for Murdoch’s resignation.
Brianna Cayo-Cotter, 30, an organizer with the citizen-led web movement Avaaz.org, which coordinates global campaigns concerning myriad issues, said Murdoch and his shareholders have a moral obligation to listen to the voice of the public. “Media is a public good,” Cayo-Cotter said. “[Murdoch] may dismiss this protest, but it would be grossly arrogant for Murdoch to ignore some of his top shareholders.”
Cayo-Cotter said it is an affront to democracy when media organizations are permitted to buy political influence. “News Corp. is without a doubt the largest, most powerful and most dangerous news organization in the world,” she said. “And it is acting in a criminal and deeply irresponsible fashion. No one should own 70 percent of a country’s newspapers.”
Also at the protest, Hollywood Jew ran into rabbis Dara Frimmer and Joel Nickerson from Temple Isaiah, a reform congregation located several blocks from the Fox lot, who had come to check out the commotion.
“There is a deep Jewish tradition to identify people who are marginalized or made invisible and to recognize them,” Frimmer said of the Occupy movement. It is a Jewish imperative, she said, to “bring them back into the center where they can fully participate in our shared community.”
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