Why does Rupert Murdoch's PR want to feed me with social tittle- tattle over bacon butties in Wapping but provide no opportunity to question the man about his global empire?

My heart skipped a few beats towards the end of last week when a fax landed on my desk from Rupert Murdoch's News International plc.

It was from Jane Reed, the company's director of corporate affairs, who felt moved to respond to my column last week with these words: "You have been writing about Rupert Murdoch with, as far as I know, little first- hand knowledge of the man and his business for some time now."

First-hand knowledge of the man and his business? That surely could mean only one thing. Ms Reed was going to line up an exclusive, extensive interview with her boss the next time he's in town. Or maybe she was even going to fly me over to the 20th Century-Fox lot in Beverly Hills to meet the Australian-American magnate in the hub of his global media empire ...

Er, no, not quite. All Ms Reed was proposing was that we - she and I, not Rupert - should meet up at Wapping in the near future, say for breakfast, "so that I can give you some background that might assist you".

Now, I never like to appear rude or anti-social, but I fail to see how sharing tea and bacon butties with NI's top PR in a converted tobacco warehouse in east London is going to give me "first-hand knowledge" of Rupert Murdoch.

Mind you, Ms Reed obviously does pull a few strokes for her master. Rather interestingly, in a follow-up phone call about the aforementioned fax, she revealed that it was she who tipped off the Londoner's Diary in the Evening Standard about Murdoch's recent supper with William Hague. So it was not a "secret" dinner, as the Standard and yours truly had reported.

Obviously not. But this little revelation does prompt a few interesting questions. Why does NI's director of corporate affairs feel that the public should be fed tittle-tattle about Rupert Murdoch's London social engagements but should have no opportunity to question the man whose company accounts for 40 per cent of national newspaper sales in the UK and whose satellite network BSkyB is threatening to dominate the digital revolution in this country?

Of course, Rupert Murdoch is not alone in dodging the sort of critical scrutiny to which journalists on his payroll merrily subject thousands of other people every day of their working lives. Compared to the reclusive, ultra-secretive Barclay brothers (proprietors of The European and The Scotsman), Murdoch is high-profile and fairly accessible.

The Dirty Digger did grant a telephone interview last month to the New Yorker magazine, during which he dismissed talks of deals with Tony Blair as "paranoid rubbish". "We just thought it would be a good thing, at this time, for Britain to have a change," he told John Cassidy. "I may have misjudged him, but I take Tony Blair at his word. I think he is a well- intentioned, decent man ... a very impressive human being."

Gee, shucks. But such schmaltzy talk makes little impact on Murdoch's great rival among American media moguls, Ted Turner, who last week publicly challenged him to a boxing match. "It's a great idea," declared the founder of CNN. "One 58-year-old against one 66-year-old. We'll put it on pay- per-view and charge $4.95 ... the lowest-priced fight anyone has ever put on."

Turner went on: "Maybe we'll make it that the loser will leave the country. Murdoch is chicken. He won't do this, even if he can wear headgear and I don't."

Yes, Murdoch is as unlikely to take up Turner's challenge to step into the ring as he is to face a public cross-examination in this country about his dominance of the media and his dabblings in the British political process. For, as the professor of the science of government at Harvard University has explained in a standard work, "The architects of power must create a force that can be felt but not seen. Power remains strong when it remains in the dark; exposed to the sunlight, it begins to evaporate."

That passage is quoted by Noam Chomsky in his contribution to the excellent 25th anniversary edition of Index on Censorship, a journal which has broadened its focus in recent years from persecution of journalists, writers and publishers to comment critically upon questions of media ownership and access to the press and broadcasting.

Defenders of pluralism and diversity in the media often feel that they are fighting a losing battle, but - in a rare display of optimism of the intellect - Chomsky implores us to stay positive: "There are no mysterious `laws' or `uncontrollable market forces' that we must silently obey, only decisions within human institutions that are subject to will and choice, as they have always been."

The rise of Rupert Murdoch's media empire is plainly not unstoppable, as we were reminded last week when commercial television's watchdog, the ITC, bared its teeth and expressed concern about BSkyB's involvement in BDB, one of the consortia bidding for digital terrestrial TV licences in this country. The report in the FT instantly wiped pounds 800m off the satellite giant's share value.

So, those of us who write critically about Rupert Murdoch on a regular basis and raise questions about his increasing domination of both the press and broadcasting in Britain are clearly having some effect. Which is perhaps why his PR flunkies at Wapping are now setting out the breakfast table

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
The guide, since withdrawn, used illustrations and text to help people understand the court process (Getty)
newsMinistry of Justice gets law 'terribly wrong' in its guide to courts
News
Bobbi Kristina Brown with her mother Whitney Houston in 2011
people
News
Starting the day with a three-egg omelette could make people more charitable, according to new research
scienceFeed someone a big omelette, and they may give twice as much, thanks to a compound in the eggs
News
Top Gun actor Val Kilmer lost his small claims court battle in Van Nuys with the landlord of his Malibu mansion to get back his deposit after wallpapering over the kitchen cabinets
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
The actress Geraldine McEwan was perhaps best known for playing Agatha Christie's detective, Miss Marple (Rex)
peopleShe won a Bafta in 1991 for her role in Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit
News
newsPatrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
News
Robert Fraser, aka Groovy Bob
peopleA new show honours Robert Fraser, one of the era's forgotten players
Life and Style
Torsten Sherwood's Noook is a simple construction toy for creating mini-architecture
tech
Sport
David Silva celebrates with Sergio Aguero after equalising against Chelsea
footballChelsea 1 Manchester City 1
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Ashdown Group: Lead Web Developer (ASP.NET, C#) - City of London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Lead Web Develo...

Recruitment Genius: External Relations Executive

£33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An External Relations Executive is requi...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Project Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This established Digital Agency based in East ...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links