MUMBAI: The gloves are off. Literally. The irrepressible founder of CNN Ted Turner has called his pet hate of long standing Rupert Murdoch a warmonger for Fox News Channel's reportage during the US-led invasion of Iraq. And unlike on another occasion when he challenged Murdoch to a boxing match-up in the ring, this time round Turner kept his jousting strictly verbal.
"He's a warmonger," a Reuters report quoted Turner as saying in an evening speech on Thursday to the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco of Murdoch, whose News Corp. Ltd. owns Fox News. "He (Murdoch) promoted it," Turner was quoted as saying.
Turner also criticised the concentration of ownership of the vast majority of US television networks, radio and TV stations and newspapers in a few corporations. "There's really five companies that control 90 per cent of what we read, see and hear. It's not healthy," Turner said.
A point that is especially relevant in the context of the Bush administration's exhortations yesterday urging the Federal Communications Commission (which US secretary of state Colin Powell's son Michael heads) to finish revising media rules governing ownership of newspapers and television and radio stations by the agency's self-imposed June 2 deadline, saying the update was due.
Critics have warned that mergers resulting from looser rules could leave a few huge companies in control of what people watch, hear and read.
Turner's barbs came on the same day as a roasting given by BBC director-general Greg Dyke to the US media over its "unquestioning" coverage of the Iraq conflict.
Dyke reserved his severest criticism for US radio giant Clear Channel, which went to the extent of organising pro-war rallies in the US as American and British troops were advancing on Baghdad.
Among the television networks, Dyke directed most of his ire at Fox over its pro-Bush stance.
Dyke made his comments in a speech delivered at Goldsmiths College in London yesterday.
Whatever may be Turner's and Dyke's views on the matter, it is hardly likely to change the Fox strategy, which has clearly delivered on the ratings front. Fox is the No. 1 news network in the US.