Rupert Murdoch was on fine, ornery form at the opening plenary session of the New York Forum, an event aimed at bringing together CEOs, policy makers and thought leaders in a bid “to reinvigorate the economy”. Organized by Richard Attias, who produced the World Economic Forum in Davos for some 15 years, the main event kicks off tomorrow at the Hyatt Hotel, near Grand Central station. Tonight saw a panel discussion featuring Hearst Magazines president Cathy Black, Philippe Camus, chairman of Alcatel-Lucent and Tishman Speyer CEO, Jerry Speyer.
Murdoch was frank about the disarray within the media industry, though he declared himself optimistic at the pace of innovation that’s occurring in response to the disruption. He was also somewhat effusive in his love for Apple’s iPad. “This is a fantastic invention,” he said. “It combines the ability to present all forms of media to all people, from three year old children to 100 year old men.” He added: “I believe that within five years, you’ll have many hundreds of millions of iPad or iPad-like devices in the world. This is a huge new market.”
Along with reiterating his widely-stated belief that publishers made a huge mistake in making digital content free of charge, Murdoch also took a swipe at President Obama, describing him as “too aloof” and criticizing his politics as a lot more “left of center” than those who voted him in had perhaps realized. So what, asked moderator Maria Bartiromo, should Obama be doing to get the U.S. back on track? “I think he should be going in the reverse direction,” said Murdoch. “You won’t get this country right until you have less government and less taxes.” Unless Obama changes direction, he said, the United States should brace itself for another two and a half years of “at best no growth”.
Other policies also came in for some Murdoch opprobrium, including his disdain for the healthcare bill, and his call for better support of entrepreneurs and small businesses, which will, he said, provide the only way out of the recession. As for immigration, he said, current policy is “an absolute scandal”.
“We educate people and then we give them a ticket home,” he said, echoing the likes of Y Combinator co-founder Paul Graham, who proposed the Founders Visa program to promote startup investors in the U.S. “The best brains, who’d love to settle here and start businesses, go through our great universities, and then we say ‘sorry, you can’t have a green card’,” said Murdoch. He shook his head before launching into another tirade, this one about the state of the education system. “Our inner city education is a disgrace,” he said. “In Los Angeles, people talk about ‘dual language education.’ They’re turning out illiterate people in both English and Spanish.”
Final jab of the night went to the “greenies”, as Murdoch declared himself a skeptic on climate change before outlining his support for running natural gas pipelines through Alaska. The strategy could save the United States $150 billion a year, he mused. And anyway, “We didn’t buy Alaska to look after the moose.” One final politically incorrect opinion that nonetheless got a big laugh from the audience.
Image (c) Diane Bondareff
This post was originally published on the NEXT blog at Bloomberg Businessweek.