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Fox News Parent Company, News Corp, Places 255th out of 581 Companies in Ethical Rankings; MSNBC Parent G.E. In Top Ten

Reported by Alex - February 1, 2010 -

Covalence, S.A., is a Swiss company that tracks the ethical reputation of multinational corporations. Last Tuesday (1/26) they released their 2009 annual report showing that News Corp, the Rupert Murdoch - owned parent company of Fox News, The Wall Street Journal, the right-wing New York Post, and sleazy British tabloids The Sun and Screws News of the World, among many other outlets, has ranked been 255th out of 581 companies, while corporate arch-enemy and parent company of NBC/MSNBC, General Electric, has come in 7th.

According to the Covalence website, the group “monitor and aggregate online news, publish ethical rankings and offer reputation management products to companies, investors, and non profit organizations.” While Covalence is more involved in monitoring ethical reputation than actual practices, interested parties are able to contact Covalence to submit relevant information, meaning that, for instance, both corporate PR departments and employees have the potential to influence a company’s ethical rating, even though Covalence have a policy of treating each company as a “black box” and depends on relative flows of negative and positive information about each company to determine its ranking. You can read more about Covalence’s methodology and sources here.

covalence%20balck%20box.jpg(www.covalence.ch)

After shelling out $12 for the privilege of downloading a pdf of Covalence’s “ethical snapshot” of News Corp for the month of December 2009, I found that the company’s ethical quote for that month was lower than its year average, at 282, but that it had risen by 6 points over November, placing it 6th in its sector (Media) for December and 5th for the year. For working conditions News Corp ranked 4th in its sector and 125th overall. The one area where News Corp dropped in the rankings was in overall impact of products.
News%20Corp%20Rankings%20Covalence%202009.jpg

According to Covalence’s press release,

The most active criteria in 2009 were, among positive news: Environmental Impact of Production (15% of all positive news), Eco Innovative Product (12%), Social Sponsorship (12%), and Information to Consumers (4%). On the negative side, the most active criteria were: Downsizing (23%!), Environmental Impact of Production (10%), Labour Standards (10%), and Wages (8%).
Note that in the rankings chart there are both sector and global comparisons, and that in its sector News Corps does pretty well. No doubt the usual sorry gang of Fox Depends Defenders will be rushing to the barricades to point out how “stooopid” we are for comparing a company in the media sector with one evaluated under “Industrial Goods and Services”. However, the fact that there is a degree of apples-and-oranges to such a comparison never stopped Fox Lovers around the web from applauding like trained seals when Bill O’Reilly was waging his jihad against G.E. and even stooped so low as to personalize the issue with disgusting smears against G.E. President Jeff Immelt, making statements like "If my child were killed in Iraq, I would blame the likes of Jeffrey Immelt.” (for News Hounds' coverage of O’Reilly’s Jeff Jihad, click here.) And can you imagine the crowing from Fox and Friends (who probably can’t tell apples from oranges anyway) if the situation were reversed? Doocey would wear a sh*t-eating grin, the Foxettes would wear extra short skirts, and one of them (presumably not Doocy, but you never know) might even get a phone call from Bill O’Reilly with an invitation to a private celebration.

Of course, one can’t use an index such as Covalence’s, which is primarily based on media reporting and public perception – both of which are highly subjective and wide open to manipulation by the companies themselves – to make objective claims about a company’s ethical behaviour. It’s well known, for example, that G.E. is a major player in the munitions industry and that in itself raises ethical questions. There are also the not insignificant issues of its involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, its ceaseless lobbying, and its record of environmental pollution (see here).

But now let’s try this the Fox way; sure, a little spin never hurt anyone! Let's take a leaf from O’Reilly’s loofah (eeewwww, maybe not!) and make it personal.

G.E. president Jeff Immelt has been called “authentic” and a CEO of integrity, and Larry Ponemon, national director of Business Ethics Services at the accounting and consulting firm KPMG, said that "GE now has one of the best ethics compliance programs in existence.” Immelt received Columbia Business School’s Botwinick Prize in Ethics in 2008.

Now, I’m not saying that Jeff Immelt is any angel; nobody gets to the top of a multinational giant like G.E. by hanging out with the celestial choir. But take a look at my Google search results for Rupert Murdoch Ethics and Roger Ailes Ethics. ‘Nuff said.

Incidentally, Comcast, who are in the process of finalizing their takeover of NBC Universal, came in 3rd in the Media rankings and at 191 overall, beating News Corp on both counts. I don't imagine that the Fox ratings fanatics will be linking to this particular set of stats.


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