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Google’s Larry Page tops MediaGuardian 100 power list

MUMBAI: Google co-founder, CEO Larry Page has been named the most powerful person in the media in the Guardian’s annual power list, the MediaGuardian 100.

The upper reaches of the list is dominated by the heads of US technology companies, but also features actor and comedian Lenny Henry and singer Taylor Swift in its top 10.

A report in the Guardian noted that this is the fourth time that Page been at its summit. He is described as “one of the most influential minds of his generation” who “changed the way we interact with the world and how we understand it”.

But it also warned that Google, co-founded by Page and Sergey Brin in a friend’s California garage in 1997, faced a backlash on issues from privacy and security to tax avoidance and competition issues.

Page is one of the most influential minds of his generation, having changed the way we interact with the world and how we understand it. But while Google has come to dominate search, digital advertising and the mobile market, it is also facing a backlash on issues from privacy and security to tax avoidance.

Page has topped this list three times, but it remains to be seen if this year is a high watermark, faced with a rising tide of protest from the UK, Brussels and beyond. One person’s right to be forgotten is another’s form of censorship; one person’s good citizenship is another’s arm of the surveillance state.Google, from search and maps to YouTube and Glass, is at the heart of the debate.

Page said this year: “We’re in a bit of uncharted territory. We’re trying to figure it out. How do we use all these resources … and have a much more positive impact on the world?” Another part of the company’s original mantra was “Don’t be evil”; It turned out to be more complicated than that.”

Facebook founder, CEO Mark Zuckerberg, is in second place, a reflection of the global reach of the social network that now has 1.35 billion users. A decade after Zuckerberg founded Facebook in his Harvard dorm room, the social network now has 1.35 billion users – roughly the same as the population of China – and had a peak market capitalisation this year of $200 billion (£130 billion). Zuckerberg has previously featured in this list – he topped it in 2011 – but is a new entry because the company was represented in 2013 by chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg and in 2012 by former European head Joanna Shields.

But it is the founder’s views that still steer the company. Facebook bounced back from a botched flotation two years ago and is expected to take an 8 per cent share of the $140 billion global advertising market in 2014. Now Zuckerberg wants to connect with the developing world with his non-profit organisation internet.org, and create a virtual world with the makers of Oculus Rift (bought for $2bn in March).

Apple CEO Tim Cook, is ranked third following a year in which he has emerged from the shadow of his predecessor, Steve Jobs. A landmark year for Apple’s chief executive in more ways than one. New iPhones, new iPads, the Watch, Apple Pay … and Cook came out as gay. He had big shoes to fill when he replaced Jobs three years ago and, although it is unlikely he will ever be the icon that Apple’s founder was, the company has thrived under his leadership, enjoying one of its most successful years.

Worries that Apple was failing to innovate were allayed by the blockbuster launch of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus (the less said about U2’s contribution the better) alongside its long-awaited entry into the wearable tech market with its Watch. Cook suffered the acute embarrassment of Apple’s security being blamed for the leak of intimate pictures of celebrities. But he presides over a company that is one of the most valuable on the US stock market, making $171 billion (£110 billion) in revenues and $37 billion profit last year.
With Rupert Murdoch in seventh place, the US domination of the top of the list is broken only by the BBC DG Tony Hall, who is ranked the fourth most powerful person in the media.

Hall’s BBC, criticised by the government last week over its coverage of the spending cuts, is rarely out of the spotlight. The debate about its future scale and the size of the licence fee will begin in earnest after next year’s general election. His biggest challenge is about to begin: to renew the BBC’s royal charter and secure the future of the licence fee. The dance has already begun with criticism from Tory MPs. A BBC trainee 40 years ago, the corporation’s former director of news returned last year from the Royal Opera House following George Entwistle’s resignation at the height of the Savile crisis.

With the new BBC Trust chair Rona Fairhead expected to spend less time in the spotlight than her predeccessor Lord Patten, Hall is even more powerful. Much of his tenure has been spent dealing with legacy issues, from executive payoffs to the £100 million Digital Media Initiative fiasco; Dame Janet Smith’s report into sexual abuse at the BBC in the wake of the Savile scandal is to come. The BBC is rarely out of the headlines, but in the coming year the scrutiny is likely to be unrelenting.

In the fifth spot is Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. The Guardian noted that Bezos wants you to buy everything from Amazon. Except not many people wanted to buy Amazon Fire, the smartphone flop that was its latest broadside in the three-way tech battle with Apple and Google. The online retailer founded by Bezos 20 years ago has been accused of destroying high streets and failing to pay its taxes. But it is clearly doing something right, with around a quarter of a billion customers worldwide.

Dubbed the “ultimate disruptor” by Forbes magazine, Bezos likes to bet big, and spent $250 million (£160 million) on the Washington Post in 2013, with the paper said to be rejuvenated under his ownership. Revenue at Amazon fell short of expectations in its latest results, with losses rising to $437 million. “I’ve made billions of dollars of failures at amazon.com. Literally,” said Bezos, who is said to be worth $30 billion.

About Murdoch the Guardian noted that he may never again top this list. But from the “most humble” day of his life in 2011 after the phone-hacking scandal and the News of the World’s closure, Murdoch has emerged revitalised after splitting his empire. Now he presides over two worlds, not one: 21st Century Fox, including a 39.1 per cent stake in the European incarnation of Sky; and News Corp, including News UK. Murdoch’s empire would have been bigger still, but he failed to pull off the biggest coup of his career, an $80 billion (£51bn) bid for Time Warner. Worth about $14 billion, he has reportedly told senior executives he wants to lead the business for another decade.

Lenny Henry, one of this year’s highest new entries, was recognised for “almost single-handedly putting TV’s lack of racial diversity at the top of the agenda”.

The star, who will celebrate 40 years in television next year, used a Bafta lecture to criticise broadcasters for the “appalling” drop in black, Asian and minority ethnic people in the creative industries. All of the main UK broadcasters responded with new initiatives on diversity, but Henry has called on them to go further.

The Guardian report added that Taylor Swift, the 24-year-old Shake It Off singer, was another new entry in the top 10 after she took on Spotify, withdrawing her entire back catalogue from the streaming music service and putting the issue of artist remuneration firmly in the spotlight.

The rapidly changing media landscape and the changing way we consume content is represented by new entries including Felix “PewDiePie” Kjellberg, the Swedish YouTube sensation with nearly 32.5 million subscribers; Ted Sarandos, the chief content officer of video-on-demand service Netflix; and Shane Smith, the co-founder and chief executive of the influential Vice multimedia empire.

There is also a place, at number 100, for Kim Kardashian, the reality TV star and quintessential digital-age celebrity. With more than 20 million followers on Twitter and photo-sharing service Instagram, Kardashian became a star on TV but is now indicative of a new breed who can reach their fans without it.

Other new entries include culture secretary Sajid Javid; Rona Fairhead, the new chair of the BBC Trust; and Ben Priest of the ad agency behind the John Lewis “Monty the Penguin” Christmas campaign.

‘Sherlock’ star Benedict Cumberbatch and Russell Brand, rarely out of the headlines in recent days, also appear for the first time. Cumberbatch’s “star shines brightest”, according to the list, with the actor tipped for Oscar glory for his role as Alan Turing in ‘The Imitation Game’.

WPP CEO Sir Martin Sorell is in 11th spot. The Guardian noted that Sorrell turns 70 next year but remains as bullish as ever, shrugging off a shareholder revolt over his £30 million pay packet. The world’s most powerful ad man said it was wrong to make comparisons with other chief executives because he has built WPP from scratch. Indeed he has! What was once plain old Wire and Plastic Products when he bought it in 1985, now operates in more than 100 countries.

Sorrell, who has the ear of economists and political leaders, has ridden high on the back of emerging markets and the digital revolution, both of which he embraced early on. He saw off the shareholder revolt over pay, with nearly 30 per cent voting against his remuneration plan. The WPP boss said any government would have been thrilled with 70 per cent support in an election. Sorrell also had talks with Matthew Freud about taking a stake in his eponymous PR agency, but a deal never happened.

It is the 14th time the MediaGuardian 100 has appeared since 2001. Based on cultural, economic and political influence, it was put together with the help of 10 industry experts and is intended as a snapshot of media power today. Traditionally UK-centric, the parameters were widened this year to reflect a digital age in which national boundaries have become largely irrelevant.