Why Murdoch Should Sell?

A supporter's view

Rupert Murdoch | Photo: Scott Olson via Getty Images


Over the years I have met a number of the central figures in the current drama engulfing News Corporation, including Rebekah Brooks (who I met when she was still Rebekah Wade) and James Murdoch (who I met when I managed a media stock portfolio that included shares of Sky, where he was CEO), and I have on a few occasions enjoyed Rupert Murdoch’s hospitality. I hold him in much higher regard than does the editor of this magazine, and he has never been anything but courteous and kind to me. I worked for a while at a newspaper that directly competed with News International’s British press, and was once even offered the job of Deputy City Editor at the Sunday Times, a position I actually rather regret turning down. To this day quite a few of my dearest friends work at News Corporation companies and one even serves on the board.

All of which is to say that this is not personal. It is not for me to make moral judgments about the practices at News International’s newspapers – plenty of more morally judgmental people than me have already adequately covered that ground.

I prefer to take a stab at outlining a scenario for how events may unfold from here.

It is not hyperbole to say that the continued economic viability of News International’s newspapers under Rupert Murdoch’s ownership is increasingly in doubt. Each day that the scandal continues, with revelations of the depths to which journalists at the News of the World and other Murdoch papers have sunk in the pursuit of stories, thousands of readers are cancelling their subscriptions and dozens of marketers are cancelling their advertising. Already Renault, Ford, T-Mobile and many others have voted with their feet.

The public mood in Britain, where I happened to be last week, is fevered. The Murdoch press, normally so adept at identifying and harnessing to its own ends the bouts of populist outrage to which the British can periodically succumb, now finds itself the focus of universal rage and scorn. It also finds itself, for the first time, entirely friendless. The public, to whose appetites News International has so successfully pandered for almost 40 years, has turned against Murdoch with the zeal of the sans-culottes. Politicians, so assiduously cultivated, cajoled and strong-armed by News International for so long, and who were instrumental in Murdoch’s great past victories (the breaking of the unions in the 1980s, the creation of Sky in the 1990s), have been finally liberated from the spell of his power by the public’s anger at him and them. And the rest of the media – once happy to abide by a tacit code that forbade attacks on fellow proprietors – is pressing its advantage as aggressively as they dare (for some of them may have skeletons of their own).

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