A VICTORY, or is it? The mighty Murdoch has finally been humbled and we revel in his humiliation. The level of public disgust at his news organisation has even prompted a former prime minister to call their methods “disgusting”. Of course Gordon Brown has forgotten how he courted the same disgusting people, went to Rebekah Brooks’ wedding, invited her the Chequers and generally failed to rein in the Murdochs while he was in power.
A judge-led inquiry will investigate the phone-hacking scandal and Murdoch has apparently agreed to appear before a parliamentary select committee for a grilling, but is this the end of the road for the Dirty Digger? Probably not, and by some distance. The old bugger has a hide like a rhino and he has been making billions for decades, so to suggest that this could be the start of his demise risks underestimating him at our peril.
Let’s not forget he faced a far greater danger in the 1990s when he overextended himself on the launch of Sky and nearly went bust. If the folklore is to be believed, one small savings and loan in the US seemed to holding News Corp by the short and curlies until the larger of the 150 or so banks Murdoch was dealing with at the time placed the smaller institution in a similar hearts and minds-style grip and encouraged them to let Murdoch survive.
Murdoch’s lesson from that was to hoard cash, keep the revenue stream flowing steadily and never be beholden to banks again (a lesson the rest of the world could learn and then we’d be teaching another bunch of miscreants a proper lesson). That has served his empire well and will not change. Sure, he has a large omelette’s worth of eggs all over his dial right now, and no-one can understand why Brooks is still employed at this juncture when so many innocents have been booted, but really, are we that surprised that his papers behave in this way? The almost hourly outrage of Labour lightweights like Chris Bryant and Tom Watson is almost as disgusting as the hacking scandal.
In any case he still has 39 percent of BSkyB and a couple of seats on the board. That’s hefty influence in anyone’s money and in the time Murdoch now has on his hands before he can even consider another bid, there’s scope for some serious plotting on how to take the prize. We can expect a lot of grudging contrition from his UK titles in the short-term, but once he sorts out his plans for a Sunday tabloid title (most likely a Sunday Sun) the old Wapping arrogance will be back.
However, while Rupert is a newspaper man through and through – to be admired whatever you think of his politics – his sons and other shareholders are not massive fans. Apart from the News of the World, the others don’t make masses of cash. Even the Sun has to rely on bingo and its fantasy football competitions to turn a quid. With the News Corp share price bouncing after the decision there may be pressure on Murdoch senior to ditch his UK papers on the grounds that all have been infected with the same virus.
But the beginning of the end? Not on your life.