Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 21 August 2014

A dramatic move, even for Murdoch

Rupert Murdoch is no stranger to the dramatic gesture in his global business dealings, but even by his standards the decision to close the News of the World, the 168-year-old tabloid that is the largest selling England language weekly newspaper in the world, was jaw-dropping.

It was the one decision that no-one ever countenanced the Murdoch empire taking, but it demonstrates how much the phone hacking scandal had polluted the atmosphere around parent company, News International.

There are two ways to view the closure decision. The title had now become so toxic, with advertisers pulling out and a constant barrage of criticism across society from the Prime Minister down, that there was little alternative. The News of the World was irretrievably tainted.

But even more worrying for Murdoch was the fact that the scandal was affecting the share price of his business empire and also damaging his efforts to gain control of BSkyB.

Ultimately, newspapers only account for an estimated 13% of his media empire and with expansion plans in the Far East under way, he certainly doesn't want one rogue newspaper to scupper those deals.

He took sharp incisive action, typical of a business acumen that has made him the global power that he undoubtedly is.

While there can be no defence of the phone hacking undertaken by the News of the World - and none offered by Murdoch - there is some regret at its imminent passing.

In its heyday it was a famed for its rumbustious pricking of the pompous and exposures of hypocrisy.

Some of its victims can hardly hide their glee at the moment.

It is that sort of fearless journalism that is still required - and which is practised by newspapers throughout the country, but in an ethical manner.

Otherwise, we will have a media so tame that it, like many of our continental neighbours, will virtually be in the pocket of the rich and powerful, hearing and seeing no evil if at all possible.

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