Phone-hacking – nothing will change

Posted on: 06 July 2011 by Alexander Hay

The status quo will soon return

Ever further down the gutter

As the murk of the phone hacking scandal gathers, with nasty rumours of bereaved families being spied upon by private detectives, police corruption and even possible collusion in murder, inevitably, the government has caved in and set up inquiries into all these issues.

But what of the offending newspaper itself? The News of the World doesn't really have much of a reputation to lose - by definition, it has something unseemly and grubby about it, and if the circulation figures fall for a newspaper that incited mob violence on the one hand, but profited directly from exploiting the murder of children on another, that loss of sales won't be too high.

The real issue is what will befall the paper's owner, News International, and its owner in turn, Rupert Murdoch. Not much directly, of course, but sacrificial lambs including Rebecca Brooks, editor of the paper at the time some of the most serious crimes were said to have been committed and now chief executive of News International, may well find themselves on the altar. Her 2009 letter to The Guardian, claiming the rumours were false and the broadsheet's reporters were 'misleading the public' now seems rather misguided.

Will it damage Murdoch himself though? No, and here's why. Murdoch can always claim the actions of his subordinates were theirs and theirs alone. He will not be implicated in any case. Nor will this damage his attempts to take over Sky TV, with a decision pending at the end of this week, as the decision has certainly already been made and politicians remain enough in awe of his influence to overlook any brief, passing fury from the public.

Even the outrage expressed by advertisers withdrawing their accounts from the News of the World isn't all that it seems. In fact, when Ford said it would pull its advertising from the News of the World, it freely admitted that it would continue to advertise "alternative media within and outside News International Group". In other words, Rupert Murdoch is still getting the advertising spend, just not in one newspaper which will no doubt be proffered as one more baby sheep, but will return to form once it all blows over.

So if you expect the Dirty Digger to be brought down by this scandal or any other, prepare to be disappointed. He may be old, and his heirs lacking his steely ruthlessness, but while he lives, News International will continue much as before. So if you want to stop Murdoch's papers subverting politics, the police and common decency, why not try something radical? Simply stop buying his garbage.

EDIT (07/07/2011): So NI is going to close the News of the World? It will simply be replaced with a Sunday edition of The Sun, with much the same staff. The real long term effect will be to further harden opposition to Murdoch's influence which is strong on both the left and, increasingly, the right, as demonstrated by Guido Fawkes and Peter Oborne. Murdoch will get Sky, but he forgot Wilde's maxim - 'pick your enemies carefully.'

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Alexander Hay

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