Murdoch: Cameron tries to shoot the fox before the hunt, but how many foxes are there?

That’s Michael White’s verdict on the PM’s decision to go with a full investigation into the past actions of News International  is that it is an attempt to to shoot the fox before the hunt begins. Yet I count a good many foxes in this race, and only some of them are  political.

On the Today Programme on Radio Four this morning, Roger Graef alluded to one of them, what happens to the UK newspaper market if Murdoch sells his subsidised British titles? And the same man points to the chaos that may be looming with the British police…

It is hard to believe that the closing down of one major British title happened because of one story. British and US print journalism has not been the cash machine they once were, nor, as must be obvious from the way the Sun in particular vacillated over who it would back in the last general election, is it the reliable conduit it was once for politicians eager to connect to a national public increasingly alienated from the Westminister game.

Donal thinks there’s a powerplay between left and right afoot. Well, probably. Two years ago it was the British right who played politics by ignoring clear signs irregularity in the way the establishment handled serious allegations of widespread bugging and hacking. But Tom Watson had to break with the leadership consensus in his own party to bring matters to their current pass.

The frenzied score-settling of Westminster to one side, Paul Mason has written interestingly about the shift from old oligarchs like Murdoch and Conrad Black (who gives a useful reprise on his old bete noir in the FT today) to a hard-to-mediate intelligent commons.

But the first test will how effective Lord Justice Levenson will be. And more importantly, what will those effects be. Brian Cathcart on the Index on Censorship blog:

There is another whirlwind to come, because this inquiry and the debate which will accompany it will certainly bring big changes to British journalism. A lot of people will wish at times that the Pandora’s Box had never been opened and no doubt some will look back and rue these frenzied, disorienting days.

We will need to remember that the frenzy was the work of people who claimed to be journalists and who managed to do something so outrageous that, for at least a couple of weeks, everyone was thinking and talking about journalism and how it needed to change. And it isn’t just the hackers who are responsible but also the people who employed them and the people who indulged them — among them all those cynical journalists who make jokes about ethics.

If all goes well, what we will learn from the inquiry, over time, is something like the truth about hacking and the culture that created it. And journalists can’t really argue with the idea of learning the truth.

At the heel of the hunt much will depend on whether the journalism business can evolve a new and sustainable model to sustain the service it, albeit fitfully, provides the public.

  • pippakin

    Interesting everything is changing, perhaps it would have had to anyway, papers are not the money machines they were and the power hungry have found other ways of flexing their muscles.

    The power is shifting. I think the professional blogs may take over from print media. The best may well become, some already are, as powerful as newspapers. The difficulty is how to make the best blogs, still seen as rogue, unpaid adventurers into something that retains its edge but can pay its bloggers as any journalist should be paid. The Huffington Post court case may provide some ground rules.

  • Drumlins Rock

    Think we can get payed Pip? I wonder how the Slugger readership compares to the 3 local daily papers, and has it become an influence yet?

    The current crisis might be about hacking etc. but it has also served as a conduit for years of fustration by many people who dispaired at the content of the tabloids, and how in turn these papers so often set the tone for the rest of the media.

    Yes there is a risk of throwing the baby out, but they let things get too far, the price has to be paid.

  • pippakin


    Believe it or not DR I wasn’t thinking about Slugger when I wrote the original comment. It was actually about the likes of Huffington Post. I have no idea how close Sluggers readership is to that. I do think its inevitable that the big blogs will have to pay their writers, just as any other media would have to. I also think the shift of power and influence to the big blogs is inevitable.

    The demise of NOTW will have considerable aftershocks which will affect the newspaper industry as a whole, one of them is the real possibility of increased privacy laws, when in fact if the current criminal laws had been adhered to there would have been and there still is no need for such a measure, another is If newspapers close there will be unemployment and I’m not sure what would replace the quality papers.

  • I’m ruminating on the comparison offered by The Economist:

    Not since the East India Company was finally brought to heel in the 19th century has political power over an influential private enterprise in Britain been so brutally enforced.

    It’s all about Murdoch — Cameron gets only a couple of mentions (one neutral, one more positive), his still-precarious political situation none at all.

    As I recall, over a century the British government legislated half-a-dozen times to regulate the East India Company. As late as the 1853 Government of India Act, the whole of British interests in the subcontinent were delegated to the Company. It took the Indian Mutiny (1857-8) to bring the whole rotten edifice crashing down. It wasn’t the British government that “so brutally enforced” the end-game with the Company, any more than it was with News International.

  • Greenflag

    @ malcolm redfellow ,

    ‘It took the Indian Mutiny (1857-8) to bring the whole rotten edifice crashing down. ‘

    Ouch -an interesting and probably true comment -which makes one wonder what it will take to bring about overdue worldwide necessary monetary ‘reforms ‘ now that it appears that world governments are running away from the problem rather than attempting to implement effective practical reforms which would restore confidence ?

    Will the early 21st century’s ‘Indian Mutiny’ be a USA in default or the House of Euro tumbling down or the imponderable possibility of North African and Middle Eastern Democracies taking root ?

  • Greenflag @ 1:54 pm:

    The Murdoch empire is the classic capitalist corporation, dedicated to exploitation of all kinds as a way of generating more and more capital for further expansions. The way News International uses its papers (effectively as a loss-leader) is instructive: by far the biggest advertiser in the NotW was BSkyB. When individuals are coughing nearly £1,000 a year for their tv fixes, one has to marvel at bovine stupidity and ovine adherence. When pubs are paying £15,000 a year for a Sky licence, no wonder pubs are closing, no wonder choice is being constrained, no wonder Ms Karen Murphy (the licensee of the Red, White and Blue in Portsmouth) achieved Boudicca status by taking on and defeating the empire. Boudicca needed help to do for Camulodunum: the peasants are up for this one as well.

    I do believe, Greenflag @ 1:54 pm, you are describing a crisis of capitalism. As Ernest Mandel argued, Marx did not produce a specific text on crises of capitalism, despite what The Guardian implied.

    If there is an argument for capitalism in the present moment, it is that whole economic juggernaut has stayed on the rails, even if only just. And by throwing victims to the wolves at regular intervals.

    Even so, there is this:

    Modern bourgeois society, with its relations of production, of exchange and of property, a society that has conjured up such gigantic means of production and of exchange, is like the sorcerer who is no longer able to control the powers of the nether world whom he has called up by his spells. For many a decade past the history of industry and commerce is but the history of the revolt of modern productive forces against modern conditions of production, against the property relations that are the conditions for the existence of the bourgeois and of its rule. It is enough to mention the commercial crises that by their periodical return put the existence of the entire bourgeois society on its trial, each time more threateningly. In these crises, a great part not only of the existing products, but also of the previously created productive forces, are periodically destroyed. In these crises, there breaks out an epidemic that, in all earlier epochs, would have seemed an absurdity — the epidemic of over-production. Society suddenly finds itself put back into a state of momentary barbarism; it appears as if a famine, a universal war of devastation, had cut off the supply of every means of subsistence; industry and commerce seem to be destroyed; and why? Because there is too much civilisation, too much means of subsistence, too much industry, too much commerce.

    Yes, the Communist Manifesto, chapter 1, 1848.

    Now, for the bonus questions:
    ¶ What’s the difference between “an epidemic of over-production” and a ghost estate?
    ¶ Should I be upset that hedge funds have taken a beating over BSkyB shares? And in particular the fund that allows Crispin Odey — co-treasurer of the Conservative Party — to pay himself £30 million a year?