“makes Murdoch look about as impressive as wrinkly little ant waving a tiny placard”

The arranged arrest of former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks today, she resigned on Friday, was met with suspicion by members of the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, as the BBC report notes

Liberal Democrat MP Adrian Sanders, a member of the select committee, questioned the timing of the latest arrest.

“In whose interest was it for this arrest to take place before Tuesday? Because if it does impede what we can ask, that’s not going to go down well with my fellow committee members.

“Quite why now, just a few hours before our select committee meets, an arrangement has been made for an arrest. A lot of people are going to think this is very, very odd.

“If this is designed to take the spotlight off the police at the same time giving a shield to Rebekah Brooks, that’s a very serious matter indeed. We don’t know how much this is going to impede our questioning until we’ve been able to sit down and talk it through with the parliamentary counsel.”

And the subsequent resignation of Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson, because of links to PR consultant Neil Wallis, who worked for News International from 1986 to 2009, will do little to lessen that suspicion. 

Former News International chairman, now chief executive officer of Murdoch’s News Corporation’s Dow Jones and Co unit, Les Hinton, resigned on Saturday.

The latest resignations follow a critical New York Times report on Saturday – “Stain From Tabloids Rubs Off on a Cozy Scotland Yard”.

Although it should be noted that all the political parties, and possibly other media groups, will be grateful that the spotlight is shining elsewhere.  For now.

But the Guardian’s Lay Scientist, Martin Robbins, makes an interesting point

Murdoch had British politicians scurrying to win his favour because he owns four three newspapers here with a combined audience of a few million. Impressive? Not compared to Google, which handles 92% of all internet searches in Britain. Increasingly, what we ‘know’ is what Google tells us. Google is so fundamental to our life that it’s a verb. There will never be a verb ‘to Murdoch’… or at least not a very nice one.

It’s the same story with online news. The Pew Research Centre recently studied traffic to top news sites in the United States, and found that “Google drives 30% of the traffic to the top news sites, being the #1 traffic source for 17 of the 21 sites studied.” Facebook, with it’s half-a-billion users filtering news for each other, was another huge source of traffic.

Social networks and search algorithms are increasingly acting like editors in their own right, determining which stories are important, which articles will be read, and even which facts people will find. That kind of power over the public’s perception of reality makes Murdoch look about as impressive as wrinkly little ant waving a tiny placard.

Lord Leveson‘s hacking inquiry is tasked with producing its first report – on press regulation – in the next 12 months. In a few years’ time the two most powerful news distributors in Britain will probably be Google and Facebook. I’m a fan of both companies, but if their role isn’t examined then Leveson’s report will be about as relevant to the 21st century news environment as an investigation into abuses of the telegraph system.

Of course, the news has to be reported in the first place, but…

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