Rupert Murdoch, the chief of News Corp, has made governments quiver for much of his lifetime. Now it is time for the politicians to strike back. The phone-hacking that claimed Murdoch’s beloved tabloid News of the World shows no signs of losing steam. A British parliamentary committee has now claimed that Murdoch is unfit to head News Corp and that some of its executives could face contempt of parliament charges for knowingly providing false testimony. The implications of this parliamentary report are vast. Murdoch had been trying to get a majority stake in the BSkyB satellite network; that may now be nixed. The British media regulator, Ofcom, could even force Murdoch to step down.
One of the few silver linings to come out of the hacking scandal is that it may reduce the power of the Murdoch family. Rupert’s son James is likely to be charged with lying to parliament and News Corp’s survival may depend on sidelining the Murdochs. This would likely signal the end of a decades-long reign where Murdoch used his power to browbeat politicians into doing his bidding. The Murdoch era also highlights the dangers of cross-ownership of media. Murdoch was able to leverage his holdings into considerable political clout. That allowed him to increase his power and use his platform to advocate for policies that appealed to his business interests and ideology.
Over the course of the hacking scandal, we have learned that Murdoch is someone who has no regard for the truth and never lets the law come in the way of a good story. Some would consider it poetic justice if he now steps aside. The scandal should also come as a wake-up call to the sensationalist tabloid media. Gone are the days when unscrupulous newspapers could illegally spy on people. There are lessons the local media could learn from this too. In our desire to be the first to break a story, our electronic media has often crossed the bounds of decency. They, too, should be careful lest they meet Murdoch’s fate.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 3rd, 2012.