January 27, 2011
The multi-media tycoon Rupert Murdoch (chairman of News Corp) will be feeling the pressure this week after a revamped investigation into allegations of phone-hacking by his paper News of the World and arguably the two most watched and trusted pundits in football being dismissed or forced to leave Sky Sports over sexist off-air comments.
These events come at a time of the looming decision on News Corp’s buyout of BskyB. This will undoubtedly cause a headache for Jeremy Hunt, Tory Culture Secretary burdened with the verdict (after Vince Cable’s dismissal following a ‘declaration of war’ on the Murdoch empire).
Despite the concerns regarding media plurality and public interest, News Corp’s proposed £8bn takeover of the 61% of BskyB they do not own will surely be undermined by the News of the World’s accusation of phone-hacking, which incidentally forced the resignation of Cameron’s chief press officer and former News of the World editor Andy Coulson last week.
Labour front-bencher Tessa Jowel* alerted the police after she discovered an attempt to hack her voicemail earlier this week, suggesting the phone-hacking may still be happening. This presents yet another spanner in the works for Murdoch’s print publications, of which all (notably the pay-walled Times and even Britain’s best selling paper The Sun) are in sales decline.
Richard Keys & Andy Gray are probably more trusted by the majority of the British male population than David Cameron & Nick Clegg. Clearly they were unaware of the seriousness of their comments in the context (which incidentally was not on air at the time), however the nature of their comments is bound to affect Sky Sports’ reputation.
News Corp’s Crisis Comms protocols has and will be in overdrive over the coming weeks, although in terms of Hunt’s big decision (which has been approved by the European Commission) one must wonder whether these misdemeanours will influence the Culture Secretary’s decision on whether News Corp should allowed to takeover BskyB, as it could be argued Murdoch should get his current house in order before seeking to expand his empire. Perhaps News Corp is growing too fast for its own good.