By Paul Breeden
IT’S the end of the World – and is it the end for Rupert Murdoch?
It’s probably the fact that no-one predicted that the great media mogul would react to this crisis by closing one of his most important titles that makes him think he will get away with it.
But the reaction inside the News International bunker tells us that even the drastic step of ending the News of the World’s 168-year history may be widely off the mark.
Shutting the title tells us that Murdoch now accepts that the NotW was so far out of line that it was irredeemable.
A paper which hacks the phones of politicians and celebrities is tolerable to him, even when it appears that this involved bribing police officers.
As long as the public appear little interested, the clamours of the liberal elite can be ignored, and if the police and the Press Complaints Commission fail to investigate vigorously, so much the better.
But now MPs of all parties and the public are united – against a paper which seemed to have no qualms in intruding on the private phone messages of the innocent and bereaved, from child murder victims to relatives of dead service personnel.
The NotW brand, one of News International’s most valuable assets, is now irrevocably damaged. The trickle of advertisers deserting it was beginning to look like a rout.
The rejection by the British Legion, possibly the organisation whose alliance the paper most valued, may have been the final straw. There is no way back when the charity which represents millions of war veterans and ex-service personnel says it is “shocked to the core” by the activities of its supposed campaigning partner.
But as Steve Hewlett of Radio 4′s Media Show has discovered, closing the News of the World will not turn the page on Murdoch’s problems.
Hewlett told Radio 4′s PM programme that Murdoch’s staff are furious that Rebekah Brooks  is keeping her job even though she was in charge of the NotW when it hacked into murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler’s phone messages.
A Wapping insider told Hewlett: “The only person inside the building who believes she (Brooks) should keep her job is her. The only person who believes it outside the building is Rupert Murdoch.”
Instead, 200 journalists look set to lose their jobs with only the most abrupt of notice periods. Most of them will have had little or nothing to do with the phone hacking scandal.
But of course it is not even Rebekah Brooks who should shoulder the ultimate responsibility.
It is Rupert Murdoch. He it is who crafted the Sun into the aggressive, tit-baring, jingoistic voice of the people. He who bought the News of the World and built an unrivalled reputation for celebrity scoops however they were obtained.
He who made Britain’s presses profitable again by sacking 5,000 print workers, introducing new technology and building a broadsheet as well as a tabloid empire that would follow his agenda.
He who made satellite TV a paying game, on a diet of US imports and copycat gameshows.
And he for whom financial engineering is as important as headlines. And it’s his prospect of losing his longed-for full-scale takeover of BSkyB that is probably behind today’s drastic action.
Murdoch has displayed his priorities. His protege Rebekah Brooks is near the top of the list, because her values are so close to his that to sack her will be seen as a personal admission.
But more important is the TV empire. If Murdoch is prevented from acquiring it, quite possibly on the grounds that he is not a “fit and proper person”, his public shaming will have reached a new level.
For many of the British public, mainly but not exclusively those on the left, the Murdoch brand has been distasteful in itself, separately from the failings of his titles. To most Murdoch consumers, though, he was merely giving them what they wanted.
The trouble is that no-one wants a dead soldier’s mum to have her phone hacked.
No-one wants a murdered schoolgirl’s family to get false hope when a tabloid deletes her phone messages, making it seem she might be alive.
Right now, no-one really wants Murdoch-style journalism. How long will that sentiment last?

Picture credit   @HeardinLondon

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