Stephen Glover: Murdoch gambles on the ultimate insider

Rebekah Wade – or Rebekah Brooks, as she now mostly calls herself following her recent marriage to Charlie – very much wanted to be chief executive of News International. Rupert Murdoch, the 78-year-old controlling shareholder of the parent company News Corp, is evidently besotted with her. Rebekah has got what she craved.

But her appointment is a huge punt. The 41-year-old newspaper diva is clever and well-connected, but such qualities do not of themselves make a good top newspaper manager. Her experience of the business side of newspapers is practically nil, and a part-time course in management at the London School of Economics hardly prepares her to be chief executive of the largest national newspaper group in Britain.

In normal times Mrs Brooks could perhaps learn on the job. These are not normal times. News International has at least its fair share of serious problems. It is not making profits. In the year to 29 June 2008 The Times and Sunday Times lost £55.1m. Over the same period The Sun and the News of the World – traditionally the company's money spinners – made only £51.3m, while the freesheet London Paper lost nearly £13m. These figures will have worsened over the past 12 months.

Rebekah Brooks has problems on two fronts. On the one hand, The Sun and, to an even greater degree, the News of the World are in the throes of a long-term circulation decline, which predates the current contraction. During her six-and-a-half year stint as editor of The Sun, the paper mislaid average daily sales of some 600,000 to just under three million copies. It is scant comfort that it slightly increased its market share.

On the other hand, News International faces the same grim advertising outlook as everyone else. Steve Balmer, chief executive of Microsoft, predicted last week that when the recession is over broadcasters and newspaper publishers will discover they have a smaller share of the advertising market, and digital a larger one. He calls it a 'reset'. As an internet man, he has an axe to grind, and let's hope he's wrong. If he isn't, the implications for large publishers such as News International are dire.

Such challenges would tax the ingenuity of the most brilliant and experienced newspaper person in the world. In fact, they obviously do, because Rupert Murdoch doesn't seem to have any solutions, other than to talk vaguely and unconvincingly about British papers getting some revenue from the net by charging for access. I doubt there are many other brainwaves for generating new income.

Rebekah Brooks must therefore undertake interminable rounds of cost-cutting in all of News International's activities. This may be a great shock to her, as well as a test. It is one thing for an editor to agree to a few journalists being made redundant, quite another for a chief executive to take out a magnifying glass and peer at every area of expenditure. The only journalist-turned-executive I know of who has thrived on such a process is David Montgomery. For someone such as Mrs Brooks, who has declared her belief in newspapers and the future of journalism, it may be a debilitating experience.

There are, however, a couple of areas where she can get stuck in without doing journalism any damage. The online operation at The Times and Sunday Times is overstaffed. She should also take a close look at the loss-making London Paper. Last year there were talks between James Murdoch, Rebekah's new boss and executive chairman of News International, and Associated Newspapers, which owns a rival freesheet, London Lite, also loss- making. It makes no sense for both publishers to struggle on with these two titles, and they should agree to a merger.

After that, the options begin to get tougher for Mrs Brooks. She wanted the money (I'd say about a million and a half pounds a year to start with) and the power and the glory, but she, and Rupert Murdoch, may end up by wondering why she exchanged them for The Sun.

Why BBC expenses are more outrageous than those of MPs

Kelvin MacKenzie, the former editor of The Sun, was in an unusually benign mood on BBC1's Question Time last Thursday. He asserted that the BBC expenses, just released, were unobjectionable. In fact, many of them would not be allowed in a profitable private company.

I can't believe Kelvin would have ever charged £2,000 on flowers, as did Jana Bennett, the BBC's former director of television, including £100 for a congratulatory bouquet for Jonathan Ross as he considered signing his £18m contract. (I'd say a wreath would have been more in order.) I'm pretty sure he would have never dared submit expenses for £1,624.48 for two days' hire of a driver and a car in Las Vegas, as did someone called Erik Huggers.

Remember these BBC executives are much better paid than any MP (nearly 50 earned more than the Prime Minister's annual £194,250 salary), and yet many made claims they should have met themselves: a £99 bottle of champagne from Mark Thompson, the director general, as an 80th birthday present for Bruce Forsyth; two iPods for Ashley Highfield, the former director of new media, paid £466,000 a year; a £14.99 "QPR history book" for Mark Byford, the deputy director general, annual salary £459,000 a year.

The story goes on: hair styling; a teapot; parties held in executives' houses and paid for by the licence payer; a teddy bear; a pair of cufflinks; endless lavish lunches and dinners whose benefit to the BBC is not at all apparent; staggeringly expensive stays in luxury hotels by executives when serviceable mid-range hotels were available. These claims are in some ways more outrageous than those of MPs.

So I don't agree with those who say they are beside the point. They illuminate the self-indulgence and carelessness of BBC executives who have been living high on the hog at the expense of licence payers. Far too many of them are also being paid whopping salaries. It is nonsense to argue, as the BBC does, that they receive the market rate. The rest of the broadcasting industry is a mess, and in no position to pay such salaries. How many of these countless executives could command equal amounts in any other walk of life? Practically none.

Mark Thompson tried last week to win plaudits for openness, though the BBC had been driven to disclose these details as a result of Freedom of Information requests and newspaper pressure. The most shocking aspect of the affair is that much information has, in that new, mealy-mouthed word, been "redacted". Mr Thompson still won't tell us what BBC presenters and stars are paid, or the expenses they claim – information that really would shiver our timbers. Until he does, the battle for greater openness and accountability at the BBC will go on.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
Johnny Depp no longer cares if people criticise his movie flops
Arts and Entertainment
All in a day's work: the players in the forthcoming 'Posh People: Inside Tatler'
TVGrace Dent thinks we should learn to 'hug a Hooray Henry', because poshness is an accident of birth
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)

Presents unwrapped, turkey gobbled... it's time to relax

Arts and Entertainment
Convicted art fraudster John Myatt

The two-year-old said she cut off her fringe because it was getting in her eyes
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Opilio Recruitment: Publishing Application Support Analyst

£30k - 35k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We’re currently re...

Opilio Recruitment: Sales Manager

£60k - 80k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Opilio Recruitment: Full Stack Software Developer

£35k - 45k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We are currently recruit...

Opilio Recruitment: Senior Digital Designer

£50k - 55k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: An exciting opportunity ...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game