Leading article: The dark side of The Sun on Sunday

 

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This weekend, it is hard to avoid the launch of the new Sun on Sunday.

The publicity blitz heralding its creation has been exceptional, if unsurprising – Rupert Murdoch knows all about striking the first commercial blow and does not do things by halves.

What is perturbing, though, is the way in which The Sun appearing on a seventh day has prompted a revision of history. The impression is gaining ground that Mr Murdoch is behaving like a saint, bestowing beneficence on a troubled Fleet Street and a Britain desperate for The Sun's brand of journalism, its Sundays blighted by the loss of the News of the World.

True, jobs are being created, and true, the opening of a newspaper in these hard times is a cause for celebration. But the cynicism of the exercise should not be ignored. Arguably, the phone-hacking scandal merely hastened the News of the World's demise rather than sealed its fate. The paper no longer fitted with News International's desire for uniformity across its titles online. The more profitable Sun was always going to become a seven-day publication – the question was not if, but when.

Having seen his bid for BSkyB dashed, his political influence shattered, and his good name and that of his company severely damaged, Mr Murdoch was able to salvage something by seizing the moment to kill the News of the World and welcome The Sun on Sunday. The company has also avoided embarrassing legal trials by settling with 59 hacking victims.

So, justifiable high-fives all round at Wapping and whistles from Mr Murdoch's fawning admirers? Hardly. The fallout from the appalling behaviour of some of his employees continues. On Monday, the day after the Sunday Sun's vaunted birth, details of the settlement between News International and the singer Charlotte Church will be disclosed in court. Next week, too, the Leveson Inquiry will begin exploring the links between the press and the police, with much of that attention focused on News International. Meanwhile, a second wave of those who believe their private voicemails were accessed promises further payouts and apologies. And Scotland Yard investigations are ongoing. Ever present is the possibility that shareholders in Mr Murdoch's parent News Corporation may signal "enough" and order an exit from UK newspapers. The Sun may rise tomorrow, but make no mistake, Mr Murdoch's star is setting.

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