Leading article: The delusion and arrogance of a stumbling media tycoon

Related Topics

Only seven days ago, Rupert Murdoch was the most powerful figure in the British media. Today the Australian-born tycoon finds himself with a fight on his hands to ensure the very survival of his empire.

There was barely time to catch breath between developments yesterday. Fresh claims of illegal behaviour by News of the World journalists tumbled out, among them allegations that the newspaper paid corrupt royal protection police officers for the contact details of members of the Royal Family. This was followed by the revelation that journalists from across Mr Murdoch's UK operation used illegal methods to get their hands on private information relating to Gordon Brown and his family.

This latter twist represents a nightmare scenario for Mr Murdoch. The allegation means that the hacking scandal moves beyond the News of the World and casts the spotlight of suspicion on the other newspapers in his British press stable. Evidence had already emerged last weekend of a cover-up by senior News International executives. As the crusading Labour MP Tom Watson put it yesterday, this looks increasingly like a case not of one rogue newspaper, but "institutional criminality" on the part of News International.

Mr Murdoch's bid to extend his empire by acquiring full ownership of the broadcaster BSkyB now hangs by a thread. The Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has now referred the bid to the Competition Commission for a full inquiry. Yet Mr Murdoch had already indicated he would prefer this, by dramatically withdrawing his undertaking to dispose of Sky News (which effectively made a referral inevitable).

In spite of everything that has emerged over the past week, Mr Murdoch seems to imagine that some way of salvaging the deal will present itself. Rather than abandoning the bid – a course urged on him by Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband yesterday – Mr Murdoch seems to believe that a referral to the Competition Commission will keep the deal alive. Mr Murdoch has also insisted on maintaining Rebekah Brooks as chief executive of News International, despite the fact that some of the most appalling hacking abuses are alleged to have taken place when she was editor of the News of the World.

These management decisions point to either vast delusion or supreme arrogance. If it is arrogance, it is grossly misplaced. It is hard to see how a Competition Commission referral benefits Mr Murdoch. No matter what the Commission finds, the media regulator, Ofcom, must still examine whether Mr Murdoch is a "fit and proper" person to own a broadcasting licence. The era of favours from politicians to override regulatory decisions is over. Parliament has located its backbone and will not tolerate any more sweetheart deals.

And the pressure over phone hacking will not abate either, with the Metropolitan police finally investigating properly. Mr Murdoch needs to look over his shoulder in the US too. A group of shareholders yesterday announced that they will sue News Corp over its response to the hacking affair. Though Mr Murdoch might behave as if he still has trump cards to play, all the signs indicate that his capacity to control events is finally over.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Organisational Change/ Transition Project Manager

£500 - £550 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client are currently...

Accountacy Tutor

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Bristol: Randstad Education is looking...

Generalist HR Administrator, Tunbridge Wells, Kent - £28,000.

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Generalist HR Administrator - Tunbri...

Nursery Assistant/Nurse all cheshire areas

£7 per hour: Randstad Education Cheshire: We are a large and successful recrui...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A group of primary school children learn about where babies come from  

Of course seven-year-olds should be taught ‘age appropriate’ sex education

Chloe Hamilton
Alex Salmond and Alistair Darling taking part in a live television debate in Glasgow on Monday  

Scottish independence: Do you realise just how foolish the UK looks?

Ian Hamilton
Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?
Rachael Lander interview: From strung out to playing strings

From strung out to playing strings

Award-winning cellist Rachael Lander’s career was almost destroyed by the alcohol she drank to fight stage fright. Now she’s playing with Elbow and Ellie Goulding
The science of saturated fat: A big fat surprise about nutrition?

A big fat surprise about nutrition?

The science linking saturated fats to heart disease and other health issues has never been sound. Nina Teicholz looks at how governments started advising incorrectly on diets
Emmys 2014 review: Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars

Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars?

The recent Emmy Awards are certainly glamorous, but they can't beat their movie cousins
On the road to nowhere: A Routemaster trip to remember

On the road to nowhere

A Routemaster trip to remember
Hotel India: Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind

Hotel India

Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind
10 best pencil cases

Back to school: 10 best pencil cases

Whether it’s their first day at school, uni or a new project, treat the student in your life to some smart stationery
Arsenal vs Besiktas Champions League qualifier: Gunners know battle with Turks is a season-defining fixture

Arsenal know battle with Besiktas is a season-defining fixture

Arsene Wenger admits his below-strength side will have to improve on last week’s show to pass tough test
Pete Jenson: Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought

Pete Jenson: A Different League

Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought
This guitar riff has been voted greatest of all time

The Greatest Guitar Riff of all time

Whole Lotta Votes from Radio 2 listeners
Britain’s superstar ballerina

Britain’s superstar ballerina

Alicia Markova danced... every night of the week and twice on Saturdays
Berlin's Furrie invasion

Berlin's Furrie invasion

2000 fans attended Eurofeurence
‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

Driven to the edge by postpartum psychosis