With the snap decision to close News of the World following Sunday’s edition, News Corp.’s James Murdoch, 37, has moved from the very long shadow of his father, Rupert.
The senior Murdoch, as of yesterday, was defending the leadership of News International CEO and protégé Rebekah Brooks, who was editor News of the World when it allegedly hacked the phone of a murdered 13-year-old girl.
On July 6, News International, the U.K. holding company, promised “an industry-leading governance, compliance and standards structure at News of the World.”
James certainly put an end of that.
The Milly Dowler scandal coupled with a probe into police payments and allegations of hacking the phones of family members of British soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan left News Corp. little choice but to shutter the 168-year-old paper. Advertisers fled the paper in droves.
The younger Murdoch, who is deputy COO of News Corp. and chairman of News International, called the hacking allegations “inhuman.” While the News of the World “is in the business of holding others to account,” it failed when it came to itself,” said Murdoch.
The News of the World uproar has generated a fierce political backlash in the U.K. over the power of Rupert Murdoch, owner of The Times and The Sunday Times ; The Sun, and a big stake in BSkyB.
“We let one man have far too great a sway over our national life,” said Chris Bryant, a Labor Party member of Parliament.
Conservative Party lawmaker Zac Goldsmith accused Murdoch of a systemic abuse of power. “Rupert Murdoch is clearly a very, very talented businessman — he’s possibly even a genius — but his organization has grown too powerful and has abused that power. It has systematically corrupted the police and in my view has gelded this Parliament, to our shame,” said Goldsmith.
It’s telling that James, not Rupert, made the shutdown announcement. A lower profile for Rupe would be good news for News Corp. shareholders.
Murdoch, 80, is a global media titan, but a newspaper man at heart. His time has come and gone in the era of the Internet and satellite TV.
His heir apparent, James, is less in awe of newspapering, which is bad news for the money-losing New York Post, a vanity holding for Rupert.