/// The Devil’s Due

June 20, 2011  |  Media Week

Rupert Murdoch was in London last week for his company’s annual summer party, trying, you can bet, to compartmentalize his likely-to-be-successful bid for satellite television company BSkyB—a capstone of a career that has had many capstones—and the ongoing and intensifying investigation in London that could undo his career. These same two issues will have been on the minds of many of the center and right-of-center members of the British establishment, including most of David Cameron’s cabinet, who attended the News Corp. party in Kensington Gardens: Will Rupert succeed in truly—totally and completely—dominating British media, or will he come tumbling down? The latter is only slightly less likely than the former. While the phone hacking scandal is omnipresent in the U.K., it is a story that continues to unfold in the U.S. as though by sporadic telegraph, and always seems to require a ritual recap for the implacably unaware American audience. In sum: It is now well-documented that employees of Murdoch’s News of the World British tabloid eavesdropped on the voice mail messages of practically anybody who was anybody in Britain for the better part of the last 10 years—the most recent revelations put Kate Middleton and Tony Blair on this list—including, undoubtedly, some of the people who went to the News Corp. party. Although this might not have seemed like much of a crime while it was being committed by myriad News Corp. reporters, and sanctioned by their bosses—just hacks being hacks—it has since transmuted into a profound breach of the civil trust. And to date, each next domino in the inquest has fallen. The informed speculation in U.K. media and political circles is about which present and former members of the top circle of News Corp. management in London will next be frog marched in front of a tribunal. In addition to company chief Rebekah Wade Brooks (who herself appears to have been hacked by NoW reporters) and her predecessor Les Hinton, who now runs The Wall Street Journal , this might naturally include Rupert’s son, James, who approved the early settlements in the case—settlements so large they could only reasonably be hush-money payoffs. And yet the company’s largely American shareholder base remains somehow unaware or in denial about what’s happening. News Corp. faces its greatest peril since it almost went bankrupt in the early ’90s, and yet the share price holds

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The Devil’s Due



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