Beyond his stake in BSkyB, much bigger threats seen on the horizon for Rupert Murdoch
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There's little doubt that if the British regulatory agency Ofcom forces Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. to sell its 39-percent share in BSkyB, the British satellite broadcasting and internet giant, it'll be a serious problem for the Murdochs and the company. As New York magazine's Gabe Sherman notes, they made $1.7 billion from their BSkyB holding last year.
The question has been whether Ofcom is likely to kick the Murdochs out. The spectre was raised when a British parliamentary committee last week declared chairman Murdoch "not a fit person" to run a global media empire.
If the company had to get out of the TV industry in Britain, the rationale for being in Britain at all suddenly would collapse. “If they were forced to sell BSkyB, those newspapers would be gone the next day,” [a] company insider says. “They no longer provide any value to the company. To me, this could get so bad that they could say, ‘To hell with the U.K. Let’s get out of the U.K. entirely.’”
In today's New York Times, meanwhile, David Carr gives a bit of a lashing to News Corp's board of directors, which, in the wake of last week's report out of Parliament, declared its “its full confidence in ’s fitness and support for his continuing to lead News Corporation into the future as its chairman and C.E.O.”
Perhaps they spoke too soon?
"The board may regret being quite so quick to throw its full support behind Mr. Murdoch and the current management," Carr writes. "The parliamentary report, as scathing as it was, is only the first of many dominoes expected to fall in the next few weeks and months."
The upcoming testimony of two former Murdoch lieutenants before a U.K. inquiry into British press standards are likely to furnish yet more bad press for the Murdochs, and with dozens of arrests over the last year and nearly a dozen individual civil suits about to make their way through the courts, more revelations are expected.
Soon enough, there could be a parade of criminal trials that could produce new evidence that those accused of misdeeds were hardly rogues but rather following a corporate culture formed to win at all costs.
It was never going to be one single thing that would loosen Mr. Murdoch’s grip, but rather the steady accretion of damage from a ticktock of criminal, civil and governmental inquiries that will go on for months and years.
At some point, the artfully crafted statements from the company and expressions of support from a board in lock step will begin to sound silly.
In other news...
Bill Keller on the "poison" of Fox News. [The New York Times]
"60 Minutes" is getting younger. [The New York Times]
Daily News managing editor for features Bob Heisler died of cancer over the weekend. [Daily News]
Inside the secret meeting that has Washington Post staffers "buzzing." [Adweek]
ABC News and Univision are teaming up on an English-language channel for hispanics. [NYT/Media Decoder]
Inside The New York Times' photo morgue. [WNYC]