News of the World's implosion: Winners and losers
Thursday saw the stunning collapse of the highly profitable, exceedingly popular, 168-year-old British tabloid News of the World, after a snowballing scandal involving voicemail hacking. The scandal is expected to lead to several arrests, has tarnished the reputation of Prime Minister David Cameron, and could do lasting damage to Rupert Murdoch's massive media empire. Here's a look at some people and institutions that stand to benefit from the scandal, and some who have been burned by it:
It may seem counterintuitive, but this scandal could help the media magnate. Yes, shuttering the News of the World deprives Murdoch's British media empire, News International, of what's reportedly its most profitable enterprise. But this move also clears the way for Murdoch's purchase of coveted satellite TV company British Sky Broadcasting (BSkyB), says Reuters. And Murdoch may still be able to "hold onto all those profits" from News of the World, says Jeff Bercovici in Forbes, and "even reduce costs in the same stroke," by starting a Sunday edition of his Sun tabloid. So it's hardly much of a "sacrificial offering."
Britain's Labour Party
Murdoch is such a towering figure in British politics that "kneeling before the throne of King Rupert" has become "almost a rite of passage for new party leaders," says Mehdi Hasan in New Statesman. Murdoch's backing of Cameron, after cheerleading for Labour for the previous 13 years, is widely seen as a big reason the Conservatives are in power now. So it must be sweet revenge for Labour leader Ed Miliband that Murdoch's troubles have provided him "a rare triumph," says Daniel Knowles in the Daily Telegraph. Miliband's much-praised attacks on News International reflect "deeply held Left-wing scepticism of the tabloid press, and this resonated with the public." Labour is soaring today, says Sam Macrory in ePolitix, but now that Miliband has "declared war on Rupert Murdoch," he'd better win.
The News of the World did some despicable things, but I can't celebrate its demise, says Toby Young in the Daily Telegraph. Not only are a bunch of blameless reporters getting sacked, but there's also a "more intangible loss": Fun. "There was something almost engaging about the paper’s lack of respectability," and even if Murdoch creates a Sunday edition of the Sun, it's bound to be "blander, safer, more respectable." In other words, "Britain will be a duller place," and that's too bad.
The 80-year-old Murdoch has "escaped more snares than Houdini," but this scandal's going to hurt him, says Ken Auletta in The New Yorker. The "dramatic step" of closing his prize tabloid won't "tame the controversy" or allow him to deflect blame, because News of the World is emblematic of the sleazy tabloid culture he brought to Britain and the U.S. He can't escape unscathed, in other words, "because he is culpable." Uncharacteristically, Murdoch has let this scandal get away from him, says Jack Shafer at Slate. The "empty gesture" of closing News of the World was "supposed to change the subject, but it's too late for that."
There have been loud calls for Rebekah Brooks — News of the World editor at the height of the phone-hacking outrages, now News International CEO — to get the boot. But she is so close with Murdoch that it's like she's his fifth, and perhaps favorite, daughter, so her job looks safe, says Andy McSmith in The Independent. In contrast, Coulson, who was the tabloid's editor after Brooks, has been "compelled to fall on his sword" several times: First, he resigned as editor of World of the News, then as Cameron's communications director. And now, he's been arrested over his role in the scandal.
"In the careers of all prime ministers there comes a turning point," after which he or she becomes "increasingly damaged goods," says Peter Osborne in the Daily Telegraph. For Tony Blair, it was the Iraq War. This is Cameron's crisis. The "disgusting revelations concerning his friends and associates from Rupert Murdoch's News International has permanently and irrevocably damaged his reputation." Unless he can pull a rabbit out of his hat, and ditch the Brooks and Murdoch set, the best he can hope for is finishing out his term.