Rupert Murdoch is tweeting away today (but so far he sin't tweeting this: his incredibly profitable British daily tabloid The Sun is now under tremendous pressure. Over the weekend five senior newsroom people were arrested and released on bail.
This is the next phase in the phone-hacking scandal that blew up last summer and led to Murdoch summarily shutting down his Sunday tabloid the News of the World. This is potentially more serious. The Sun arrests are not related to hacking but to paying police for information. That is very serious corruption.
The arrests come after the police were handed thousands of e-mails and other documents by News International's Management and Standards Committee set up last summer by Murdoch to help police in their investigations into his British papers. Full story here.
What this means depends on who you read:
Roy Greenslade, who was assistant editor of The Sun in the '80's is convinced Murdoch will not shut the paper down a la the NoW. "I cannot believe that Murdoch will take the nuclear option by closing his beloved paper, nor do I imagine him offering it for sale. Not yet, anyway," he writes in today's Guardian. His view is that the 80-year old Murdoch's relationship with the paper is one of until death do us part.
Michael Wolff, who wrote a biography of Murdoch and is New York's favourite Rupert watcher sees it differently. "What's happening in Britain is eating News Corp up – its slow, agonising pace may even be more corrosive than the prospect of trials and even potential convictions. An extraordinary corporate death is taking place. Murdoch's companies are poisoned, by his own aggressiveness, as well as by the culture of British tabloids themselves …"
Wolff's advice, "Sell the Sun. Use the proceeds (I'd guess £500m to £700m) to endow an independent trust that will run the Times and Sunday Times (also owned by Murdoch).
That will not happen, as Greenslade would tell Wolff.
However, shareholders and the board of directors may force the sale if investigations into News Corp in America (the parent company of Murdoch's British papers) under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act lead to charges. I don't know, paying policemen for information sounds pretty corrupt to me.