Alex Salmond Is Shameless in Courting the Murdochs

New Statesman (1996), March 5, 2012 | Go to article overview

Alex Salmond Is Shameless in Courting the Murdochs


Even as new allegations of criminal activity are levelled at employees of News International - and James Murdoch distances himself from the troubled newspaper operation - politicians continue to rush to its defence. The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, who once described the phone-hacking scandal as "a politically motivated put-up job", has called for "the caravan to move on". The Education Secretary, Michael Gove - often described as Rupert Murdoch's representative in the cabinet - has absurdly accused the Leveson inquiry of having a "chilling" effect on free speech.

For Mr Murdoch, such apologetics could not be more convenient. His rapid-fire decision to launch the Sun on Sunday just two weeks after the arrest of five Sun journalists was intended to send one message to his shareholders and the publie: for him, at least, it is business as usual. Reported sales of 3.26 million, the highest for any Sunday paper since 2007, added to the mood of triumphalism at Wapping, even if the marketing for the launch edition was substantial.

In her testimony to the Leveson inquiry, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Sue Akers, the officer in charge of the current police investigations, spoke of how the Sun had allegedly established a "net-work of corrupted officials" and created a "culture of illegal payments". This was not about the "odd drink or meal". One public official apparently received [pounds sterling] 80,000. Finally, and most damningly, she claimed that most of the stories that resulted from the payments were "salacious gossip" rather than anything in "the public interest".

With his usual defiance, Mr Murdoch insisted: "We have already emerged a stronger company." And for the moment, at least, News Corporation is in rude health. Swelled by income from its cable television networks and its film studios, it recently announced quarterly profits of $1.06bn. But with every new allegation, the possibility of legal action in the US - Mr Murdoch's greatest fear - increases. …

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