Sunday, February 19, 2012

#Murdoch's Final Plea : 'Don't Let The SUN Go Down On Me'

Stand back from the cavorting as Rupert hits crisis-torn Wapping (episode 97) and ask the question that's been dogging News Corporation ever since the phone hacking swamp began. Simply: who's in charge here? Who is responsible for this all-consuming mess? And the problem for Mr Murdoch, in his latest incarnation, is that now there's nobody left to blame but himself. This is Rupert Murdoch against the world, and the world may sense a big win coming.

Let's stick with the basics. An over-zealous Scotland Yard, its own dignity threatened by too many grey favours from News International, is going for broke in defence of its probity. More than 60 officers, who might be investigating a burglary in your street, are zealously pursuing other cops and public officials who may, or may not, have taken bungs from Sun journalists in return for information. The management and standards committee (MSC) at News Corporation has been shovelling over millions of emails and expenses claims for police inspection. So far, 10 of the Bun's hottest operators have been arrested (though not charged). And this exercise, as the officer in overall command observes, "is nearer the beginning than the end".

In short, the arrests, and the theatricals that accompany them, could go on for years. And no one – least of all Mr Murdoch – knows where it will all end, or who will be left clinging on to their freedom. The MSC committee, under Lord Grabiner QC, is autonomous and working hand in glove with the Yard. That's the precise opposite of the cover-up, obfuscate-and-deny culture that served News International so balefully through the years of hacking denial.

Sun journalists were – and maybe still are – pretty angry because the Grabiner team were landing them in the mire without any chance to plead innocence via a public interest defence. The Murdoch position, adjusted under extreme pressure, lets those who have been arrested come back to work (until they're charged, if events get that far). But it doesn't stop the police machine grinding on. It doesn't sabotage the MSC. It merely lets those who are first in the frame get back to work, and pavilions that concession in warm words for the Sun and its long-expected sabbath sister, the Sun on Sunday.

And here's the absolute rub. If the MSC is as independent and pristine as News Corp vows, then the company can't stop more arrests – or intervene if charges are made. Nobody, least of all Rupert Murdoch, can know how many more arrests are pending. Nobody can tell if the putative editor of the Sun on Sunday, or any of its embryo staff, is covered in hacking or bribing more