Will Scandal Cause Fall of Murdoch’s Empire?

Is the phone-hacking scandal going to result in the collapse of Murdoch’s empire?

The truthful answer is that no one knows. But it sure isn’t helping.

Rupert’s holdings in three continents have been tainted, so far. He’s had to testify before the British Parliament and has had a foam pie thrown in his face. A number of members of the News Corp’s inner circle have resigned or been arrested. If only I could muster a bit of sympathy for the guy.

His troubles in Britain are well known. The highly profitable News of the World has been shut down. Murdoch's bid to lord over Britain’s satellite airwaves has had to be called off. And two former whistleblowers have actually been found dead.

But even stateside, the toxic effect of the scandal is further poisoning the reputation of his holdings, such as the Wall Street Journal. The paper began with a fawning softball interview of Rupert and followed that with a barrage of seven editorials and columns dedicated to defending its ownership.

“I think this establishes the Journal as a mouthpiece for News Corp., unfortunately,” says Sarah Ellison, the author of a book on Murdoch’s 2007 takeover of the paper.

At Fox, the folks are at a complete loss. The aggressiveness that marks the network’s pursuit of non-scandals is noticeably lacking here. It’s hard not to revel in the discomfort of a channel that more than any other media outlet in recent times has contributed to the misinformation of the American public.

Over in Australia, Murdoch’s land of birth, Rupert’s grip on Australian politics is loosening. Spooked by his near-monopoly over large segments of the media, politicians there have generally been hesitant to take him on. No longer. Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard has announced that there could possibly be an inquiry into News Corp’s holdings in her country.

What could further damage News Corp. here in the United States?

The company could be charged with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, under which a U.S. company that gives bribes abroad can be prosecuted. The FBI is investigating the accusation that the voice mails of families of Sept. 11 victims were hacked into. (There are also intriguing allegations about Fox headman Roger Ailes operating a “brain room” to tap into phone messages of his targets.)

Then there’s the boycott option. This is more complicated than you would think, as Eric Stoner details at Wagingnonviolence.org. It would mean avoiding everything from Terrence Malick’s philosophically rich “The Tree of Life” to any book published by HarperCollins. Facebook and Twitter pages to shun Murdoch have come up.

There’s a rough road ahead for News Corp.

If you liked this article by Amitabh Pal, the managing editor of The Progressive magazine, please check out his article entitled "Al Jazeera Incident Shows Xenophobia Alive in America."

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