The “Dirty Digger” Scandal Threatens To Turn “Toxic”

News Brief – July 8, 2011

The damage from the News of the World phone hacking scandal continues to reverberate.

In a matter of days Britain’s media landscape has changed irrevocably. Rupert Murdoch has been forced to close the country’s biggest selling Sunday newspaper, the 168-year-old News of the World, after the phone hacking scandal prompted advertisers to abandon it in droves. 

Meanwhile the scandal went from bad to worse for Cameron’s government after his former communications chief was arrested on Friday on suspicion of bribing police officers.

Andy Coulson’s arrest put the spotlight uncomfortably on the government but it also brought attention to the incestuous relationship between government and media.

The best Prime Minister David Cameron could do was damage limitation, as he struggled to defend his decision to employ the former News of the World editor as an aide.

Although Mr Cameron admitted to “turning a blind eye” to questionable media practices, he said the ongoing controversy was a “cathartic moment” for both the media and politicians.

More tellingly perhaps, Cameron also conceded that former the NOTW editor “became a friend” and remains so. 

The decision to close the News of the World’s was taken because its name had become “toxic”, former editor Rebekah Brooks reportedly told former NOTW journalist and now Sky News correspondent Sophy Ridge.

Such was the damage done to the newspaper’s name that a number of charities including the Salvation Army and the RSPCA rejected an offer of free adverts in the final edition this Sunday.

However, the damage to Murdoch’s media-empire may be far from over.

According to Sky News, Rebekah Brooks addressed staff for the second time in two days telling them there were more damaging revelations to come and that a year from now they would understand why the paper had been forced to close.

As the scandal continued shares in BSkyB fell 8% as investor confidence waned in a bid for the broadcaster by Murdoch’s News International.

If nothing else the ongoing scandal ought to have focused attention on the incestuous relationship between government and media. Or at least it should have but most media commentators have passed over this aspect of the scandal without comment.

Murdoch’s nickname – the “Dirty Digger” – finally seems to have caught up with him however, as the scandal over hacking threatens to go “toxic.” The best he can do right now is distance himself from it and protect his U.S. investments, where he is not seen quite as badly as he is in the UK.

However, even if Murdoch’s empire does suffer irreparable damage not all the elite will mourn.

The fact is that the elite are often at odds with each other and the British Royal Family in particular, having endured much attention from Murdoch’s media, certainly won’t lament its demise.

In fact Prince Phillip is said to hate Murdoch. So much so, according to a report in the Spectator some years ago, that when the Royal Consort saw Murdoch at a reception for the Queen in a large London building he stormed over.

“What are you doing here”, demanded the prince?

“I own the place”, replied Murdoch.   

Also see: The “Dirty Digger” Gets His Due: News of the World to Close This Sunday

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