And so the house fell in on Rupe and his troops: after more than two years of hearing the chorus of generally right leaning voices howling “non story”, News Corp has withdrawn its bid for the part of BSkyB it does not own following a call from MPs of all major parties. Phonehackgate is still rumbling on. And now the spotlight is on the Murdoch press – well, what is left of it following the demise of the Screws.
Rumours surfaced at the beginning of the week that Rupe and Junior were seriously considering what at the time was being called a “Get out of Dodge” scenario: that is, the selling of all three remaining titles and pulling out of UK print media altogether. So who might want to do the deal?
The straightforward sale would be that of the Super Soaraway Currant Bun: there has already been a (possibly less than serious) recent bid for the title from Richard “Dirty” Desmond, who already owns the Express and Daily Star. The downside of such a sale would be that the Sun would be turned into something even cheaper and nastier than it is at the moment, if such a thing could be imagined.
What would also happen, of course, is that the Sun would, in Desmond’s hands, be removed from the Press Complaints Commission (PCC), which might be sufficient prodding to have this body reformed so that it (a) covers all newspapers, with no opt-outs for tight fisted former pornographers, and (b) actually has the power to curb the excesses of the Fourth Estate.
So this outcome could be A Good Thing, but not due to the philanthropic nature of Dirty Des. But what of the Times and Sunday Times? Here we encounter a greater problem: the papers have experienced falling circulation for some time, no other credible suitor exists in that part of the marketplace, the Times paywall has by all accounts been a disaster, and the titles are losing money – a lot of money.
Those running the Maily Telegraph, Guardian and Independent would, however, love to get their hands on the Times and Sunday Times readership. It’s possible that Dirty Des will bid for all three titles and turn the qualities into yet more vehicles for low grade agenda driven dross, which would drive circulation down and readers to the competition.
But what about plurality? Well, plurality doesn’t have to mean print media. We now have the Huffington Post UK, we’ve already got on-line content from the Beeb, ITN and Sky News (“first for breaking wind”), and similar sites from around the world can be easily accessed. So there will still be media plurality – the landscape, though, will look rather different.
Which means that we won’t miss the Dirty Digger once he’s gone.