The vicious, vindictive and ultimately poisonous presence of Rupert Murdoch has not been diminished by his entering his 80s and allegedly being happily married once more, and this was demonstrated after it was announced at the end of last month that News Corp was buying the Wireless Group for around £220 million. Wireless Group, founded by former Sun editor Kelvin McFilth, is best known for TalkSport.
That's what I think of youse bladdy criticism of my bladdy newspaper bladdy editors' bladdy freedom to bladdy well do as I bladdy well tell them, ya bastard Pommie drongoes!
News UK’s CEO, the twinkle-toed yet domestically combative Rebekah Brooks, was quick to talk up her new toy: “This acquisition will allow us to increase engagement for both businesses through the cross promotion of our brands and the use of our respective talent”. As the Guardian told, this “would create significant cross-media opportunities, with readers of the Sun in particular”. Or so Ms Brooks hopes.
Because to make those “cross-media opportunities” work, you also need a team of audience-growing, highly motivated and engaging presenters, and here the problem for the Murdoch mafiosi was clear: at the head of the Guardian article was a photo of former footballer Stan Collymore, one of those presenters at TalkSport. Collymore was no fan of the Murdoch empire and its past, er, achievements.
Indeed, after the verdicts of Unlawful Killing were returned in the new inquests on the 96 Liverpool fans who died in the crush at the Leppings Lane end of Hillsborough stadium at the 1989 FA Cup semi-final with Nottingham Forest, Collymore said that the Sun should be shut down, while another former Liverpool player, John Aldridge, who was at Hillsborough that day, called Kelvin McFilth “a complete and utter disgrace to humanity”.
So it was no surprise to see the order handed down by Don Rupioni: as soon as the takeover of TalkSport had been sealed, Collymore was informed his contract would not be renewed. He had incurred the displeasure of the head mafioso. “After 8 extremely successful years at talkSPORT, the station has decided to withdraw its contract offer from May this year” told Collymore, suggesting it was a targeted sacking.
But it cuts both ways, and today Colin Murray, who has fronted Match Of The Day 2 for the BBC, quit his weekday morning TalkSport show in response to the Murdoch takeover, telling “I have resigned from my morning show on TalkSport, due to a change of ownership, with the Wireless Group being bought by News Corp … while there are parts of News Corp that aren’t a problem, it is the inevitable future working relationship between TalkSport and the Sun that has made my position unsustainable”.
There was more. “Commercially, I delivered all-time record ratings and, creatively, I was left alone to mould a show of which I was immensely proud … I had been offered a new contract until 2019 [my emphasis]”. Why Murray should have taken that decision is not hard to understand: he is a long-standing Liverpool supporter, and signed off his statement with the hashtag #JFT96.
Rupert Murdoch has hardly got his hands on TalkSport, and already the station is shipping the kind of presenters it can ill afford to lose. And some people still wonder why, when Murdoch goes outside his newspaper comfort zone, it so often goes belly up.