The Murdoch Sun, far from being the cash cow of old when it provided the means for creepy Uncle Rupe to launch his first foray into satellite TV, has been losing money for some time. Much of this is down to the desperate attempts to keep its hacks and bosses out of court by settling claims for phone hacking - and other excursions into the procurement of illegally obtained information - but other factors are at work.
Advertising revenue is down, and slagging off Google and Facebook is not going to bring it back. The quality of what the inmates of the Baby Shard bunker offer their readers is unremittingly dreadful, with many not bothering to buy the rag. So under-fire editor Tony Gallagher, in order to worm his way back into Rebekah Brooks’ favour, has turned to another Sun staple - telling stories about notorious criminals.
Yes, despite all those prison officers who lost their livelihoods when the Murdoch goons shopped them to the cops, someone has obtained what are claimed to be authentic tapes of Soham murderer Ian Huntley, smuggled out of HMP Frankland near Durham. In them, Huntley comes over as a self-pitying, rather pathetic individual. What he has to tell the world is hardly newsworthy. He’s in the slammer, and will stay there. Big deal.
He had his fish and chip privileges stopped for talking to the Sun. Another prisoner tried to attack him. Frankland is nowhere near as bad as Wakefield. There are a lot of very bad people banged up in maximum security jails. The staff are doing their best with increasingly limited resources. No-one goes to visit him. He thinks about what he did every day. He claims to be genuinely sorry. And very few people give a crap.
How desperate is this editor?
It’s tedious in the extreme: the only reason it’s in the Sun is because of who Huntley is. The Murdoch goons could have gone after genuine news and current affairs stories, human interest stuff, politics, Brexit or whatever, but they serve up this drivel - and for only one reason, because Gallagher is himself desperate to retain his credibility. And one question hangs over the Huntley story - who is benefiting financially from it?
The tapes of Huntley’s tedious confessions did not just wing their way from HMP Frankland to the Baby Shard bunker on their own. Neither, one has to assume, did they arrive one day in the post. Someone facilitated the access to Huntley, someone got the tapes out of Frankland, and someone played courier to get them to London.
And if Huntley’s claim that he hasn’t had a visitor in three years is true, then who got him the means to make the recordings, and then get them out? The only other people who could have done that are other prisoners’ visitors - unlikely - or the prison staff. If it was the latter, did the Sun pay them? Are we supposed to believe that they did it for free, even with the risks involved? Did they, whisper it quietly, pay Huntley for his story?
Perhaps the courier was a crim who has just been released. But however this is explained, the Murdoch press has once again been using highly questionable - and possibly illegal - means in order to score an exclusive. They never learn, do they?