Why do politicians and others in the public eye fear Rupert Murdoch? For many media commentators, that might sound like a pointless question: the reach of the Murdoch mafiosi, through Don Rupioni’s ownership of the Times - which once upon a time really was a paper of record - and especially Britain’s best-selling daily, the Sun, gives him the means to bend those people to his will, and whenever he wants.
That's what I bladdy think of youse bladdy readership bladdy survey, ya bastard Pommie drongoes!
The fear is backed up, not by what we do know, but what we do not: the long-standing rumour that the Sun has in its offices a tall safe full of incriminating stories about the good and the great, and the knowledge that the paper also has the power to protect those in public life, not by putting them on the front page, but by keeping them off it, as was shown recently with former Culture Secretary John Whittingdale.
So MPs, peers, hangers-on, fellow media bosses, and a panoply of Slebs are prepared to doff their proverbial caps to Creepy Uncle Rupe. The media bosses back him up when he wants to bully the Government, the MPs and peers have showed they are prepared to let him into our newspaper market and support his bid for Sky - well, up to a point - and the Slebs mainly go along with the Sun’s promotional efforts.
And, as has been brought into sharp focus by a new survey on audience size and reach, there is now rather more of the myth, and less of the reality, in Murdoch’s media reach. True, the Sun is there at the top of the print pile, but when PC and mobile audiences are weighed too, the Currant Bun has fallen behind the Mail, Guardian, Telegraph, Mirror, and Metro. Even behind the Express. And behind the online-only Independent.
Think about that. The mighty Murdoch Sun back in 8th place in its overall reach. And it gets worse: all the titles doing better than the Sun are putting on readers, with the Guardian, Telegraph, Independent and Express doing best there. But the Sun is merely treading water. And what of the Times? The paywall may be bringing in the money, but its presence puts the title at the back of the field - behind even the Daily Star.
True, the Sun is still bringing in the money, but advertising revenue is in free fall across the board. And the only response so far is to launch add-ons like SunBet - targeting readers for a little marginal income from betting commissions. But the marketplace for online betting is already well-filled with other players. So far, the political and Sleb class has managed not to cotton on to these particular shifting sands. But they will.
The crude desperation of Sun front page splashes - exemplified by this morning’s attempt to frighten readers into believing that the tragic drowning of five young Londoners yesterday at Camber Sands in East Sussex was actually illegal migrants - shows that the Murdoch mafiosi are flailing around for new ideas, and finding none.
So, having taken that reality check, the question has to be asked once more: why do politicians and others in the public eye fear Rupert Murdoch?