Anyone watching the moves afoot in the Baby Shard bunker to see what fate awaits the deeply unpleasant former Sun editor Kelvin McFilth was looking the wrong way yesterday: the best guide to what will happen to Kel and his piss-poor £300k-a-year column was what was happening across the North Atlantic in New York City, where we learnt once again that nothing, but nothing, will stand in the way of the Murdoch Sky bid.
There, matters had come to a head at Fox News Channel (fair and balanced my arse) over the behaviour of top rating host Bill O’Reilly. Bill-O has been the subject of an increasing number of sexual harassment claims, some of which had already been paid out, the amounts believed to total around $13 million. The Murdochs had been under increasing pressure to sack him. But Rupert Murdoch doesn’t do bucking to outside pressure.
Bill O'Reilly - the unsackable man is sacked
Or rather, he didn’t: two things have changed. One, his company, and his family, have to pass a “fit and proper” test if they want to have their bid for Sky green-lighted by Ofcom. And two, the dynamic within the Murdoch family is changed: no longer does Rupe’s word rule the day. Son James had already decided O’Reilly had to go. In the past week, son Lachlan had swung behind his brother. They are now the power in Murdoch land.
And so the unthinkable happened yesterday: Bill-O, who was on holiday in Italy, will not return to FNC. As happened to the increasingly wayward Glenn Beck in 2011, what ultimately forced the Murdochs to act was the flight of advertisers. But at the back of their minds is Sky: for the younger family members, this is their inheritance. Print media is dying, but Sky is the cash cow that will take the empire out into the future.
Rupe no longer able to give opponents the finger
What does that mean for Kelvin McFilth? Simples. The days when Rupe would have just stuck two fingers up at anyone criticising his choice of editor, or more recently pundit, are over. The luxury of keeping an unreconstructed, vindictive and petulant racist thug on the payroll is no longer tenable. Nothing will stand in the way of the Sky bid. And this time, it isn’t just Rupe who Kel has to persuade, but his sons.
She wants Kel out ...
Doesn’t Kel have anyone in his corner? There is the equally unpleasant current Sun editor Tony Gallagher, but he is, for the Murdochs, a disposable quantity. He is not family: worse, he is at heart a Daily Mail man, slated to be on the short list for the moment that the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre is persuaded to retire, or has to be carried out of the editor’s chair in a wooden box. His opinion matters Sweet Jack.
... and remember, this is now the name of the game
Rupert Murdoch has shown that he is prepared to defer to his sons. Crucially, the twinkle-toed yet domestically combative Rebekah Brooks has come out against Kel. The former Sun editor might return, but his card is now fatally marked. All that is left is for the usual rabble of overpaid and talentless right-leaning and libertarian pundits to whine long and loud that the rotten lefties done it, and it’s all about free speech.
And that would be plain flat wrong: it’s about taking care of business. In the new media world, the oldest of slogans tells you where it’s at: follow the money.