After the Murdoch press moved unexpectedly swiftly to cut loose the deeply unpleasant Kelvin McFilth, a long-serving former editor of its best-selling title, the question being increasingly asked after the dust had settled was “Why”. Dropping Kel like the proverbial hot potato was easily understood, but why so abruptly, why now, why so suddenly, when any number of opportunities had presented themselves over the years?
The answer to that question contains one three-letter word: Sky. Print media is in decline, in the manner of a profitability nose-dive. Advertising revenue is deserting papers, and without it there will ultimately be no papers. But Sky is a money making machine par excellence, a cash cow with a lifespan stretching beyond the horizon. The Murdoch mafiosi own 39% of it, and would rather like to increase their holding to 100%.
Does Kelvin McFilth’s suspension really have anything to do with the Sky bid? Well, yes it does, and here we can usefully look at what happened the last time the Murdochs bid for full control. Bad behaviour scuppered that bid: the desperation with which the late and not at all lamented Screws was shuttered showed the lengths to which the Murdoch gang were prepared to go in order to keep their prize acquisition in play.
But, many will reply, there is so much less opposition this time round, the coalition of press and other media interests is just not there, and even the EU competition authorities have green-lighted the bid. All this is true. But just because the press, cowed as ever by Don Rupioni and his confidantes, has been quiet does not mean there is no opposition. And it does not mean there is no bad behaviour with the potential to derail the bid once again.
That opposition may have lost some supporters, but has now gained the highly motivated and professional presence of Media Matters For America, which has joined with Avaaz in the wake of recent revelations about Fox News Channel (fair and balanced my arse), its now former boss Roger Ailes, and top-rating host Bill O’Reilly.
MMFA cites attorney Lisa Bloom: “Fox News’ ‘ongoing culture of sexual harassment, its recent payouts of tens of millions of dollars of hush money, and most egregiously, its role in ending the careers of women who complained has been well documented in American media,’ and it reveals an ‘utter disregard for the rights of women’”, they tell.
MMFA has also, with Avaaz, jointly authored a report which is appropriately summarised by the headline “Murdoch Takeover Of Sky Would Undermine British Broadcasting Standards, Joint Report Shows … Fox News And 21st Century Fox Have Faced Legal Action For Enabling Pervasive Workplace Discrimination And Sexual Harassment”.
MacKenzie may be a small cog in this particular wheel, but his presence at the Sun, given the knowledge of his past, merely adds to the stench of impropriety emanating from the Murdoch empire. Add to that the recent revelations from Byline Media about the amount of illegal blagging being undertaken on behalf of the Sun, and the impression that whoever enables all of this is not fit to run a major broadcaster becomes inescapable.
Would Fox News sack O’Reilly to make the Stateside angle go away? You bet they would. And would Murdoch close the Sun as he did the Screws? The answer to that one depends on how much he wants to get his hands on the prize that is 100% of Sky.