Slipped out on Friday, while much of our free and fearless press - including their own titles - was focused elsewhere, the full accounts for the period up to June 2019 for News Group Newspapers give us a fascinating insight into the presence of the Murdoch mafiosi in the UK. And the bottom line is that this is a presence which is losing rather a lot of money.
It does, though, have its benefits: the waves of hate that titles like the Sun can break over its targets are without parallel, even by the Mail titles. The rest of the Fourth Estate inevitably follows the lead of the Murdoch empire, and knows not to cross its path. The problem for the Murdoch goons is that their past is catching up with them.
That is evident from the Strategic Report which opens the summary of accounts, which tells “Following the allegations of voicemail interception and inappropriate payments to public officials there have been a number of civil cases brought against the company, most of which have been settled, or are in the process of being settled. A provision has been made at the balance sheet date in respect of all claims that have been filed up until the date of finalisation of the financial statements”. So what’s the cost?
Ah well. Note 4, “Operating one-off charges”, on Page 20 has the information. “A charge of £26,721,000 (2018 - £14,740,000) in respect of claimants’ legal fees and damages has been made based on available information at the date of signing the financial statements”.
Moreover, “The company has incurred £25,737,000 (2018 - £29,979,000) of one off costs in regard to UK Newspaper matters. These include £25,129,000 (2018 - £29,480,000) of legal fees and £608,000 (2018 - £499,000) of other UK newspaper matter costs”.
So more than £26.5 million has been set aside for settling claims for phone hacking and other types of illegal news gathering, for which, in the case of the Sun titles, no admission has been made. How much NGN’s own legal costs for these claims are, we cannot be certain, except that it will probably take up most of that £25.1 million.
But up there at the top of the pile, the directors of NGN need not be downhearted: directors’ remuneration for the year was £5,191,000, of which “The highest paid director received remuneration (excluding pension contributions) of £2,787,000 (2018 - £2,808,000)”. It has to be assumed that this director is CEO Rebekah Brooks.
Back at the one-off charges, which include £1,549,000 for the Management and Standards Committee, the damage totals £54,007,000. But then consider the profit and loss account on Page 11: this records a loss for the financial year of £67,952,000.
This means that, even without the phone hacking claim costs, NGN would still have lost almost £14 million. The only comfort for the Murdoch mafiosi is that this is significantly less than 2018’s loss, after deducting the phone hacking claim costs, of around £45 million.
Will the Murdoch press make money again in the next few years? Given the claims keep on coming, and the potential downside for the Sun titles if there is serious blowback (as happened with the Screws over the Dowler hacking), it’s not such a daft question.
Or is Rupe just in it for the political leverage? There’s a $64,000 question for you.
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