Sunday 25 February 2018

Closing paper was the right thing to do

With public outrage over the apparently industrial scale of the phone "hacking" perpetrated by some of its journalists having reached boiling point and advertisers deserting it in droves, Rupert Murdoch's decision to cease publication of the 'News of the World' is less of a surprise than it seems. Once it became clear that 'News of the World' journalists weren't just eavesdropping on celebrity tittle-tattle but had illegally intercepted the mobile voicemails of murder victims and their relatives, the 168-year-old title's days were numbered.

Even so the speed and ruthlessness with which Murdoch moved to shut the 'News of the World', the first British newspaper he bought after moving to the UK in 1969, was breath-taking. In the end the fact that it was the profits from the paper, with its mixture of scandal, celebrity gossip and sport, which funded News Corp's expansion to become the UK's largest newspaper publisher, the controlling shareholder in its largest satellite broadcaster BSkyB and, in recent years, the world's second-largest media company, counted for nothing with Murdoch.

The key to yesterday's shock decision almost certainly lies in News Corp's decision last year to mount a £7.8bn (e8.7bn) takeover bid for the 61pc of BSkyB which it didn't already own. The BSkyB takeover bid breathed renewed life into the murky affair of the "hacking" of mobile phone messages by some 'News of the World' journalists which had dragged on inconclusively since the paper's royal correspondent Clive Goodman and private detective Glenn Mulcaire were jailed in 2007 for intercepting voice messages.

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