Labour MP Tom Watson has referred James Murdoch’s case to Scotland Yard for false testimony before the House of Commons select committee looking into the News Corp’s telephone hacking scandal.
Not to put a fine point on it, Murdoch is ‘damaged goods’. His smooth performance before the MPs is an example of studied guileness, bluster, and MBA cant. The lenses of his eyeglasses magnified his wide opened eyes as he slalomed around the questions asked. Seated behind him was the recently hired Joel Klein, the man who prepped him and wrote the script from which he read from.
Klein fresh from trying to reform New York City’s schools in favour of charter schools, much favoured by Wall Street, has been tapped by Rupert Murdoch to carry out an ‘in house’ investigation of the ‘criminality’ endemic within News Corp, in pursuit of sensationalism in his media empire—print and television—and the profits it brings.
Klein comes with a CV which makes corporate boards’ eyes grow large and mouths water: he is the man that made Microsoft say ‘Uncle!’. The man who has the task of cleaning up Murdoch’s Augean stables is a take no prisoners ‘reformer’. However, we have to wonder how ‘independent’ he truly is. Consider that the law firm he engaged to represent News Corp is his wife’s!
James Murdoch has managed to fend off calls for him to step down as chairman of British Sky Broadcasting. Yet day to day management is left to a surrogate in senior management. Already the shuttering of the very profitable ‘The News of the World’ and the huge amounts of money spent to buy off people who brought lawsuits against the Sunday weekly. The breaking scandal, which in many ways mirrors Watergate, has nipped in the bud the Murdochs from grabbing 100 percent control of SBS by gobbling up a remaining 61 percent escaping their control.
Klein may not be able to fully protect the younger Murdoch as more and more details come to light. No one thought that the break in of the US Democratic party headquarters would lead to the resignation of Richard Nixon; well, the younger Murdoch’s days are numbered. Even if he manages to hang on to the father’s skirt tails, he is damaged goods, and the noxious odour that envelops him is something which makes institutional investors antsy since his presence affects a good return on a dollar invested.
In the end, James Murdoch is destined to depart under a dark cloud, as the pieces of the puzzle fall into place, completing a design of subterfuge, deception, and, emphatic denial becomes clearer and clearer. The scandal surrounding the Murdoch empire has had an immediate healthy effect: the spell of the wizard of Oz Rupert Murdoch is broken. Wounded like a bull elephant, he has become an easier, yet not less dangerous target, to fell.
If anything, Rupert’s and James Murdoch’s appearance before the panel in the House of Commons, shows that the magic is gone: gone, too, is the image of cultivating ‘harmlessness’ and no forethought of malice and greed. Gone, too, is the idea of a benevolent pursuit of profits and influence at whatever the cost.