As shares of News Corp. (Nasdaq: NWS)
continue to tumble, the company's entertainment value rises. The
Masterpiece Theatre politico-media drama mystery thriller production of
"Rupert & the Three Blind Mice," starting today, is must-see TV.
The Murdoch team will testify in London before a parliamentary select
committee on culture, media, and sport about how it was shocked -- shocked!
we say -- about illegal phone hacking. The event, which could run for
several days, will give the News Corp. CEO and chairman a chance to
clear his good name, such as it is, after a two-week bloodbath in the
You may even hear Murdoch say three unfamiliar words: "I am sorry." In the old days, being Rupert Murdoch meant you didn't have to say you were sorry. Now he's doing mea culpas (and theya culpas) as heads are rolling at News Corp. like bowling balls down the journalism gutter.
I'm most intrigued by Rebekah Brooks, who was editor in chief of The
News of the World (R.I.P.) before she threw herself upstairs at News
International. For weeks, she claimed she was unaware of any illegal
How was this possible? Had she been at the beauty parlor? As much as
one might question her attention to journalistic detail, I have always
been a great admirer of Brooks's do. She must stick her finger in an
electric socket every morning as she dresses for work.
In Parliament this week, Rebekah and her bosses will undoubtedly be using the Sgt. Schultz defense. Schultz, you may recall, was sergeant of the guard in the 1960s sitcom, Hogan's Heroes.
When confronted by evidence of the prisoners' covert activities, he
would typically claim, "I hear nothing! I see nothing! I know nnnnothing!" Hey, it worked for him.
Rebekah had Murdoch's complete confidence. Rupert even said so. And
yet, there she was Friday doing the perp walk out of News
International... followed by her arrest on Sunday.
She had been swimming along against the tide of accusation until
Saudi Arabian Prince Alwaleed bin Tabal got on the phone from his yacht
in Cannes to personally phone in the next new play. As he explained in a BBC interview,
he apparently made it clear to Murdoch that ethics are the cornerstone
of Arab press relations. Chalk it up to the clout of being the richest
man in the Arab world and the second largest owner of News Corp. (7
It will be fascinating to see how members of Parliament, who had long
been pet tropical fish swimming happily in Murdoch's aquarium, are now
showing their teeth as they try to get to the bottom of the phone
hacking scandal. You could throw a rock into Parliament in ye olde days
and be bound to hit someone who was beholden to or afraid of Murdoch. So
now it's a spectacle like the pot calling the pot black.
After all the whining about the sanctity of journalism, I predict the following scenario:
Murdoch will assure everybody it never happened, and it will never happen again. He is an old hand at giving assurances to government about unthinkable journalism practices, having done so in 1979, 1981, 1993, 1990, et sequitur. As Sir Harold Evans, the former editor of the Sunday Times of London wrote in his 1983 book, Good Times, Bad Times, "Murdoch issued promises as prudently as the Weimar Republic issued marks."
Whatever happens, don't weep for Rupert. Despite all the wringing of
hands, Murdoch will escape, if not unscathed, scathed. He's a survivor.
And if you're sick of hearing about this story, I have one last piece of advice: Watch Fox News.