Less than a fortnight ago, he was the most powerful man in British media, with four titles to his name and stakes in two of the three biggest broadcasters in the UK. However, after axing his most popular paper and reluctantly withdrawing his bid for full control of BSkyB, Rupert Murdoch's empire is in disarray.
Following the uncovering of damning evidence against News International's News of the World by the Metropolitan Police and further allegations against two of Murdoch's other newspapers, the media mogul was forced to back out of his bid for the 61% of BSkyB that he does not already own. It doesn't take a genius to figure out why he wants full control of the broadcaster. He's not doing it because he has big plans for the corporation. BSkyB made £3.4 billion last year alone. If Murdoch's initial bid for Sky was successful, this money would have gone straight into his back pocket, and his power over the British media industry would have been larger than that of any other individual.
After years of sucking up to him, both senior and back bench politicians have finally started to speak out against Rupert Murdoch. The criticisms from inside Parliament have caused the CEO of News Corporation to fall under the largest amount of pressure in his career. He first started purchasing British papers in the late sixties, when he purchased The Sun and News of the World. He later extended his influence on our nation's media by purchasing The Times and The Sunday Times in the early eighties, before launching Sky News and the rest of the Sky television network in 1989. In the past few years, News Corporation has bought a significant number of shares in ITV. Last week, Rupert Murdoch owned approximately 40% of the national newspaper industry. This amount of control and influence was not restricted to Murdoch's empire in Britain; in American press, he purchased the New York Post and more recently, the Wall Street Journal. As well as this, he purchased International film producer 20th Century Fox, and set up the Fox Broadcasting Company and Fox News Channel through this brand. He has even more impact in his native Australia. I cannot speak for the opinions of anyone bar myself, but the idea of any single individual holding this much power and influence around the globe makes me particularly uneasy.
If every news agency on Earth was unbiased and politically neutral, maybe I would be more comfortable with someone controlling so many outlets and brands. But every single broadcaster or publisher owned overwhelmingly by one particular individual displays bias in some method and volume. Rupert Murdoch overwhelmingly owns a huge number of broadcasters and publishers worldwide. His colossal portfolio grants him the ability to sway everything from the time a football club plays on a Saturday afternoon to a decision made by a government minister. This fills me with more fear than anything else. For decades, politicians have done anything to cosy up to Mr Murdoch; anything to ensure the support of his set of British news titles. Every Prime Minister for decades has had private conversations with News International executives, and this has worsened in recent years. Tony Blair flew over to Australia to meet with the media mogul, Gordon Brown's wife Sarah invited Murdoch's daughter to the Prime Ministerial retreat for a sleepover, and David Cameron welcomed Murdoch's son through the Downing Street back door within a fortnight of his election win. Politicians were desperate for the News Corporation CEO to help them out, so they were hardly going to publicly speak out against his bid for BSkyB.
The phone hacking scandal, however, shone a bright spotlight on a murky area of the Murdoch empire that he hoped no one would ever see; the corruption, the lies, and the law breaking, which have severely damaged News International's reputation. In a desperate attempt to show his willingness to drop anything in order to gain full control over BSkyB, Murdoch axed the jewel of his British press crown last week. However, that didn't stop the stories coming. Rival newspapers, Metropolitan police investigators and politicians from all parties continued to throw accusations of phone hacking, blagging and other illegal investigative methods of journalism towards News International. Just as the Commons' clampdown campaign was hitting its peak on Wednesday afternoon, shortly after Murdoch faced his second battering in two weeks from both the government and opposition benches during Prime Minister's Questions, News Corporation announced that it was withdrawing its bid for British Sky Broadcasting.
The towers of News Corporation are crashing down around Rupert Murdoch at the moment. The company was built here in Britain using hard-hitting scandals in newspapers, and it's a tad ironic that it's exactly the same thing that's brought its owner down on his knees.
Follow Callum Jones on Twitter: www.twitter.com/CallumJonesBlog