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Has Rupert Murdoch Made Britain Stupid?

Posted: 08/07/2012 13:04

London's most important event, Gay Pride, was on last Saturday but Rupert Murdoch's The Sun dedicated just 57 words to it. Instead, on the opposite side, they published a full-page 'interview' with a woman who "can't hear telly" because her neighbour, Susan Boyle, sings too loudly. The page after that is a giant picture of Andy Murray with dotted scissor lines around it. You're meant to cut around his face and use it as a mask. Yes, there's a cut-out mask in a national newspaper. With almost eight million people buying this stuff everyday, has Rupert Murdoch successfully made Great Britain stupid?

Decide for yourself: Although there was a national uproar against Murdoch for hacking phones, 3.22 million people bought his first issue of The Sun on Sunday - the replacement newspaper for the News Of The World, you know, the one that the entire country pressured into shutting down. Over the following ten weeks, The Sun on Sunday generated over an estimated £15 million (when combined with ad revenue) for Murdoch's company, News Corporation. Assuming circulation stays roughly the same, this means Murdoch might be set to make a profit from the closure of News Of The World by the end of 2012 (it cost him £39.1 million to shut it down). We might has well have written him a thank you card.

Downright scandalous? Maybe. Admirable business acumen? Definitely. Murdoch is a like a Roman Emperor, consistently guiding his company into more profitable grounds. The costs incurred by the phone-hacking scandal were dwarfed by the latest quarterly-earnings report of News Corporation: £620 million net profit for the last three months.

Yet, stupid or not, Great Britain has a glimmer of hope. Like the once almighty Roman empire, News Corporation is showing signs of trouble within. Due to pressure from major shareholders, Murdoch has agreed to create a business plan to split the empire into two parts: Publishing and entertainment. The latter has become the most profitable, with major hits such as Family Guy and Rise of the Planet of the Apes raking in the cash. Newspapers on the other hand are, as he himself predicted, declining in circulation and may be dead within ten years.

Maybe it was the instinctual preference for page three breasts over investigative journalism, or maybe it was Murdoch making the British stupid, but either way fewer people want newspapers. Instead of buying opinions from Katie Price (she's a regular columnist in The Sun) and cut-out masks of Andy Murray, we'll be enjoying films and TV shows. Yes, this is still from the Murdoch empire and there will always be news online, but something else will exist that has never been around before: An off-switch.

Tom Church advises global brands on their marketing and media strategies. He's the author of Communication Is The Key and graduated from University College London. Follow him @tomchurch.

 

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