The fall of the Murdoch empire has all the elements of a slow motion train wreck. Rarely a day passes without another wheel or axle falling off, sometimes even a whole carriage.

The past weeks have seen a lot of debris.

A leading advisory firm, Institutional Shareholder Services, demanded that News Corporation’s big shareholders remove Rupert Murdoch and 12 of his 14 fellow directors from the family-dominated company at its upcoming annual meeting. ISS joined the Australian Council of Superannuation Investors, international advisers Glass Lewis & Co and British advisor Pension Investment Research Consultants in urging shareholders to purge the board of Murdoch family members and cronies.

Meanwhile, The Guardian (which lifted the lid on the industrial-scale phone hacking at the News of The World) is reporting that another News Corp newspaper, The Wall Street Journal, is deep into nefarious practices, this time on the circulation front.

The paper claims it has evidence that “the Journal had been channelling money through European companies in order to secretly buy thousands of copies of its own paper at a knock-down rate, misleading readers and advertisers about the Journal’s true circulation”. It claims that 41% of the Journal’s European edition’s daily sales were sold at no more than 5 cents each to sponsors, who distributed them to university students and received publicity in the newspaper.

Importantly, it also reports: “Senior executives in New York, including Murdoch’s right-hand man, Les Hinton, were alerted to the problems last year by an internal whistleblower and apparently chose to take no action. The whistleblower was then made redundant.”

Should it surprise anyone the corporate culture that produced institutionalised phone hacking in Britain was also at work elsewhere? Hardly.

Peter Fray

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