As the FT and BBC confirm what all Zelo Street regulars knew last week - that the mail-out from PopBitch was once again on the money and the Murdoch empire was terminating the twice-weekly Sun column of disgraced former editor Kelvin McFilth - attention is turning to the problems stateside at Fox News Channel (fair and balanced my arse), and the possible knock-on effect on the Murdochs’ attempted Sky takeover.
Gallagher - the latest fall guy
Kel may still be, according to the FT, “negotiating” the details of his path through the exit door, but he is definitely out. That is not the only change: as Byline Media has exclusively revealed, Sun editor Tony Gallagher is tipped to follow Kel through the exit soon, taking the can for the furore over Kel’s column attacking Everton footballer Ross Barkley. This also shows who now wields the power within the Murdoch mafiosi.
As I noted last month, Rupert Murdoch is increasingly deferring to his sons in business decisions, and especially James Murdoch, who will not need reminding how the phone hacking scandal derailed the previous bid for the 61% of Sky that they do not yet own. That yields one tantalising possibility as a way of trying to convince Ofcom that the management at 21st Century Fox should pass the “fit and proper” test.
James Murdoch - the new power in the mafiosi
Right now, the Murdochs are in all sorts of difficulties on that front. Wendy Walsh, one of those who complained about sexually inappropriate behaviour by recently-departed Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, was in London yesterday with her lawyer Lisa Bloom, to talk to Ofcom. Ms Bloom was in no doubt that the Murdochs would not pass the “fit and proper” test. Speaking on behalf of herself and Ms Walsh, she emphasised “We both very strongly believe that Fox should not be allowed to take full ownership of Sky”.
Rebekah Brooks - now allied with James?
Had she communicated this to Ofcom? Dead right she had: “In the meeting that just ended, I told Ofcom about the epidemic of sexual harassment and retaliation and allegations of racism rampant inside the Murdoch media empire in the US. It’s phone-hacking part two. The Murdoch media hacks, harasses and hides it with hush money”.
Bill O'Reilly - even he was disposable
At the same time, the BBC’s Amol Rajan was in New York City where he managed to intercept Rupert Murdoch between office and car. Rupe was as defiant as ever, wagging the finger at Rajan and making threatening noises at the Beeb, before emphasising “Nothing’s happening at Fox News”. The channel was getting great ratings, he claimed.
Problem is, the Fox News ratings are slipping, especially after O’Reilly’s replacement Tucker Carlson has already turned Bill-O’s 3.9 million viewers into 2.6 million. Defiance is not the kind of mood music that will convince Ofcom, who will be looking for a change in culture Stateside. And that is why the unthinkable might now be thought.
And that leaves Rupe
What clearer break with the past could there be, but Rupert Murdoch stepping down from the head of 21st Century Fox? Rupe no longer has the final say on the likes of Kelvin McFilth. James Murdoch is now moving centre stage. If it means conning Ofcom into thinking the Murdoch mafiosi is fit and proper to take control of Sky, would they do it?
Dead right they would. The ultimate media power handover is closer than you think.