Like a getaway bandit trying to lighten his load, Rupert Murdoch keeps making frantic sacrifices in hopes of containing the phone-hacking scandal that's now consuming his News Corp media empire.
Last week, Murdoch closed down his News of the World tabloid, and today News Corp announced it was giving up its bid to acquire BSkyB satellite television; a crowning acquisition that three weeks ago looked like a done deal.
From News Corp. today:
News Corporation ("News Corp") announces that it no longer intends to make an offer for the entire issued and to be issued share capital of British Sky Broadcasting Group PLC ("BSkyB") not already owned by it.
Chase Carey, Deputy Chairman, President and Chief Operating Officer, News Corporation, commented: "We believed that the proposed acquisition of BSkyB by News Corporation would benefit both companies but it has become clear that it is too difficult to progress in this climate.
"This climate," of course, is the wonderfully understated way of referencing the storm that's raging all around Murdoch. Last week I noted the News Corp. chief was in free fall and with no way to stop or even to slow down the run-away scandal story. This week, we need to come up with a new phase for free fall because Murdoch's descent has only accelerated and his options for halting it have decreased even further.
So no, the political "climate" is not good for Murdoch, and his hopes of owning BSkyB have now been dashed. But there's another "climate" in play and it's one that Murdoch for decades has had a great deal of control over, and that's the climate of fear and falsehoods and hysteria and smear campaigns that have routinely been carried out in Murdoch's name via his print, online and television outlets.
The there-are-no-rules "climate" that's now sinking Murdoch, his business, and his legacy is part of a signature media environment he fermented in which guidelines were optional and so was common decency.
And that "climate" isn't restricted to Britain. Just ask Kevin Jennings about how Murdoch's team operates, or Frances Fox Piven, or Supreme Court Justice nominee Sonia Sotomayor, or the Obama White House, or scores of other Fox News smear victims who have had to face off against Murdoch's minions.
I doubt they stress the notion of karma inside the News Corp. executive suites. And I doubt Murdoch's top media earners lose much sleep thinking about the kind of dreck they profit off of. But with the phone-hacking scandal now poised to do lasting damage to News Corp, the Murdoch "climate" has unleashed a very powerful storm.