Peter Hoskin

The stakes rise for Rupert Murdoch

The business pages have more electricity to them than usual today, and all because of their overlap with the phone hacking scandal. In many ways, yesterday marked a turning point in the whole affair, in that it is now hitting Rupert Murdoch in the pocketbook. News Corporation shares — which had held up for a day or two — finally fell by 3.6 per cent, leaving its chairman and CEO some £120 million worse off. And, as we reported on the new Spectator Business Blog, shares in BSkyB took a similar course; due, no doubt, to prevailing concerns that Murdoch’s takeover might be posponed indefinitely. Ofcom are just one of the many interested parties sniffing around the deal with renewed vigour and suspicion.

Naturally, the polticians are sniffing around too. Today’s Independent carries an intriguing account of the convulsions on Downing Street at News Corp’s BSkyB bid. “Some MPs believe there could be discreet contacts between Downing Street and senior News Corp figures,” it observes, “urging the company to suspend its bid.” No.10’s main concern is that it doesn’t want to reap the fallout from authorising the latest expansion of Murdoch’s empire. But a supplementary concern might be the effect all this could have upon the health of the coalition. Lord Oakeshott and Simon Hughes may not speak for all Lib Dem parliamentarians when they say that the BSkyB deal should, effectively, be blocked — but they do speak for a good number of them.

Whether any of this alters Murdoch’s stance, we shall see. He has, so far, stood firmly by Rebekah Brooks, even as the controversies have multiplied

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