Try Red Pepper in print with our pay-as-you-feel subscription. You decide the price, from as low as £2 a month.More info ×
The News of the World brings out its last issue today after a stormy week for the 168-year old tabloid, the largest-circulation Sunday paper in the UK with a print run of 2.6 million, and an estimated 10 million readers. The alleged hacking of the voicemails of Milly Dowler and Jessica Chapman’s father led to widespread condemnation and disgust, withdrawal of advertising contracts, and a spate of criminal investigations of individuals associated with the paper. It culminated in the announcement of the closure of the paper, and the arrest of its former editor, Andy Coulson, on Friday morning.
There are many good reasons to rejoice in the unexpected and sudden demise of NOTW. It signals that there are limits to the impunity of Murdock’s empire. It has opened up a crucial debate about the failure of media self-regulation. It has placed the spotlight on corrupt and unethical practices endemic in some corners of the tabloid world, and reminded us of the dangerously incestuous relationship between media and political elites.
Yet, as cynics have been quick to observe, the closure of NOTW may just be a shrewd business move on the part of Murdoch and his corporation which won’t address the underlying problems. Hints abound that the little-mourned newspaper will simply, after a suitable grieving period, be replaced by the Sun on Sunday. And while NOTW was turning a healthy profit for News Corp, newspapers account for only 13% of the worldwide revenues of Rupert Murdoch’s ever-expanding media empire. More than anything, however, Murdoch may have decided to dispense with the troublesome asset at a time when his corporate empire is under scrutiny for its plans to consolidate its dominance of the UK media landscape by taking over BSkyB. News Corp’s takeover would make it by far the biggest broadcaster in the UK, cementing the corporation’s stranglehold on the UK media landscape.
Certainly, the NOTW scandal could not have come at a worse time for Murdoch’s empire: A week-long public consultation on conditions for the takeover bid ended on Friday at noon, and at least 160,000 objections were believed to have been submitted by the deadline. The takeover has been delayed until the autumn, pending Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s investigation of these objections. Aside from public objections, Ofcom may still block the takeover because News Corp may not as a “fit and proper” owner. Indeed, fear of such intervention brought down BSkyB’s shares by 12% this week.
This reminds us that there are larger issues at stake. So let us not be distracted by the replacement of one masthead for another. Murdoch is, at the best of times, an unsavoury landlord of our public sphere. His firing of the 200-odd NOTW journalists is a drop in the ocean of pain he has inflicted on newsworkers in his long career, starting with his death blow to printing trade unions during the Wapping debacle of the mid-1980s. He actively and unapologetically meddles in editorial matters and intervenes in politics, never more disastrously than in the 2000 US Presidential elections, where Fox News prematurely called victory for George W. Bush. But even if he had the moral compass of Jesus, the peaceful intentions of Gandhi and the political agenda of Mandela, it would be disastrous for one man to control so much of what we know. The proposed takeover raises troubling questions about the difficulty of protecting the sacred good of a free and open media at a time marked by ever-growing concentrations of ownership, worsening pressures on journalists and an inexorable decline in the fates of newspapers all over the world. Having diverse voices and views in a pluralistic media landscape is a prerequisite of a functioning democracy. With Murdoch in control of 33% of British daily newspapers and a commercial broadcaster to dwarf all others, diversity and pluralism are endangered as never before. The future, as brought to us by News Corp, will be a dark place; one where our space for public debate will shrink ever further and its conditions will be inexorably shaped by the pro-Tory, free-market, anti-labour ideology of the Murdoch empire.
By all accounts, public pressure played a key role in bringing down NOTW through campaigns on Twitter, Facebook and beyond. In the same way, we can and should continue to resist Murdoch’s takeover of BSkyB. Nothing less than the future of democracy is at stake.
Karin Wahl-Jorgensen is a Reader at the Cardiff School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies, Cardiff Univesity
Hsiao-Hung Pai meets people affected by the fire, and finds sadness and suffering mixed with a continuing wariness of the official investigations
Chris Williamson MP, winner of the election's tightest marginal, Derby North, and recently reappointed shadow minister for fire services, talks to Ashish Ghadiali about Jeremy Corbyn, the housing crisis and winning from the left
The Corbyn-supporting group is preparing for another election at any moment, writes Adam Peggs – and now has the potential to create powerful training initiatives, union links and party reform efforts
’We believe in you. We are with you. We will never forget.’ Grenfell solidarity sweeps East London in mass banner drops from housing estates
Michael Calderbank profiles Jeremy Corbyn's new supporters in parliament
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) continues to witness devastating political violence, but the world refuses to act. Ishiaba Kasonga and Serge Egola Angbakodolo ask why?
When fire safety has become a privilege for the rich, it’s time to stop austerity and fund emergency mass works to raise standards immediately, writes Jane Shallice
The election result has irreversibly changed political discourse in the UK, writes James Fox
In commemoration of the 30th anniversary of Bernie Grant's election to parliament, Ayo Wallace explores the life and legacy of his radical representation of Tottenham's black communities.
Michael Cashman: Commander of the Blairite Empire
Lord Cashman, a candidate in Labour’s internal elections, claims to stand for Labour’s grassroots members. He is a phony, writes Cathy Cole
Contribute to Conter – the new cross-party platform linking Scottish socialists
Jonathan Rimmer, editor of Conter, says it’s time for a new non-sectarian space for Scottish anti-capitalists and invites you to take part
Editorial: Empire will eat itself
Ashish Ghadiali introduces the June/July issue of Red Pepper
Eddie Chambers: Black artists and the DIY aesthetic
Eddie Chambers, artist and art historian, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali about the cultural strategies that he, as founder of the Black Art Group, helped to define in the 1980s
Despite Erdogan, Turkey is still alive
With this year's referendum consolidating President Erdogan’s autocracy in Turkey, Nazim A argues that the way forward for democrats lies in a more radical approach
Red Pepper Race Section: open editorial meeting – 11 August in Leeds
The next open editorial meeting of the Red Pepper Race Section will take place between 3.30-5.30pm, Friday 11th August in Leeds.
Mogg-mentum? Thatcherite die-hard Jacob Rees-Mogg is no man of the people
Adam Peggs says Rees-Mogg is no joke – he is a living embodiment of Britain's repulsive ruling elite
Power to the renters: Turning the tide on our broken housing system
Heather Kennedy, from the Renters Power Project, argues it’s time to reject Thatcher’s dream of a 'property-owning democracy' and build renters' power instead
Your vote can help Corbyn supporters win these vital Labour Party positions
Left candidate Seema Chandwani speaks to Red Pepper ahead of ballot papers going out to all members for a crucial Labour committee
Join the Rolling Resistance to the frackers
Al Wilson invites you to take part in a month of anti-fracking action in Lancashire with Reclaim the Power
The Grenfell public inquiry must listen to the residents who have been ignored for so long
Councils handed housing over to obscure, unaccountable organisations, writes Anna Minton – now we must hear the voices they silenced
India: Modi’s ‘development model’ is built on violence and theft from the poorest
Development in India is at the expense of minorities and the poor, writes Gargi Battacharya
North Korea is just the start of potentially deadly tensions between the US and China
US-China relations have taken on a disturbing new dimension under Donald Trump, writes Dorothy Guerrero
The feminist army leading the fight against ISIS
Dilar Dirik salutes militant women-organised democracy in action in Rojava
France: The colonial republic
The roots of France’s ascendant racism lie as deep as the origins of the French republic itself, argues Yasser Louati
This is why it’s an important time to support Caroline Lucas
A vital voice of dissent in Parliament: Caroline Lucas explains why she is asking for your help
PLP committee elections: it seems like most Labour backbenchers still haven’t learned their lesson
Corbyn is riding high in the polls - so he can face down the secret malcontents among Labour MPs, writes Michael Calderbank
Going from a top BBC job to Tory spin chief should be banned – it’s that simple
This revolving door between the 'impartial' broadcaster and the Conservatives stinks, writes Louis Mendee – we need a different media
I read Gavin Barwell’s ‘marginal seat’ book and it was incredibly awkward
Gavin Barwell was mocked for writing a book called How to Win a Marginal Seat, then losing his. But what does the book itself reveal about Theresa May’s new top adviser? Matt Thompson reads it so you don’t have to
We can defeat this weak Tory government on the pay cap
With the government in chaos, this is our chance to lift the pay cap for everyone, writes Mark Serwotka, general secretary of public service workers’ union PCS
Corbyn supporters surge in Labour’s internal elections
A big rise in left nominations from constituency Labour parties suggests Corbynites are getting better organised, reports Michael Calderbank
Undercover policing – the need for a public inquiry for Scotland
Tilly Gifford, who exposed police efforts to recruit her as a paid informer, calls for the inquiry into undercover policing to extend to Scotland
Becoming a better ally: how to understand intersectionality
Intersectionality can provide the basis of our solidarity in this new age of empire, writes Peninah Wangari-Jones
The myth of the ‘white working class’ stops us seeing the working class as it really is
The right imagines a socially conservative working class while the left pines for the days of mass workplaces. Neither represent today's reality, argues Gargi Bhattacharyya
The government played the public for fools, and lost
The High Court has ruled that the government cannot veto local council investment decisions. This is a victory for local democracy and the BDS movement, and shows what can happen when we stand together, writes War on Want’s Ross Hemingway.
An ‘obscure’ party? I’m amazed at how little people in Britain know about the DUP
After the Tories' deal with the Democratic Unionists, Denis Burke asks why people in Britain weren't a bit more curious about Northern Ireland before now
The Tories’ deal with the DUP is outright bribery – but this government won’t last
Theresa May’s £1.5 billion bung to the DUP is the last nail in the coffin of the austerity myth, writes Louis Mendee
Brexit, Corbyn and beyond
Clarity of analysis can help the left avoid practical traps, argues Paul O'Connell
Paul Mason vs Progress: ‘Decide whether you want to be part of this party’ – full report
Broadcaster and Corbyn supporter Paul Mason tells the Blairites' annual conference some home truths
Contagion: how the crisis spread
Following on from his essay, How Empire Struck Back, Walden Bello speaks to TNI's Nick Buxton about how the financial crisis spread from the USA to Europe