… works best when the people who consume it are able to exert an influence. And so this morning we have news that further pressure is being put on News International, Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks as sales of their papers slide.
According to unofficial estimates The Sun lost as many as quarter of a million readers on Saturday as people registered their distaste with the Murdoch empire over the phone hacking scandal.
The Times on Saturday is thought to have seen the number of readers dip by 30,000, according to unofficial estimates, while The Sunday Times also suffered poor sales as a result of the negative publicity.
Time will tell if it’s temporary anger that will soon be forgotten or will last until those that people are mentally holding responsible are really held responsible. Meanwhile it seems that the woes of the Murdoch press haven’t prevented enough examples of Johann Hari quote recycling from being dug up that the Indy has finally suspended him pending the results of investigation. Not a perfect system, no, especially as free market pressures to flog papers probably had something to do with these things in the first place, but the free market also seems to be able to say ‘Yes, but enough’s enough – there are lines you simply don’t cross’. When your customers always have the power to cut you off at the knees the customer is king, and you upset them at your peril. I think Murdoch, big a media fish as he is, may be getting a reminder from his customers that they do have a choice and his publications and networks are not indispensable. Yes, maybe he’s the only place to get high definition cricket or something, but you can live without high definition cricket.
With Mr Murdoch’s proposed bid to buy the remaining 61 per cent of BSkyB that he does not already own looking increasingly fragile, rumours have begun circulating that the 80-year-old Australian born media tycoon is considering selling his interests in his remaining three British newspapers.
If he wanted to be able to get away with absolutely anything at all he needed to be in a position where his customers had to put money in his pockets whether they read his publications or watch his TV channels or not.
So yes, of course there is a need for some kind of media regulation. Not because the market’s no good at it but because, due to the unique way some organisations are funded, the market simply can’t touch them. For the rest I suggest the police be left to get on with investigating any criminal acts and otherwise largely leave it up to consumers and their competitors to keep them in line.