SS 50Steve Sampson, journalist and media expert, on the real fallout for Rupert Murdoch from his former Editor’s rant


There can hardly be a column more offensive and downright stupid than Kelvin MacKenzie’s rant in The Sun about Everton star Ross Barkley. A piece ill-judged enough to get him suspended and probably fired. They should include the idiot who schemed in a gorilla with the heading “Here’s Why They Go Ape At Ross” and whoever was editing the paper.

The Sun has now achieved an unprecedented double, banned from Liverpool and Everton. But that’s the least of it.

The newspaper division is increasingly irrelevant and unprofitable. The Sun actually made a loss in the financial year. So far nobody has made the unhelpful link to Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox £11.7B bid to buy the whole of SKY. But it won’t be long.

That will be the real worry in the Murdoch inner-sanctum this Easter weekend. James, already ripped in two by the phone hacking scandal, now sees his TV dream being consumed by the uncontrollable, marginally commercial newspapers. As if he needed it.

Kelvin only has his twice-weekly column and the £300K cheque because Rupert deems it. Most of the editorial floor hate it. A publisher approaching 90 employing a columnist aged 70 in a new world dominated by millennials under 30. Out of touch maybe?

The whole Murdoch family is constantly battling the “fit and proper” test. Those implacably against the bid going through have thrown the “Foxification” of SKY News. Right-wing racist bullies, the kind who would compare a footballer to a gorilla.

Culture Secretary Karen Bradley has a 300,000-strong petition on her desk demanding the FOX/SKY bid be vetoed by Ofcom. FOX is mired in a huge sex scandal with new sex-for-advancement allegations and stories of multi-million dollar hush money pay-offs.

Opponents argue that control over SKY will give them too much media power. The Kelvin column only pours petrol on that bonfire.

And that would be a shame. Murdoch has built SKY brick by brick. It almost cost him his empire in the early ’90s. It’s a brilliant business that has created the richest football league in the world. His media detractors (who fill their pages and screens with football he funds) never mention that.

And let’s not waste even this sentence on the hand-wringing gutless politicians who queued up for his favours. Ed Miliband take note.

He has created choice. No-one has ever forced you to consume his media, there have been no government hand-outs. He has always bet his own buck.

But he should have his people spend more time with VICE Media CEO Shane Smith. The Sun thinks running videos of a naked woman having snakes thrown into her bed is taking the brand into the future. I beg to differ.

Mocked: how Ross Barkley's injury was faked online

Mocked: how Ross Barkley’s injury was faked online

Of course, if you really want to see offensive material just logon to Twitter and Facebook. Yesterday Ross Barkley’s 399,000 Twitter fans gave him massive support. But it hadn’t been like that earlier in the week when he was thumped in a nightclub and had a less than flattering reference to his hairstyle, comparing it with pubic hair. Mocked up pictures showing his “injuries”.

Did Ross close down his account, complain to Twitter? Now, if The Sun had published them…

Steve Sampson is former Assistant, Northern and Scottish Editor of The Sun newspaper, a Director of Trinity Mirror publications including the Daily Record and Sunday Mail as well as Business Insider. He was a launch presenter of Radio5 Live, founder of First Press Publishing and contributes to the BBC. He is an investor/owner across a series of digital initiatives and a media adviser.

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