Should Rupert Murdoch sell the Sun?

Another weekend another clutch of Sun journalists have been arrested. This time five were arrested and bailed “over allegations of inappropriate payments to police”.

The infection that quickly killed the News of the World appears to be sapping the Sun. The arrests were the second round at the Sun and over the weekend and led to some calling for Rupert Murdoch to sell the paper and be done with his rotten British tabloid business, which has tarnished his global media empire.

The five members of Sun staff arrested include very senior Sun journalist including deputy editor of the paper, Geoff Webster; chief reporter, John Kay; picture editor, John Edwards; deputy news editor, John Sturgis; and chief foreign correspondent Nick Parker.

They were arrested along with a Ministry of Defence member of staff and a member of the armed forces. The arrests came after the News International Management and Standards Committee (MSC) provided information to the Elveden investigation leaving some to suggest that Sun journalists were being thrown to the dogs as sacrifices.

In a full page defence in the Sun today senior journalist Trevor Kavanagh, under the headline “Witch-hunt has put us behind ex-Soviet states on Press freedom”, railed not at the MSC, but at the police and the huge operation to haul journalists out of their beds.

He has called the arrests and on going investigation a “witch hunt” that would at “any other time cause up in parliament and among civil liberty and human rights campaigners”.

“Instead of being called in for questioning, 30 journalists have been needlessly dragged from their beds in dawn raids, arrested and held in police cells while their homes are ransacked.

“Wives and children have been humiliated as up to 20 officers at a time rip up floorboards and sift through intimate possessions, love letters and entirely private documents.”

Rupert Murdoch is reported to be flying to London this week and has apparently already assured staff that will not sell The Sun.

However, others have suggested Murdoch should bite the bullet and get rid of the Sun allowing the media mogul to save face and buy good will.

Writing in the US for the Guardian Michael Wolff says that getting rid of the British tabloid and using the proceeds to fund the Times is now News Corp’s best bet.

It is not as though he has been without offers. Two years ago half seriously Richard Desmond said he wanted to buy The Sun.

Wolff says that what is happening at the moment in Britain is eating News Corp up, the hacking revelations, the trails, the arrests and the payouts. It is death by drip feed, bad headlines after bad headlines leading to the question how many can you take before the towel is thrown in?

Wolff argues that Murdoch’s companies are poisoned, by his own aggressiveness and the culture of British tabloids themselves, which maybe are a true reflection on Murdoch’s own personal culture.

“Sell the Sun. Use the proceeds (I’d guess £500m to £700m) to endow an independent trust that will run the Times and Sunday Times, hence ensuring another generation of quality newspapers in Britain (of course, no Murdoch shenanigans – this really has to be an independent trust; Harry Evans gets a seat, for sure).

“This would certainly take the enmity, if not the air, out of the ongoing investigations; it might even allow the company to keep running BSkyB (though I wouldn’t necessarily count on it); it might help save his son; and it would restore corporate focus to all the assets that are trouble-free and, a good many of them, growing nicely,” Wolff writes.

It sounds appealing doesn’t it? It would certainly be the easy option. It would offer Murdoch a clean slate and a break with all the murky tabloid print business that has sullied the News Corp business and led to calls for a US enquiry.

It seems highly unlikely that News Corporation will sell The Sun – at least while Murdoch is alive. Murdoch’s tabloid newspapers hold a special significance for him and he is loath to part company with them.

He is also loath to part company with Britain’s, and one of the world’s, biggest selling daily newspaper. The Sun sold 2.7 million copies in January its circulation and on going success is a testament to its tabloid power. It is that which makes it so important and no doubt, in the mind of Murdoch, worth fighting for.

While it is an outside chance on this Monday morning if more arrests and revelations come, and pressure continues to build then it might still happen if the trail between the News of the World and its sister title continue to be so unhealthily intertwined.

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