Katherine Levy: Murdoch will truly be missed once he bids the UK farewell

By Katherine Levy, campaignlive.co.uk, Thursday, 26 July 2012 08:00AM

Rupert Murdoch is inching himself further away from our shores.

Katherine Levy: Murdoch will truly be missed once he bids the UK farewell

While the news that Murdoch has stepped down from a string of director roles at his newspaper empire is not a complete shock given the monumental changes going on at News Corporation and the fact that he has made no secret of his desire to invest further in the US, it is still an epic move and one that the media mogul no doubt thought long and hard about.

Murdoch has thrived on the cut and thrust of the printing press ever since he took over his father's Australian newspaper business in 1952. Though he may now, as an octogenarian, tell the Leveson inquiry that he is not aware he exerts political influence through his mass-publishing assets, a black-and-white film interview shot in the 50s shows a young, strong-backed man acknowledging that of course he enjoys the political power that comes from owning newspapers.

The decision to step down as a director of News International will have hit Murdoch where it hurts. He denies that his influence will be diminished as he remains a "very active chairman", but it is easy to get the feeling that he is deluding himself here as much as anyone else, particularly as this "house-cleaning" action of which News Corp speaks smacks more of a cleaning-up-to-sell operation.

But, sadly, Murdoch won't be the only one to suffer as a result of his reduced presence in the UK press business. Because whether you love him or hate him, there is unlikely to ever be another Rupert Murdoch.

Since he entered the UK newspaper market in the late 60s, Murdoch has invested in, championed and modernised newspaper printing (albeit creating epic levels of disruption with the tortuous Wapping dispute). It was Murdoch who saved The Sun and The Times in the early 80s, both of which separately faced extinction. Not only did he keep those brands going, he built them up to become market-leading behemoths. He consistently rankled competitors by launching unforeseen marketing offences and digging up sensational stories. In short, he injected energy and competition into an industry that can always do with more of both.

Murdoch's UK empire may be struggling to deal with allegations of moral corruption, but Murdoch the man, once gone, will be missed by those who thought they wanted him out. Phone-hacking aside, he has historically been criticised for having too much power through his papers and Sky combined. That criticism may still stand, but it's important to remember that those with influence and power are often innovators and risk-takers. That is why, especially now when the newspaper industry is in such transition, the eventual loss of Murdoch will be regretted more than we anticipated.

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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