So we all jumped the gun a few days ago when News Corporation backed off one of the conditions of its proposal for taking over BSkyB. But what we thought had happened then has happened now: News Corporation, which has lost $7 billion in market value over the past four days the market has been open, has withdrawn from its efforts to take over the largest pay broadcaster in the U.K. The decision came after David Cameron declared during Prime Minister’s Question Time: “There needs to be root and branch change at this entire organization…What has happened at this company is disgraceful and it’s got to be addressed at every level, and they should stop thinking about mergers when they’ve got to sort out the mess they’ve created.” A friend who covers British journalism suspects that Murdoch will be back for BSkyB at some point, but for now, the bid is dead.
The interesting question is whether sorting “out the mess they’ve created” will include selling off News International, eliminating the division from which the scandal emerged and diffusing charges of media monopoly. It’s hard to imagine who the buyer would be, and it’s hard to imagine any sale wouldn’t mean shedding an enormous number of jobs from Murdoch’s papers. In any case, it’s going to be a long time before the new shape of the media landscape in the U.K. is clear. And I’m curious to see if the debate over media ethics and practices stays confined to the U.K. (My colleagues at ThinkProgress are petitioning the Justice Department to investigate whether News Corporation used similar practices on this side of the pond.) or to phone hacking. Obviously the phone hacking scandal involves the normalization of wily aberrant behavior. But there’s a useful wider conversation to be had about what people want out of their journalism, and what they think the media’s obligations to consumers are.