Thursday, August 18, 2011

Cameron vs. Murdoch: Who Wins?

In a crisis, timing is everything.

Note how rapidly Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron responded to the News Corp. telephone hacking scandal and, more recently, the riots in London. Now compare that to Murdoch’s crisis responses.

While the threats to each are admittedly of a different order of magnitude, Cameron has consistently been a step ahead of events. He called for the resignation of Rebekah Brooks and the voiding of Murdoch’s efforts to acquire majority stake in BSkyB before the opposition Labour party could turn these issues against the Conservatives. He has effectively attacked when necessary, noting that many of the allegations occurred under Labour party leadership.

On the other hand, Murdoch has been consistently slow and reactive: he dallied on Rebekah Brooks, parting ways only when public outcry against her became deafening. Once departed, she was promptly arrested. Murdoch apologized only when public outrage had crested. He now appears to be waiting too long to deal with his son James. This all creates the image of a man moving reluctantly in response to public outcry, taking piecemeal measures rather than acting resolutely based on a strong internal moral compass.

In short, Murdoch needs to get out in front of events. Not doing so has been his principal failing to date. He even delayed the announcement that he would not step down, despite calls for his head for weeks.

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