Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Why Are the British Investigators Looking Only at the Murdochs?

I have not paid attention to the British tabloid scandal. All I know is that Murdoch’s News of the World stands accused of sleazy and perhaps illegal tactics in gathering news stories on celebrities and crime victims. The allegations broke when Murdoch’s company was about the acquire Sky News and turn it into a British Fox News. The timing looks suspicious to me.

From the press coverage, it would seem that only News of the World engaged in such dirty tricks.  Can this be true?

I understand that British tabloids compete against each other fiercely. If only one uses sleazy techniques to get juicier stories, the others would lose out in the competitive struggle.

As an economist, I pose a hypothesis: If only the Murdoch papers (News of the World and the Sun) used underhanded and sleazy methods to get news scoops, their share of the tabloid market would be rising over time. Only they had the really salacious stories. Other tabloids would be boring in comparison.

British tabloid circulation statistics do not support the hypothesis. Both News of the World’s share of Sunday tabloids and The Sun’s share of daily circulation remained stable against a backdrop of declining overall tabloid circulation.

This statistical fact tells me that “everyone did it.” But why are only the Murdochs being investigated?


  1. a) Punishing the 'easy/big' one gets the rest to walk on eggshells.

    b) May be ‘a major reason’ for imprisoning Mikhail Borisovich Khodorkovsky was also to put others on the notice.

    c) Clearly, there is no beauty contest here. Being first to be caught, which could be due to a higher use of the sleazy tactics, helps in receiving more attention than to others; after all, mating within a pride (of lions) is first come first served.