Comment: Rupert Murdoch does need watching. But he’s hardly the Emperor Ming

Rupert Murdoch remains a powerful figure in global media, but it is too easy – and ultimately self-defeating – to exaggerate the threat he representsScratch your heads and wonder why Mr Rupert Murdoch, 79, is suddenly the Menace of the Month. Three decades ago, as he scooped up the Times and Sunday Times, you could tremble a little. Two decades ago, as he began a price-cutting onslaught that lasted for years, I trembled a little. Last year, when Murdoch fils felt the BBC’s collar, Langham Place palpitated quite a bit. But now? Why now?The Sun did not “win” the last election for the Tories. On the contrary, James Murdoch’s support for the Notting Hill set was, and remains, more drag than dynamic. At a time when all national papers seem caught in varying stages of decline, Rupert’s are going down, too – the Times particularly badly on August’s new circulation figures, 50,000 or so down in a year. Advertising agencies say that visibility fades behind paywalls: immediate clout diminishes. The Daily Mail group defeated Wapping in London’s freesheet battle – and clearly counts for more in coalition policymaking today. Murdoch père’s devotion to funding his posher but loss-making papers here appears to have waned. Staff and budget cuts are the order of the day.

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