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'Reverse ferret!' Can Rupert Murdoch limit tabloid scandal fallout?

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Steve Parsons/AP

(Read caption) Rupert Murdoch leaves his home in Mayfair, London, as British Prime Minister David Cameron joined demands for the media mogul to drop his BSkyB takeover bid in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal on July 13.

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Today, Mr. Mudoch's quest for full control of British Sky Broadcasting Group (BSkyB), the highly profitable satellite broadcaster that controls major chunks of English soccer and other sports, appears at an end (though, given his history, this could just be a strategic pause.)

This article on British regulators review of the BSkyB bid has some useful background.

This morning, Murdoch withdrew his $12 billion bid for the remaining 60 percent of BSkyB that he doesn't already own (check out this screen cap of the plummet in BSkyB's share price when the news was announced) as the UK's political classes turned, en masse, on a man many of them feared to cross as recently as a few weeks ago.`

It seems both Murdoch and the politicians who recently backed his bid are all performing a group "reverse ferret," a delightful phrase coined by a former editor of The Sun, Murdoch's daily tabloid in the UK. (Thanks to Blake Hounshell for bringing the phrase to my attention).

Kelvin Mackenzie at The Sun was apparently in the habit of urging his reporters to "put a ferret up the trousers" of the high and mighty in the UK, but was also keenly attuned to the tide of public opinion. When it became clear that his ferrets had disgusted the public, or perhaps put the paper in legal danger, he would shout over the newsroom to "reverse ferret," a signal to his furry troops to exit the victim's pants-leg, post-haste.


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