Tom Watson, the Labour MP who's tirelessly hounded Murdoch's News of the World over its illegal spying, has flown to the USA to attend the NewsCorp's shareholder meeting (he's got the AFL-CIO's proxy) to reveal that NewsCorp's sins go much deeper than the odd bit of mass-scale crude voicemail hacking. This is a pretty plausible allegation — the idea that a firm as ruthless and moneyed as NewsCorp would stoop to voicemail hacking but stop there is pretty implausible. I assume that the leaker(s) who are releasing the intelligence about NewsCorp's misdeeds are timing their revelations to ensure that Rupert and his progeny twist and writhe as much as possible, coming up with new, more dire revelations every time the Murdochs appear to have settled things — ideally these revelations should also reveal the previous round of spin as a pack of half-truths, twisted truths and outright lies. And ideally, each fresh revelation will inspire more leakers to come foreward.
NewsCorp has an odd corporate structure that gives control over the company to the Murdochs, even though they don't own the majority of shares. As activist shareholders begin to mobilize, the possibility of the Murdochs being chucked out of NewsCorp becomes more and more real.
Watson has flown to Los Angeles to attend the shareholders meeting, which he will gain access to having been given a proxy vote by the US trade union umbrella group, the AFL-CIO. News Corporation is bracing itself for independent shareholders to vote in considerable numbers at the meeting against the reappointment of Rupert Murdoch and his sons, James and Lachlan, in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal.
The scale of the protest outside the Murdoch family is expected to be substantially over 20% of independent shareholders, with several expected to raise questions at the meeting at Fox studios. But their protest will not be enough to topple the family, because Rupert Murdoch controls 40% of the voting shares.
Nevertheless, before the meeting there were clear signs of tension at the upper levels of News Corp, with particular emphasis on security at the event and worries about what sort of tone the 80-year-old media mogul will strike in front of those who, alongside him, have a stake in the empire he built.
Murdoch's opening address is expected to show less of the contrition than in London in July, when he told MPs: "This the most humble day of my life." Instead he is expected to strike a more combative tone, although there are worries that this will alienate some investors and outsiders.