David Carr takes a look at the phone hacking scandal in his column today, and his take is that for News Corp., the answer to every question has always been money. However, this time paying people and might not be enough. Carr lays out a few cases in which the company has made use of its mountains of money to make problems disappear, most notably the first time news of phone hacking was revealed by The Guardian, back in 2009:
While expedient, and inexpensive — the company still has gobs of money on hand — it was probably not a good strategy in the long run. If some of those cases had gone to trial, it would have had the effect of lancing the wound.
Litigation can have an annealing effect on companies, forcing them to re-examine the way they do business. But as it was, the full extent and villainy of the hacking was never known because the News Corporation paid serious money to make sure it stayed that way.
Carr then gives a few examples of News Corp. silencing critics and questions with money here in the United States.
In 2006 the company paid the state of Minnesota when it was accused of unfair trade practices, in 2009 a company in New Jersey called Floorgraphics said that News America (News Corp.’s newspaper insert marketing business) hacked its computer system, so News Corp. settled for about $30 million, and then bought the company out. Now that’s how you shut someone up.
There’s a couple more, but the general idea is that News Corp. has often used money as a way out of its problems, but as Carr perfectly puts it, “When you throw money onto a burning fire, it becomes fuel and nothing more.”