Rupert Murdoch is under pressure over his Sun tabloid after the arrestsof several senior staff in a corruption probe, but whistleblowers inside his media empire may pose more of a threat than the public outrage that towards his business empire that he was forced to give up his closed its sister paper.
Murdoch closed his News of World weekly after allegations last year it hacked the phone of a murdered schoolgirl prompted a public outcry. Advertisers cancelled contracts and Prime Minister David Cameron set up a inquiry into media practices.
News Corporation boss Murdoch closed the newspaper and flew to London to handle the crisis, which triggered such hostility in Britain's parliament bid take over lucrative pay-TV operator BSkyB.
The veteran media mogul is due to fly to London later this week as another scandal engulfs one of his British newspapers, but he is likely to handle the Sun crisis differently given the public response to the paper's alleged actions is muted.
Police have arrested nine current and former Sun staff in the past two weeks, including the deputy editor and other senior employees, as part of an investigation into the bribing of police and other public officials for information.
The arrests came after News Corp passed information to police, angering employees, some of whom are already briefing against Murdoch.
But while the News of the World (NoW) scandal led to a chorus of condemnation from the public and politicians of all stripes, there has been a low-key response to the Sun arrests.
In a sharp contrast to the mood that prevailed at the height of the NoW scandal last summer, the British minister responsible for the media on Sunday praised Murdoch for increasing British media plurality through his Sky satellite broadcasting network.
"Rupert Murdoch, through the investment he made in Sky for example, has massively increased choice in the UK and given us one of the most competitive broadcasting markets in Europe," Jeremy Hunt told the BBC.
He also praised newspapers, including the News of the World, for uncovering criminals and holding politicians to account.
"People remember how important our newspapers are. I think about the MP (member of parliament) expenses scandal .... People are realizing how important a free press is in our democracy," he added.
Last year, Cameron labeled allegations that the News of the World hacked into the phone of murdered school girl Milly Dowler as "really appalling," "truly dreadful" and called for a "vigorous investigation."
PUBLIC INTEREST DEFENSE?
"The backlash on bribing policemen is not going to be on the same scale as hacking into private phone messages," said Ivor Gaber, political journalism professor at City University London.
"The Sun is a bigger proposition than the News of the World. It makes more money. It has more clout and it's six days a week," he added.
Gaber said possible payments to police or other officials may be covered by a public interest defense that was not available in the News of the World hacking case.
"I think there's more of a debate to be had. It's less black and white," he said.
Hunt praised the Daily Telegraph for its stories about MP expenses even though it had paid a mole for the information on leaked computer disks.
In a statement late on Saturday, the chief executive of News Corp's British newspaper division News International Tom Mockridge indicated Murdoch was far from throwing in the towel.
"Some of the individuals arrested have been instrumental in breaking important stories about public bodies, for example the scandal of our under resourced troops in Iraq .... We must take care not to pre-judge the outcome of the police interviews," he said.
Two of those arrested along with the Sun employees on Saturday in connection with illegal journalist payments were a defense ministry employee and a member of the armed forces, a source said.