News Brief – July 7, 2011
Rupert Murdoch has dominated the British media for a generation but mounting outrage over the phone hacking of the bereaved families of murder victims and fallen soldiers has forced him into a tactical retreat.
On Thursday afternoon Rupert’s son and heir apparent James Murdoch appeared before News of the World staff to announce that News International’s best selling Sunday newspaper will be printed for the last time on Sunday.
Former News of the World editor and now News International chief executive, Rebekah Brooks reportedly told staff that there was no other option in the wake of the phone hacking scandal that has rocked the media.
Advertisers such as Dixons, Npower, the Halifax bank, Virgin Holidays, The Co-operative Group, Vauxhall and Mitsubishi were all said to be considering withdrawing their adverts from the paper.
Brooks announcement was reportedly met with anger among staff. One source telling Sky News that there was ‘mass anger in the newsroom, much of it directed at Rebekah Brooks’.
However, media analysts say all is not necessarily lost for New International.
News of World employees are to be offered other positions in Murdoch’s media empire, while Murdoch himself might take the opportunity of launching a Sunday edition of his daily Sun.
Murdoch is thought to have been considering launching a Sunday edition of the daily for some time and the demise of the News of the World opens a vacant spot for its launch.
Meanwhile the ramifications from the phone hacking scandal continue to reverberate.
Former Scotland Yard deputy assistant commissioner Brian Paddick was quoted as saying that he understood that News International was handing over details about police officers who had been paid for tip-offs.
Mr Paddick told the BBC: “Rebekah Brooks had told the House of Commons committee back in 2003 that they were paying police officers for information.
“Yesterday I met a journalist who said he was paying sometimes £20,000 to £30,000 to police officers for information.
“All of this is done in a very clandestine way. You know the stories about a drive-through fast food restaurant near the News International headquarters – that’s where police officers used to go to collect envelopes. It was all done very discreetly. I personally never came across it during my career.”
In addition to bribing police officers, the News of the World has been accused of extensive phone hacking of a variety vulnerable targets. Among them the bereaved famillies of soldeirs killed in Iraq and Afghanistan; the voicemail of murdered Milly Dowler, while she was still missing and before the 13-year-old’s body was found.
As the scandal has unfolded the value of satelitte broadcaster BskyB shares have tumbled 5%. This while News International is in the process of trying to takeover the broadcaster.
For the time being at least, New International’s bid appears to be on hold and with mounting public anger may indeed be over.
All we can do now is hope that public anger over the phone hacking will spread and help topple other bastions of our so-called “free-press”.
In the end analysis though the scandal engulfing Murdoch’s newspaper says as much about government as it does about journalist’s ethics. For we shouldn’t forget that Rebekah Brook’s successor as editor of News of the World was Andy Coulson, who went on to become the Conservative Party’s Director of Communications.
With a few notable exceptions most politicians and journalists are feeding at the same trough, tended by big money upon whose favour their careers depend.