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Phone hacking: is this Murdoch’s BP moment?

(Update) The Murdoch family hopes the closure of News of the World will draw a line under the phone hacking scandal but the drastic move has highlighted the crisis facing the media group.

 
Phone hacking: is this Murdoch’s BP moment?

(Update) The Murdoch family hopes the closure of News of the World will draw a line under the phone hacking scandal but the drastic move has highlighted the crisis facing the media group.

US-listed shares in News Corp have bounced back 1.6% to $18.22 following the announcement that this weekend's edition of the News of the World will be the last.

The decision to close the 168-year-old paper is a desperate attempt to lance the boil and escape the backlash caused by revelations of widespread phone hacking at the News of the World.

The recovery in the US stock does not recoup yesterday's 3.2% fall to $17.94, prompted by fears that the scandal would damage the media group’s bid to take control of its satellite broadcaster British Sky Broadcasting.

The prospect of this saw BSkyB (BSY.L) shares fall another 1.9%, or 16p, to 811p today. News of the closure of the News of the World came after the market closed.

This is on top of a 2.1%, or 18p, fall yesterday. They have fallen from a 52-week high of 850.8p since Monday.

The government would like to postpone a decision on whether the bid should be approved but fears that a further delay could be legally challenged by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. However, according to the BBC's Robert Peston, the volume of submissions sent to culture secretary Jeremy Hunt will prevent him making a decision until September at the earliest.

The sudden closure of the News of the World followed a string of advertisers who had suspended advertising in the paper. Other companies have followed suit including Cadbury, Co-operative, Debenhams, Ford, Halifax, Morrisons, NatWest and Virgin Holidays. This follows the revelation that the newspaper hacked the phone of Milly Dowler, the schoolgirl murdered by recently convicted Levi Bellfield. Virgin Holidays said it would not take up the slots it had booked for this Sunday’s edition and Easyjet said it was considering its position.

Public outrage has increased with further revelations that News of the World reporters may have hacked the phones of 7/7 bombing victims and the families of soldiers killed in Afghanistan.

Despite this Murdoch continues to back Rebekah Brooks, editor of the News of the World when hacking occurred and now chief executive of News International, the newspaper division.

The Financial Times’ influential Lex column has compared News Corp’s predicament to BP (BP.L) after the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. The scale of public disgust is one clear link, it says, but so are the strategic challenges facing the companies. In News Corp’s case the decline in newspaper circulation is comparable to the decline in oil reserves.

Where BP eventually grasped the gravity of its situation, ‘News Corp remains in relative denial’, it says, and should let Brooks go. Moreover, the FT suggested Murdoch could consider selling or closing the newspaper division which contributed only 13% of News Corp’s operating profits last year. The closure of the News of the World goes some way in that direction.

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36 comments so far. Why not have your say?

Ken Johnston

Jul 07, 2011 at 11:09

Yup, The News of the Screws and the dirty digger done good.

Seriously, how could anyone sink to the depths that these people have. It's the Murdoch ethos in action.

And in my neck of the woods, Scotland, I hope Tommy Sheridan sticks it to them. The NoW in cahoots with the police, and the Justice Dept, getting their own back on a guy who stood up to them , and won.

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Anonymous 1 needed this 'off the record'

Jul 07, 2011 at 11:27

I think that Murdoch is a really great guy who is just trying to get by in the world ok.

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Anonymous 2 needed this 'off the record'

Jul 07, 2011 at 12:18

'It happened on his/her watch'

I've heard this several times recently & he/she '''resigned'''.

Murdoch has permanent watch over the constituents of his empire.

Bye bye Mr Murdoch

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Mike the red

Jul 07, 2011 at 12:40

Good riddance if at all falls down. Just two more people on my hate list to go.

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Anonymous 3 needed this 'off the record'

Jul 07, 2011 at 12:54

trouble is that our leaders ie cameron and previously blair sucked up to this guy because of his newspaper ownership. wasnt it alistair campbell who said you had to get on with murdochs empire if you wanted to win elections.

as for this utter disgrace,what is to happen to the people in the met(investigating themselves for taking money from the NOW, like a criminal investigates his own crimes)they need sorting for a start and people here need to topple. rebecca brooks is a friggin disgrace and not fit to edit my local comic and as for murdochs empire,enough has been said already need i print anymore. they knew,dont worry they knew all along.its all been about damage limitation and with top uk politicians in their pockets we will still struggle to get justice now matter how much worse these revelations can get if in fact they can

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The Wills Man

Jul 07, 2011 at 13:14

The fox sat amongst the feathers and mauled carcases in the hen coop - "I worked hard to protect these chickens" he claimed "You should be proud of me and let me guard the rest of the flock"

Would anyone believe the fox? Would you believe Murdoch and Brooks?

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Bob

Jul 07, 2011 at 13:30

At the end of the day, and while it is utterly distasteful, does the hacking really matter and should 50 policemen really be involved in this investigation? It seems to me to be fundamentally a civil as opposed to a criminal matter, with the "hackees" lining up to collect their compensation and people deciding whether or not to buy the newspaper again (if, indeed, they ever bought it in the first place). The serious criminality involves corruption in the police and that needs thorough investigation.

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peter hart

Jul 07, 2011 at 13:46

Cancelled my Times subscription and cut back on my Sky subscription too. Total cost to News Corp £600 per annum If a few million people do that..............

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Peter Young Engineer

Jul 07, 2011 at 13:57

You can bet your life a lot of people in high places have been working their nuts off trying over the last year or so to keep the lid on this.

Unfortunately for them it blew.

Everyones involved in this; Police , Politicians, Journalists, Newspapers. We will never get the whole truth because now its blown they will all be working as hard on damage limitation and to protect themselves.

There is a lot of hypocritical noise being made!!!

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George Hill

Jul 07, 2011 at 14:07

Make sure publishers have NO CHOICE but to sign up to agreed standards (instead of the laughable "discretionary" option) in order to stay UK-based. Especially Murdoch's group. On second thoughts, chuck 'em out anyway... the disgraceful bunch!

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Al

Jul 07, 2011 at 14:15

Its rich Tommy Sheridan trying to get off the jail for perjury by claiming 'someone else did it too' - that makes it alright then? Though as much as I dislike him sending him to jail was a complete waste of money. A tougher sentence would have been ordering him to keep his ugly self-serving mug out the limelight for 5 years.

Bottom line (no pun) we get the press we deserve & so long as the masses are titilated (no pun either) by Sheridan, Giggs, Titmus, Cole, Pippa plus the rest and buy the celebrity drivel served up as news & current affairs then nothing will change.

Best thing that can come out of it is Sky pulling out of the UK & bankrupting English football in the process.

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Alasdair Sampson

Jul 07, 2011 at 14:16

For those readers South of Hadrian’s Wall, Tommy Sheridan was a Member of the Scottish Parliament who won £200k (I think) damages against NoW in a defamation case in Scotland. He was later prosecuted for giving perjured evidence in that civil action, was found guilty and was imprisoned for 3 years.

Whether the undisclosed emails in the possession of the NoW which have now come to light would have assisted Tommy’s defence and resulted in an acquittal, or whether they would have assisted the Crown in its prosecution and may have led to a longer sentence is one thing, but the revelation that they exist at all contrary to the reported evidence on oath in court by NoW staff or ex-staff that they had been lost is really quite another.

If these emails do exist, irrespective of their content, then the veracity of that evidence on oath in court is open to question. The police must investigate that.

Newspapers, especially if part of the massive Murdoch empire, have enormous power. They have a duty to use it responsibly.

So yes, Bob, your damn right hacking matters whether it is Rupert Murdoch, or his minions or the State.

Our civil liberties are under pressure and attack day and daily.

It’s a small step from snooping your electronic life to tampering with it and stealing your identity, stealing you assets etc etc. If the snooper only tampers with your life what damage can he cause to that person or his kin which might last a lifetime?

Bob – I suggest you ask the widows of the war dead and Dilly’s parents and the bereaved of 7/7 how they feel about their intimate lives being snooped on before you make such an insensitive crassly stupid remark.

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Alasdair Sampson

Jul 07, 2011 at 14:20

Apologies - Milly not Dilly. I was so incensed that I miss-typed.

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Bob

Jul 07, 2011 at 14:48

Alasdair,

The hacking does matter but it does not matter so much that 50 policemen should be tied up investigating that issue instead of investigating serious criminal offences such as murder, rape, assault, etc., etc. Ask the victims of those offences, where they have survived, if this is a proportionate use of scarce police resources and I can only imagine one answer.

Be sensitive, yes, but be sensible.

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Chris Clark

Jul 07, 2011 at 15:10

@Bob,

The trouble with your point is the more the Police keep digging, the more stuff that needs to be investigated comes pouring out.

And it certainly is damned serious. Reputations get ruined, and suicides occur when people get defamed by an out of control press. Witness the

Paul MacLullan admission this morning that his reporting caused the suicide of Jennifer Elliot, and the Police advising that the deleted Milly Dowler messages obstructed that investigation.

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Adomski in London

Jul 07, 2011 at 15:50

It’s inconceivable that Brooks did not know that phone hacking went on within her organisation. I can picture the discussions with her editors now....

She may not have sanctioned particular acts and perhaps certain news stories weren’t validated by phone hacking information, but it would give HER journalists newspapers a lead to go and search for a story elsewhere....personally I think it’s disgraceful and it most certainly is a criminal act that warrants the full force of the law. If News International and perhaps other newspapers can do this – where does it stop – is it ok for one investment banker to listen in on the calls of another investment banker.....If Brooks didn’t know it was going on at all – what on earth does that say about her and her employers ability to safeguard standards within their organisation (and any organisation they are intending to buy).

If News International don’t think it is right to sack the people in charge (both Brooks and Murdoch) who are supposed to be in control of their organisation then there is no way the government can think it is right to give control of another Media outlet to News International and expect that company to put the relevant controls in place.

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Bob

Jul 07, 2011 at 15:56

I absolutely accept that this is serious and troubling but so far as criminality is concerned it amounts to little more than a fishing expedition. And to tie up the amount of police resources that would be employed in relation to a large scale terrorist incident is mistaken. That's my view but no doubt Sienna Miller (who was reported as having had a pay off of £100,000 without any question of criminal charges having been considered, since no criminal offence had been committed) would disagree.

Having said that, all sorts of people in high places are now running scared and perhaps we'll get some dividends from the whole thing in the end.

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Stanley Kirk

Jul 07, 2011 at 15:57

'Hacking' is a very emotive term and panders to modern neurosis about 'big brother' government and corporations trying to monitor and control our lives with expensive and complicated technology. Murdoch and NoW are also easy hate figures and wonderful targets for the rest of the media pack eager to dig up and then 'big up' some dirt. Yet what actually happened? The journos discovered that if you know the mobile phone number you can ring the remote access number (for those who want to access their voice mail from some other number) and assume that the PIN requested has not be reset from the normal default (which it hasn't in 99% of cases because we are all lax on personal security) and bingo you have access to the stored voice mails. This used to be called 'investigative journalism' or 'using your initiative'. Personally, I would put this in the same category as searching through dustbins but less messy.

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Mary Hamilton (Citywire)

Jul 07, 2011 at 16:02

For information - since this article was published, the Evening Standard and Guardian have reported that Scotland Yard investigators are trying to identify up to five Metropolitan Police officers who were paid between them a total of at least £100,000 in cash from the News of the World. And yet more advertisers have suspended their contracts with the paper.

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Adomski in London

Jul 07, 2011 at 16:11

so News International (and I expect other papers or their news agencies to have done the same) have been paying off police officers to give them information, anyone else think this might smack a little of “Perverting the course of justice”…?

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Alasdair Sampson

Jul 07, 2011 at 16:34

Stanley

Neat argument, and I like it. Pity its nonsense.

The means never justify the ends.

Stealing/hacking/prying/snooping/bin raking – call it what you will, but it is all the same in effect. The police cannot do that in an investigation without a warrant. Why not? It’s to protect your rights from civil abuse and the tyranny of a police state.

If the police cannot do it, or shouldn’t do it, without breaking the law, then a journo of the standard who work for the red-tops must assuredly should not be allowed to do so.

And if the police have been taking backhanders for info given to this type of journo then that needs to be looked at. or pehaps we should just let that go too?

There is an old saying that a lie can get most of the way round the world before the truth can get his boots on.

If these unscrupulous journos are allowed to get away with activities that warranted law enforcement agencies cannot do without authority there is no limit to the damage that they could do.

Murdoch doesn’t give a toss. That’s clear from the fact that Rebekah Brooks is still in post.

I read an article the Glasgow Herald yesterday which ran – journos never let a politician get away with the excuse that he didn’t know, he didn’t sign it, he didn’t send it, he can’t make every decision, demanding resignations because if the politico didn’t know he should have known. That argument has to apply here. Ms Brooks has to go but not let off the hooks of any civil or criminal responsibility on which she may be hanging.

Mr Murdoch can be reminded that he is not as powerful as he imagines. He can be reined in. Parliament can legislate.

And that’s likely to be unfortunate outcome of all this. That the real freedom of the press is curtailed and true investigative journalism is diminished. And without that to call our politicians to account where would be then?

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Chris Clark

Jul 07, 2011 at 16:50

Jeremy Hunt is concerned that if he decides to refer the News International bid to the Competition Commission, that News International will take expensive legal action to get the decision reviewed.

This is a smoke screen.

The first point that will happen is the full and highly public force of British protesters venom will be switched from the Government to News International. This bad publicity will ripple out to other countries who have concerns about News International's policies, and invite increased regulatory attention. The publicity will be a firestorm conducted mostly online by very well organised public groups.

The attempts of major corporations to fight through heavy adverse public opinion in recent years has been one of 100% failure.

The second point will be a share price reduction caused by sales of Murdoch newspapers falling more quickly.

The third point would be that along with the reputational damage the review might go against them.

The fourth point is that the Competition Commission, then faced with a very aggressive takeover, would scrutinise everything 10 times more deeply than usual.

News International's BP moment will come if the Government does refer the bid, and at that point Murdoch calls in the lawyers.

His marketing and branding managers will already be telling him not to do this if the Government refer the bid.

Jeremy Hunt need not be concerned.

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Ant man bee

Jul 07, 2011 at 17:04

The NoW couldn't have sunk lower and News International deserves to be prevented from taking control of B SKY B. But given the media's shameless hypocrisy who would want to bet against other print or electronic media not having played the same game?

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Allan Harris

Jul 07, 2011 at 17:28

Listening to the BBC News at 5 and pleased to hear that this Sunday will be the last NOW. Crappy trivial dirt sheet - good riddance.

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Hotrod

Jul 07, 2011 at 17:38

I wouldn't call this a BP moment. In that case public companies were NEGLIGENT and those in charge were called to account. Heads rolled.

This scandal is more akin to the Watergate affair. There are certain aspects which indicate a culture of corruption; i.e. clandestine activities that took pecuniary advantage of the vulnerable.

With reference to Stanley Kirk's comments: How did the N.o.t.W and their private detective acquire these mobile phone numbers? I mean they do not appear in a public directory. Was money paid to obtain them?

The Watergate debacle was compounded by devious attempts to cover it up. Documents shredded, cassette tapes "doctored" or went missing, and key witnesses being economical with the truth.

It wouldn't surprise me if this investigation encounters similar obstacles.

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Alasdair Sampson

Jul 07, 2011 at 17:59

At the end of the day its Rupert Murdoch who should be called to account.

He is the ultimate boss.

His is the ethos that permeates his empire.

He protected his editor.

If there is fault in the NoW internal investigation not getting to the bottom of it then the buck stops at Rupert's desk. Does anyone really think, seriously, that he was not consulted abut the earlier revelations or that his orders were not what drove the NoW reaction?

Closing the NoW will make not one iota of difference.

Its exactly the same as the FSA morphing into the FCA. The label changes but the colour of the paint inside stays the same.

We hear that NoW staff - Rupert's employees, albeit far down the food chain - paid substantial money to police officers for info.

Is Rupert aware of the new Bribery Act 2010 which came into force just last week? As I understand it, that Act has retrospective effect and applies across the globe for organisations like his which does business in the UK.

The police do not even need to prove that bribery actually occurred for the directors to be personally criminally liable. if the company failed to take adequate steps to prevent bribery then there is an offence.

Either Rupert buys a one way ticket to Heathrow now and walks into New Scotland Yard or a couple of their senior officers should be on the next plane to wherever Rupert thinks he is safe from being held to account.

His bid to acquire the balance of BSkyB should be blocked - clearly Rupert and his cohorts are not fit and proper and lack integrity. if he doesn't like that bid being blocked then let him litigate - you really think he wants all that dirty linen washed in public? Because it would have to be if he were to establish that his News Corp and he are fit and proper.

But we all know what will happen. Precisely nothing. Rupert will continue to mouth platitudes and some sacrificial heads will roll but the real cause of all this, the man whose ethos drives it all, will answer to no-one.

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Isaac Jones (cynic)

Jul 07, 2011 at 18:24

The reason why these despicable people (the tabloid press) do these things is because a large number of the public, like to read this trash! It sells newspapers.

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Anonymous 4 needed this 'off the record'

Jul 07, 2011 at 19:08

its ok for any one to phone tap . free speech and all that. if the papers can so can we so all go for it tap any ones phone . break up all the news papers and sky then the ploitical partys will stop being scared of sky incase they come through this ok

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Anonymous 2 needed this 'off the record'

Jul 07, 2011 at 20:07

Step 1 :- Completed ('paper closed down)

Step 2 :- Admit personal responsibility publicly.

Step 3 :- Retire from all ''''media'''' activity &, if not prosecuted, donate ALL your ill-gotten gains to some cause other than selfish, personal gain .

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Kevin G

Jul 07, 2011 at 20:29

I hope this doesn't mean they can close offices, shred documents and delete email servers!

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Philip Winter

Jul 07, 2011 at 21:07

If these disgusting revelations of endemic criminal and amoral behaviour in a 'flagship' newspaper in Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation media empire results in News Corporation not being permitted to gain control of the whole of BSkyB and with it an effective monopoly of popular TV broadcasting in the UK I for one will be delighted. And it should have that result. After all who could possibly believe the Murdochs and News Corporation to be 'fit and proper' people after this and who would be naive enough to believe any undertakings they give.

But I am quite sure the takeover will go through. There are too many vested interests. Top politicians, the police, the majority of the media all in the Murdochs' pocket. Probably News Corporation and the Murdochs will ultimately benefit by being to buy the remaining BSkyB shares cheaper because of the commercial fallout of this affair.

Some heads will roll of course. Rebecca Brooks will go. Andy Coulson will probably go to prison. Some policemen and journalists will also be prosecuted and go to prison. So 'justice' will have been 'seen to be done'. We will 'draw a line' and 'move on'. But nothing will fundamentally change.

It's so very reminiscent of the MPs and lords expenses scandal. A huge amount of hand wringing and 'mea culpas' all round. There was a 'thorough investigation' and a 'step change' in the system. A few 'unlucky' MPs and peers were prosecuted and have gone to prison. Why they were singled out from the 500 plus other MPs and peers also indulging knowingly in criminal amd amoral activity from which they benefitted enormously financially isn't clear to me and I'm certain it's not clear to them. After all they were only doing what most other MPs and peers did and it was accepted practice. But there too 'justice' was 'seen to be done'. Really of course nothing has fundamentally changed there either.

It is fair to say that the nation gets the press and politicians it deserves. I think it's high time we told these self serving and rapacious 'masters' of ours, in no uncertain terms, that we deserve and will have something a whole lot better.

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Ken Johnston

Jul 07, 2011 at 21:09

Well, Kevin G, @20.29, Channel 4 news, the best news on the box, says that an attempt, request, from the NoW was made to a data storage unit in Mumbai to delete files.

The responder refused.

Also, Tom Watson, MP, says that possibly computer hacking and tracking devices were now involved as well.

And again, re Tommy Sheridan, I would not be surprised if theNoW did not coach the prosecution witnesses for his trail.

It paid one of them 100thou, I think, for the DVD that supposedly held the film of him confessing.

Just like the CIA paid the Grauchi brothers $2 million for Tony Grauchi's testimony to finger Al-Megrahi. And new identities in Australia thrown in.

Another triumph for Scottish justice.

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Alasdair Sampson

Jul 08, 2011 at 07:27

Sadly, Ken Johnston, you have a very valid point.

The Sheridan trial was nothing but a circus.

Although Tommy was convicted I do not now think that anyone, other than the most dyed in the woll political opponent, would not raise at least an eyebrow and wonder whether that conviction was safe. I understand that the police are examining it again.

And you can bet your bottom dollar that his solicitor will be back on the TV and in the press demanding justice for Tommy. It may lead to a fresh appeal or a fresh trial.

If evidence is uncovered that Andy Coulson lied on oath in court then he too should be prosecuted.

But you are right - it will make our justice system look ridiculous and that damages us all.

The simple matter is that a full investigation by the police of not just NoW but also of News Corp has to be undertaken and if necessary Rubert Murdoch has to be interviewed by UK police. If appropriate he, his son and Rebekah Brooks require to be charged along with the individual editors and journalists with whatever offences they have committed whether that is permitting or causing phone tapping of bribery payments.

It is also a simple plain fact that that neither of Murdoch or his son nor any corporation owned directly or indirectly or managed by them are "fit and proper" to have control of BSkyB.

If Mr Cameron's government has stomach, the course they should take is to leave the whole decision to the OFT to decide. If OFT decide that the Murdochs are not fit and proper persons to control a major part of our broadcasting base then let the Murdochs litigate. Let them prove their case.

Just imagine what the FSA would do if they even though any IFA was not only failing to meet standards of fitness and propriety but actually committing criminal offences.

I know what the Law Scoiety of Scotland, of which I am a member, would do to any solicitor in that situation.

The press play a fundamental role in our society and rightly so. But with great power comes great responsibility and a great trust, the former of which Rupert Murdoch, his son and Rebekah brooks have clearly failed to discharge and the latter of which they have clearly broken.

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Fourty Two

Jul 08, 2011 at 08:09

Hmmm!

I wonder whether Murdoch has cut too soon. The outrage still needs a focus and it may now switch to his other titles. This will rumble on for a while and instead of lancing a boil he may find it necessary to cut deeper to remove the cancer.

Anyway, good riddance to a trashy paper. The only thing good about it was that you could wrap fish and chips in it. (Shows my age! It couldn't even be used for that anymore)

I do, however, feel for the those staff who have lost their jobs, when they had nothing to do with it. For those who were involved, its the very least you deserve. I hope the police & CPS find a way to nail you.

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Maverick

Jul 08, 2011 at 08:27

Does anyone really believe that an editor doesn't ask her reporters where they got their information from?

Does anyone really believe reporters don't know that phone-hacking is illegal?

Did the reporters really use their own money to pay back-handers to the police for information? Who authorised the expense?

Those are rhetorical questions - I'm not expecting any responses . . . .

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bushwhacker

Jul 10, 2011 at 11:07

Whilst I heartily agree that we cannot allow wholesale phone tapping, I do believe that the investigative journalists of the NOW have done a magnificent job at times, exposing paedophiles, drug traffickers, slave prostitution etc, passing their information for the police to act on.

They ran personal risks to get the facts and stories tom nail these criminals. Shame really that our police could not have uncovered these crimes themselves!

At times we accept the adage "the end justifies the means", but now suddenly the means are not acceptable, and this is the sort of hypocrisy we are now seeing here. the reaction to close the NOW is a little over the top but it is done. How many other newspapers are also using, shall we say, "inventive" means, to get their stories, or the dirt, on people in the spotlight,?

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