A UK parliamentary committee has published a letter from Surrey police about the investigation into the disappearance and murder of schoolgirl Milly Dowler. The letter is presented as evidence in the committee’s investigation into phone hacking and attempts to establish a timeline of conversations between the Surrey police and News Of The World reporters. The document demonstrates how reporters interfered with police progress on the missing persons case back in 2002 by misrepresenting themselves and making dodgy claims in the pursuit of a story. The letter further shows that reporters revealed knowledge of messages on the girl’s phone. However, the report stops short of elucidating the question of whether messages on her phone were deleted by the journalists, saying that’s still being investigted by the Metropolitan police. “When and the extent to which Milly’s mobile phone voicemail was unlawfully accessed (and whether any messages were deleted) are matters which form part of the MPS’s ongoing investigation.” In separate but related news, Rupert Murdoch tweeted the following this morning: “No excuses for phone hacking. No argument. No excuses either for copyright stealing, but plenty of ignorant argument!”
‘Skyfall’ Brings Windfall To UK’s Odeon Circuit
On Thursday, Skyfall became the UK’s all-time highest grossing 007 movie, taking £57M ($91.2)in just 12 days. Odeon, Britain’s largest cinema chain, is reaping the benefits of the breakout Bond movie scoring the largest 7-day opening ever for a single film with £11.3M ($18.1M) in takings at its theaters. Its flagship cinema, Odeon Leicester Square, also set a new record with more than £530K ($848K) in Skyfall’s first week to overtake Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part 2, which took £495K ($792K at current exchange rate) in 2011. Odeon had a 30.5% market share of Skyfall’s UK box office in its first week.
Rebekah Brooks, Andy Coulson and other former journalists from the now-shuttered News Of The World tabloid were in a London court today to face charges related to the phone-hacking scandal. After a short hearing at the Old Bailey court, a provisional trial date was set for September 9, 2013. Brooks, the former chief exec of News Corp.’s UK press ar News International, is accused of three counts of alleged phone hacking, including a general charge that could affect as many as 600 victims including celebrities like Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. She also faces three counts of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.
Embattled ex-News International chief Rebekah Brooks appeared in a London court this morning for 4 minutes to provide her name, home address and date of birth. She was in the dock at the Westminster Magistrates Court on charges of phone hacking that were lodged against her last month and was given conditional bail. The bail stipulates she can’t contact her six former colleagues who are facing similar charges, the she must reside at her home address and that she give a week’s notice if she intends to leave the country, UK media reports.
In early August, Rupert Murdoch’s former lieutenant was formally charged on three counts of alleged phone hacking. One was a general charge that could affect as many as 600 victims including celebrities like Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt.
Joe Utichi contributes to Deadline’s UK coverage:
Tonight’s Scotland Yard development was expected. Rebekah Brooks will appear at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on September 3rd. The police statement lists Brooks as “unemployed”. The 44-year-old executive who ran Rupert Murdoch‘s UK newspaper business and top-edited the News Of the World answered bail at Lewisham police station. She stands accused of one general charge of alleged phone hacking between October 2000 and August 2006 that could affect as many as 600 victims including famous television and film stars including Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Jude Law, Sienna Miller, and Sadie Frost. The charges place Brooks at the center of the Crown Prosecution Service’s case against the defunct News Of The World tabloid. Brooks also faces specific charges of illegally accessing the mobile phone voicemail of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler.
Former News Of The World Editors To Face Phone-Hacking Charges; Alleged Victims Include Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Jude Law
Rebekah Brooks, the former chief executive of News Corp‘s News International and a one-time editor of the News Of The World, will face charges in connection with phone-hacking, Britain’s Crown Prosecution Service announced this morning. Andy Coulson, the former News Of The World editor who went on to be Prime Minister David Cameron’s communications director, will also face charges. Along with a group of former News Of The World journalists, they are each charged with “conspiring to intercept communications without lawful authority, from 3rd October 2000 to 9th August 2006. The communications in question are the voicemail messages of well-known people and/or those associated with them,” said the CPS. Those well-known people include Jude Law, Sienna Miller, Sadie Frost, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. In all, there are more than 600 people whom the prosecution will say are victims of the offense. Brooks is specifically facing charges relating to the alleged hacking of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler’s mobile phone as are a number of the other former journalists. The full list of charges can be read here. In total, eight people learned they would be charged today, while the CPS found insufficient evidence in the case of three other suspects. Decisions regarding two other suspects were deferred.
This time last year, Rupert Murdoch’s UK media empire was thrust into the biggest newspaper scandal in recent memory when police alleged journalists at the News Of The World had hacked into the voice mails of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler. A year ago today, on July 7th, 2011, Rupert’s son James Murdoch announced the News Of The World would be shut down. Fast-forward 51 weeks, and Rupert is making headlines of a different sort as he announced the split of his global conglomerate News Corp into two companies, effectively fencing off the tainted UK publishing assets – though he contends that was not the motive. While Murdoch will serve as chairman and CEO of the entertainment businesses on one side, with Chase Carey as president and COO, there is no management in place for the publishing side. Dow Jones and The Wall Street Journal will be at the forefront of the new operation. But who will run it? And, can the scandal ever become yesterday’s news?
Names floated to take the reins include Tom Mockridge, a longtime News Corp employee who is now chief executive of News Corp’s press arm, News International — a role he took when scandal-stained Rebekah Brooks resigned last year. (Brooks is now facing charges of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.) A note from Enders Analysis says “we would be surprised” if Mockridge “was not among the key candidates to run the publishing company.” But, Ken Doctor, media analyst for Outsell and Newsonomics, thinks it would make sense if the new chief “came from in or around Dow Jones.” Chief exec of Dow Jones, Lex Fenwick, joined the company from Bloomberg in February and although Doctor tells me “he does seem like a longshot,” it’s worth remembering that “this is all happening in a year. They don’t need to appoint someone for at least nine months. Fenwick has a long track record in the industry. He’s new at Dow Jones and he’s making major changes. If Rupert likes the cut of his jib in 6-9 months,” Fenwick could be the man.
Although speculation as to its contents was in many ways on the mark, the UK government’s select committee report into phone hacking had a few surprises up its sleeve today. Neither Rupert Murdoch nor James Murdoch has been accused of misleading Parliament, but the findings are critical of both. Especially incendiary is a refrain that reads: “Rupert Murdoch is not a fit person to exercise the stewardship of a major international company.” The inclusion of the line was debated by the cross-party panel but ultimately stayed in after a 6-4 vote. In remarks following the report’s publication, lawmakers cautioned that this particular conclusion should not deflect from the report’s initial aim — namely to determine whether executives at News Corp-controlled News International misled the committee during 2009 sessions on phone hacking.
Early in Rupert Murdoch‘s testimony today, he said “Someone took charge of a cover-up which we were victim to and I regret.” He was talking about the phone hacking scandal at the News Of The World on his 2nd day of giving evidence to the Leveson Inquiry into UK press ethics. Questioned on the cover-up, Murdoch said he thinks it came from inside the newspaper, from a “friend of the journalists, a drinking pal” who was a lawyer “who forbade people to go and report to (Rebekah) Brooks or to James (Murdoch).”
Although today’s affair touched on politics and the aborted bid for BSkyB, the proceedings focused more heavily on phone hacking than any of the other days of Murdoch testimony this week. Counsel for the inquiry Robert Jay and Lord Justice Leveson spent a great deal of time trying to work out how high the knowledge of questionable journalistic tactics went at the paper. Leveson pressed Murdoch at one point saying, “Print ink was running through your veins…this wasn’t just a commercial interest…this was the very core of your being, so that’s why you’re being asked: were you not intensely concerned about what was going on?” Murdoch replied that some papers are closer to his heart than others, “but, I also have to say that I failed,” he added. When asked why he closed NOTW rather than “tough it out,” he answered that when the Milly Dowler situation was first given huge publicity, “you could feel the blast coming in the window and I’ll say it succinctly, I panicked.”
Breaking News … Refresh for latest live-blogging from London …
Although both James and Rupert Murdoch were expected to be giving evidence this week with regard to the phone hacking scandal, the whole process has taken a decidedly different tack. The fallout from James’ testimony on Tuesday resulted in the resignation of a top Parliamentary aide on Wednesday and a growing brouhaha inside Prime Minister David Cameron’s government. Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s aide, Adam Smith, resigned after emails read on Tuesday showed a possibly inappropriate relationship between the minister’s office and James Murdoch during the BSkyB bid process. Hunt asked Lord Justice Brian Leveson to move up his scheduled testimony date but Leveson said yesterday he was going to continue with his planned timetable. Hunt will appear before the inquiry in May while Cameron and Tony Blair are expected in May or June. Also, the FSA, Britain’s equivalent to the SEC, is understood to be examining whether the email exchanges constitute market abuse. Rupert Murdoch’s testimony on Wednesday was squarely focused on his relationship to politicians. Day two of his evidence will begin soon and should last for a couple of hours this morning. It’s possible they’ll get to the phone hacking scandal today. All times below are UK local time.
10:09 Counsel Robert Jay asks Murdoch about David Yelland, editor of The Sun in the late 1990s. Yelland once said in an interview that “all Murdoch editors go on a journey where they end up agreeing with everything Rupert says…You look at the world through Rupert’s eyes.”
Murdoch: “I understand what you’re saying but I think it’s nonsense and should be taken in the context of Yeland’s strange autobiography,” in which he admits he was drunk most of the time at The Sun.
Murdoch: “I certainly do take part in the policy decisions of The Sun, I think that’s my job.”
Murdoch: “Generally speaking, the issues that we get interested in and fight for you’ll find them in The Sun and you’ll find that I would agree with most of them if not all.
10:12 Jay turns to Murdoch’s relationship with politicians and asks if they would know what Murdoch is thinking or his views by knowing him over time.
“I really only see very little of them. I’m only in this country less than 10% of my time…And, I think they know my philosophy, yes.”
Breaking News … Refresh for latest live-blogging from London …
When Rupert Murdoch settles into Lord Justice Brian Leveson’s hearing room in London today, it will be the mogul’s first such appearance since last July when he sat before the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee. In the thick of the phone hacking scandal at the News Of The World and the revelations of intercepted voice mails on the phone of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler, Murdoch told that panel it was the “most humble” day of his life. He was later the target of an attack by a shaving foam pie thrower. It’s unlikely such a thing will occur again. What will come up again, though, are the phone hacking scandal, Murdoch’s relationship to British politicians and News Corp’s bid for BSkyB. The political and BSkyB aspects of James Murdoch’s testimony yesterday ended up overshadowing the proceedings where many thought phone hacking would be the focus. It’s likely today that unflappable counsel to the inquiry Robert Jay QC will hone in on Murdoch’s association with government. Let’s follow along, shall we? (All times below are local UK time.)
10:05 The hearing is off to a late start, but Murdoch has arrived at the High Court.
10:11 Lord Justice Brian Leveson begins by reading a statement saying he is approaching the proceedings with an impartial stance. He also says he understands the press will draw their own conclusions. In light of the reaction yesterday and this morning to James Murdoch’s testimony, he wants to explain something of the judicial process. “I understand some of the reactions yesterday,” but he says he is “acutely aware” documents such as the emails read yesterday can’t be taken at face value. He says he’s not taking sides but wants to say he needs to hear all sides before his findings. He says everyone involved will appear, seeming to hint that culture secretary Jeremy Hunt may give evidence at a later date. Leveson’s heard calls for other inquiries but feels this one needs to end before further investigation.
Murdoch is sworn in, he has legal aid by his side to help with documents.
10:14 Jay says: Is it fair to say you’ve been following British politics for 60 years? Murdoch answers yes, laughs and says “with varying intensity.”
The state of media in this country is vital to all its citizens, Murdoch says. He welcomes the opportunity to appear at the hearing to “put certain myths to bed.” He says abuses go further than phone hacking.
Breaking News … Refresh for latest live-blogging from London …
In London this morning, James Murdoch is expected to answer questions and give evidence as they relate to phone hacking at former News Corp tabloid News Of The World. He may also be probed about alleged email hacking at The Times, also controlled by News Corp. Murdoch stepped down as head of News Corp’s UK press arm, News International, in February amid the ongoing phone hacking scandal. The move was not a tacit admission that he tried to cover up phone hacking, he said in a March letter sent to the Culture, Media and Sport Committee that read in part, “This is untrue. I take my share of responsibility for not uncovering wrongdoing earlier. However, I have not misled Parliament. I did not know about, nor did I try to hide, wrongdoing.”
The Leveson Inquiry into UK media ethics began last fall, spurred on by allegations of phone hacking and bribery at News Of The World after the scandal broke wide open in July and it was revealed that the voice mail of murdered school girl Milly Dowler had been accessed. Since then, the scandal has mushroomed and last week it was reported that almost 50 new civil claims have been filed. There are said to be 4,791 potential victims and police are believed to have identified 1,174 likely victims of phone hacking out of 1,892 who have been contacted. About 60 cases have already been settled and News Corp maintains it is determined to settle all possible cases. Both James and his father Rupert appeared together before a Parliamentary committee last July and James reappeared before the committee in November. This time, James is on his own again. Rupert will give evidence tomorrow and is also scheduled for Thursday morning if necessary. We’ll be following the testimony closely over the next few days. All times below are UK local time:
Murdoch arrived at the high court over an hour before he was due to give testimony, Financial Times correspondent Ben Fenton tweeted.
British attorney Mark Lewis will arrive in the US today as he prepares to speak on a panel at UC Berkeley titled: “The Murdoch Effect: The News At Any Price?” He’s also expected to begin legal discussions that could lead to several lawsuits being filed over alleged phone hacking by employees of News Corp’s UK press arm, News International, The Daily Beast reported. Those suits would constitute the first to be filed in the US, where News Corp has thus far limited its exposure to the ongoing investigations in Britain. Lewis will be working with his NY-based legal partner Norman Siegel to examine details of US law as it applies to hacking, according to The Guardian. The Independent adds that lawyers in California are also being lined up to aid in potentially filing three separate suits within the next few weeks. The lawsuits are said to relate primarily to celebrities whose phones may have been hacked while they were visiting the US. At least one of the cases, Lewis told The Daily Beast, involves allegations that the phone of an American citizen was hacked. If it can be proved that phones were hacked by News International employees, it could constitute a violation of US telecommunications and privacy laws. The UK media has speculated that the 3 victims in question are soccer star David …
Today’s Rupert Murdoch’s birthday, normally a day for reflection. But it’s hard to believe he feels much joy in that exercise as he considers how much his world changed over the last 12 months — and especially since July, when the UK hacking scandal exploded into public view. A year ago Murdoch seemed to be on top of the world, with plans to prepare his children to take charge of a growing global media empire. Now he’s struggling to keep his assets, and legacy, intact. Here are a few of the more important ways Murdoch’s life changed in his first year as an octogenarian.
An FBI probe into a company formerly controlled by News Corp suggests U.S. investigators are looking at a wider swath of the conglomerate’s activity than had been thought. News Outdoor Russia, a billboard company that News Corp divested itself of last July, has come under scrutiny from FBI agents as investigators seek to ascertain whether it paid bribes to local officials, The Wall Street Journal reports. News Corp has been under fire in Britain over a phone-hacking scandal at its now-shuttered News Of The World tabloid and is also facing allegations of bribes paid to public officials in the UK by journalists at The Sun newspaper. Thus far, the conglomerate has not had charges leveled at it in America, but the FBI probe into its Russian dealings follows on from the opening of an investigation last July to explore an unsubstantiated claim that 9/11 victims had their voicemail hacked on behalf of the News Of The World.
The UK lawyer who represented the family of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler and other hacking victims is in “advanced stages” of preparations to sue News Corp in the States, The Independent reports. Staffers for attorney Mark Lewis are said to have planned several meetings in New York. And Lewis told The Guardian that he is ”not prepared to deny” the report. If he follows through, then the scandal could become far more damaging than it already is for News Corp. For example, a court case here could help the Justice Department in its investigation into whether the media giant violated U.S. laws. The agency is focusing on the possibility that News Corp bribed UK police or officials – which would be a violation of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Meanwhile, Rupert Murdoch is struggling unsuccessfully to contain his problems in the UK. He plans to visit the country this week following the arrest over the weekend of five journalists at his tabloid The Sun who were charged with corruption and conspiracy for allegedly bribing cops for news tips. The paper’s Trevor Kavanagh likened the police actions to a “witch-hunt” and added in a column that “some of the greatest legends in Fleet Street have been held, at least on the basis of evidence so far revealed, for simply doing their jobs as journalists on behalf of the company.”
If you have any interest in News Corp’s News Of The World hacking scandal, then you should check out the compelling BusinessWeek story that Bloomberg’s highly respected legal affairs reporter Greg Farrell has this morning about a key moment in the chronology last year: Farrell provides a fly-on-the-wall account of a London dinner party on May 19 where Rupert — hoping to spare himself and his son, Deputy COO James, from embarrassment — decided to let Rebekah Brooks, then CEO of News International, continue to manage the company’s response to the widening scandal. In doing so, Murdoch took the advice of former New York schools chancellor Joel Klein and an outside lawyer, Brendan Sullivan, who defended Oliver North in the Iran-Contra hearings. But he also ignored the recommendation of News Corp’s then-general counsel Lon Jacobs. He had urged Murdoch to take charge and launch his own investigation, instead of letting the London group investigate itself. The CEO told the lawyers, COO Chase Carey, Brooks and others at the party: ”This is going to be handled by Joel and Brendan. I will handle the board. Everyone else stay out of it,” BW reports. Sullivan told the gathering that “Rebekah is innocent.” Two weeks later, Jacobs resigned.
YEARENDER: We’ll probably remember 2011 as a lost year for Big Media. Tech companies continued their drive to harness the Web in ways that could topple existing infotainment businesses. But most traditional media execs just smiled and said that their industry has nothing to fear but fear itself. You’ll go blind looking for major new initiatives, with one exception: Dish Network’s Charlie Ergen bought airwave spectrum and took Blockbuster out of bankruptcy as part of a plan to create a national video streaming service. Other companies didn’t even try to cut transformative deals although Comcast had its hands full trying to fix NBCUniversal, which the cable giant formally took over in January.
News Corp exemplified the sense of rudderlessness with its handling of the year’s most engrossing media story: the News Of The World phone hacking scandal. After years of confidently and indignantly denying that lawbreaking had become pervasive at the UK tabloid, Rupert Murdoch’s company was humiliated in July. The Guardian disclosed that in 2001 the paper hacked the phone of a missing school girl, Milly Dowler, and deleted voice messages – giving her parents and police false hope that she was still alive. Murdoch apologized, and accepted resignations from several close execs including News International’s Rebekah Brooks and Dow Jones’ Les Hinton. But Murdoch wouldn’t take responsibility for creating the anything-goes corporate culture that tolerated phone hacking. He couldn’t be expected to know everything that goes on at his global conglomerate, he told Parliament. His son, Deputy COO James Murdoch – who oversees the UK properties – looked even more foolish and incompetent as the year wore on. He says he wasn’t criminally culpable for covering up crimes. To make that credible, he portrayed himself as a hands-off manager who naively accepted information that confirmed what he wanted to hear, and couldn’t be bothered to even read at least one urgent message that tried to tell him otherwise. The tawdry story disgusted the public and News Corp shareholders, likely destroying Rupert’s plan to eventually turn News Corp over to James.
That fed into another growing concern in 2011: Who will run Big Media in a few years? In addition to the question about News Corp’s succession plans, Disney announced that Bob Iger will step down in 2015 with a replacement yet to be named. We also still don’t know who will eventually call the shots at Viacom and CBS as the actuarial tables catch up with Sumner Redstone, who controls both companies. The four jobs shouldn’t be hard to fill. The current occupants collectively received $194.6M in compensation in 2010, a 58% raise from the previous year.
Phone-Hacking Scandal: Reporters Said Not Responsible For Deleting Messages That Gave Girl’s Parents False Hope
New information emerged over the weekend in the News Of The World phone hacking scandal. Police are said to have concluded that reporters from the shuttered paper were not responsible for deleting certain messages on the answering machine of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler. The Guardian reports that News Of The World reporters were likely to blame for the deletion of some messages, but not for deletion of the particular messages that caused the Dowler family to have false hope that the girl was still alive. According to the report, evidence shows that her cellphone would automatically delete messages 72 hours after listened to. So while reporters would have caused some messages to be erased inadvertently, police found that others had been deleted before the News Of The World began hacking into the phone. When the original news of reporters’ actions came to light earlier this year, News Corp chief Rupert Murdoch called it “abhorrent,” closed down News Of The World, apologized to the Dowlers and gave them a £2 million settlement while also donating £1 million to charities. The attorney for the Dowlers, Mark Lewis, said in a statement over the weekend, “It remains unchallenged that the News Of The World listened to Milly Dowler’s voicemail and eavesdropped on deeply personal messages which were being left for her by her distraught friends and family. By listening to messages, deletions occurred even if no conscious act of deletion had …