Geoff Webster, the former deputy editor of News Corp‘s UK tabloid The Sun, is the latest to be charged with conspiring to commit misconduct in public office. Britain’s Crown Prosecution Service said today that Webster was charged with two offenses, one related to allegations he authorized £6,500 in payments for information supplied by a public official to one of his journalists, the other related to an allegation that he OK’d a £1,500 payment for information provided by an unknown public official. The crimes are alleged to have taken place between July 2010 and August 2011. The charges fall under Scotland Yard’s Operation Elveden, which stems from News Corp’s handing over 300M internal emails in an effort to cooperate with police amid the phone-hacking scandal. Webster is the fourth Sun journalist to be charged under the investigation. Former editor and News International chief Rebekah Brooks also faces charges under Elveden. Webster will appear in a London court next week.
Former Rupert Murdoch lieutenant Rebekah Brooks and former News Of The World editor Andy Coulson appeared in a London court today on charges of allegedly conspiring to bribe public officials. While both of their cases were adjourned to another date, according to BBC News, four others pleaded guilty to selling information to the News Corp.-owned Sun tabloid. Two former police officers, an ex-prison officer and a public official (who was not named for legal reasons) are the first to plead guilty to misconduct in a public office under Scotland Yard’s three linked investigations into illegal acts by journalists. Brooks, formerly chief of News Corp. press arm News International, and Coulson, also both face charges in the phone-hacking investigation. The provisional trial date is September 9 this year.
Meanwhile, in a bit of good news for News International, The Times and Sunday Times were awarded nine UK Press Awards on Thursday night, including Newspaper of the Year and Scoop of the Year for The Times and Sports Team of the Year for the Sunday Times. Occasional Twitter user Murdoch sent out a few missives about politics yesterday, but there was no shout out for the wins.
After Times Newspapers independent directors refused to approve Rupert Murdoch’s appointment of editors to The Times and Sunday Times last week, the News Corp. chief has flown to London to hold a summit meeting, The Guardian reports. The visit is expected to include “clear-the-air” talks with the Times Newspapers directors who were given oversight under the terms that allowed Murdoch to acquire the papers in 1981. Creating a potential standoff, the directors on Friday refused to accept News Corp.’s nominations of John Witherow and Martin Ivens for permanent appointments at The Times and Sunday Times, respectively. Witherow, who has been editor of the Sunday Times for 18 years, is replacing James Harding at the helm of The Times on an acting basis for now, but that’s understood to be a source of some consternation. Harding left the paper in December saying, “It has been made clear to me that News Corporation would like to appoint a new editor of The Times. I have, therefore, agreed to stand down.” Murdoch was seen in the newsroom at The Sun and The Times on Monday. In separate but related news, the Crown Prosecution Service said today it will charge defense editor of The Sun, Virginia Wheeler, with conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office as part of the ongoing Operation Elveden inquiry. Both former News International chief Rebekah Brooks …
China’s 2012 Box Office Up 30% To $2.74B
China’s State Administration of Radio, Film and Television has released updated box office figures for 2012 with sales hitting $2.74B for a 30.18% increase over last year. SARFT said the nation produced 893 total films last year including 745 features and 33 animated pictures, the Xinhua news agency reported. On its way to an estimated 16,000 screens by 2015, the country is adding 10.5 screens a day. As noted last week, however, those screens are increasingly drawing crowds for foreign films which have eaten into the local share. Imports took $1.4B in box office for 51.54% of the market in 2012. Still, homegrown hit Lost In Thailand recently became the highest-grossing Chinese film of all time with nearly $190M in less than a month of release.
Global Showbiz Briefs: Sony LondonTV Deal, Rebekah Brooks Severance, Jimmy Savile Crimes, Berlin Film Mart
Sony Backs UK Consortium Bidding For LondonTV License
A group known as the Channel 6 Consortium has announced that Sony Pictures Television Networks in the UK has agreed to support LondonTV, the Consortium’s proposed local channel. There are currently 6 groups bidding for the license that regulator Ofcom will grant by February 2013. Under the agreement, SPT Networks will be a program schedule provider and deliver creative services for LondonTV in the event of a successful bid. SPT Networks’ UK advertising partner would also handle all advertising sales for LondonTV. The consortium is backed by London newspaper groups Archant, Tindle and Trinity Mirror. LondonTV’s mission is to produce thousands of hours of high quality local news and current affairs programming on an annual basis. Sony’s involvement would add series and films. Chief exec of the Channel 6 Consortium, Richard Horwood, said Sony’s “expertise in the multichannel sector will significantly strengthen LondonTV from the outset.” SPT Networks already operates Sony Entertainment Television and Sony Movie Channel in the UK.
Rupert Murdoch and his son James Murdoch want an American class action lawsuit against them and News International over the UK phone hacking scandal dismissed. Not because they may have acted badly but, in a motion (read it here) filed late last week, because they believe they didn’t break the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. “Even if plaintiffs disagree about how the misconduct at News of the World was handled, their claims sound in mismanagement, which does not as a matter of law state a securities fraud claim,” the Murdoch’s motion says. “It is well-settled that a plaintiff cannot bootstrap mismanagement claims into a federal securities law action.”
In a suit filed on July 19, 2011, New Corp shareholder Lewis Wilder claimed that the Murdochs, as well as other New International executives like former CEO Rebekah Brooks, violated the 1934 Act by hiding the “existence and extent of illegal and unethical newsgathering practices” at the News Corp-owned company’s British tabloids. The dates in question that the securities fraud occurred were from February 15, 2011 to July 18, 2011. The Avon Pension Fund and the Iron Workers Local Union No. 17 Pension Fund later joined Wilder in the suit. The shareholders claim that revelations of the hacking scandal smacked …
Former News International CEO Rebekah Brooks wants her involvement in a U.S. class action suit over the phone hacking scandal dismissed. “The Complaint should be dismissed as to Brooks because Plaintiffs have failed to allege any facts to support a finding of personal jurisdiction over her,” says a motion (read it here) the ex-News Corp executive’s lawyers filed last week. Brooks, who was News International boss from September 2009 to July 15, 2011, is facing criminal charges in the UK in relation to the sprawling phone hacking scandal. A shareholder’s lawsuit launched Stateside on July 19, 2011 accuses Brooks, plus co-defendants Rupert Murdoch, James Murdoch and Les Hinton, as having violated the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. The Avon Pension Fund, Iron Workers Local Union No. 17 Pension Fund and Lewis Wilder’s class action claims that the executives concealed the “existence and extent of illegal and unethical newsgathering practices” at News International.
This week UK attention will turn back to the phone-hacking scandal as it morphs into a wider discussion about freedom of the press. On Thursday, Lord Justice Brian Leveson will unveil the long-awaited findings of his inquiry into UK media ethics and make his recommendations on how to regulate the industry. It’s expected the report will call for some form of statutory underpinning to press regulation. That has the British media girding for battle and crying foul against its rights. Independent editor Chris Blackhurst in August said Leveson was “loading a gun” against newspapers. Prime Minister David Cameron also has a challenge on his hands as he risks alienating his media allies and/or his own government based on his reaction to the findings. And, he’ll only have 24 hours to fashion a response after getting an early look at the report on Wednesday. Cameron’s press office on Sunday said the PM remained “open-minded.”
It was Cameron who convened the inquiry in July 2011 as the phone-hacking scandal blew wide open at Rupert Murdoch’s News Of The World tabloid. During its run, the probe heard evidence from more than 150 witnesses including Murdoch, Tony Blair, Hugh Grant, J.K. Rowling, the Dowler family and Cameron himself who in June faced uncomfortable questioning about his relationship to former Murdoch lieutenant Rebekah Brooks. He recently told the BBC’s Andrew Marr he would “absolutely” abide by Leveson’s suggestions on regulation as long as they were reasonable. “The status quo is not an option,” he said. Deputy PM Nick Clegg and Labour leader Ed Miliband are expected to back Leveson’s proposals, but some members of Cameron’s own Conservative party are leaning towards non-statutory regulation, including London mayor Boris Johnson. At the same time, there is a group of Conservative MPs who want radical reform, The Guardian has noted.
Should he support statutory regulation, Cameron will risk alienating members of the media who are already unhappy that a light has been shone so brightly on their underbelly by an inquiry that he ordered. In April, Rupert Murdoch told the Leveson Inquiry, “When it comes to regulation, I just beg for some care. A varied press guarantees democracy.” But some papers who have not been accused of wrongdoing are likely to be caught in the crossfire.
Rebekah Brooks And Andy Coulson Will Face Criminal Charges Over Alleged Payments To Public Officials
Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson are already facing criminal charges in relation to the phone-hacking scandal that has rocked News Corp.‘s UK press arm, News International. Today, Britain’s Crown Prosecution Service said it would also level criminal charges against former News International chief Brooks and former News Of The World editor Coulson in relation to Operation Elveden, the investigation into alleged corrupt payments by newspapers to police officers and other public officials. Former Rupert Murdoch lieutenant Brooks was editor of The Sun newspaper from 2003-2009 and later became head of News International. Prosecutors today said they had concluded that Brooks, along with ex-Sun reporter John Kay and Ministry of Defence employee Bettina Jordan Barber, “should be charged with a conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office between 1 January 2004 and 31 January 2012. This conspiracy relates to information allegedly provided by Bettina Jordan Barber for payment, which formed the basis of a series of news stories published by The Sun. It is alleged that approximately £100,000 was paid” to Barber between 2004 and 2011.”
‘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.
UPDATE, 11:25 AM: A few more odds and ends from the News Corp shareholders meeting that just concluded on the Fox lot: Lachlan Murdoch — Rupert Murdoch‘s son, and a board member — didn’t show….One shareholder asked Rupert whether he’d consider adding a liberal columnist to The Wall Street Journal’s op-ed page. “We don’t interfere” with the editorial side of the operation, he said. He added that the opinion editor is the same one who served before he bought the paper in 2007, “so there’s no change.”…Board member Andrew Knight answered a question about why directors subtracted company costs related to the hacking scandal for the profit figures they used to calculate executive bonuses. Had the costs been included, they could have reduced the bonuses by as much as 5%, he acknowledged….Questioned about his frequent and often controversial comments on Twitter, Murdoch delivered the response he frequently offers his critics. “When you buy the stock, you know what the company is,” he said. “If you don’t like it, don’t buy the stock.”…No questions about, or mention of, reports that James Murdoch might take control of Fox Broadcasting and several cable networks — or about the exit payment for indicted former News International chief Rebekah Brooks.
PREVIOUS, 10:44 AM: News Corp critics who want to dilute Rupert Murdoch’s power had their chance to speak during the company’s annual shareholders meeting on the Fox lot — after the CEO announced that their proposals had been voted down. Julie Tanner of Christian Brothers Investment Services said that it was a “conflict of interests” for Murdoch to serve both as CEO and board chairman. She called the reforms in News Corp’s ethics policies “timid” and warned that without structural changes scandals like the hacking and bribery ones in the UK “will cloud the company for the foreseeable future.” Murdoch barely paid attention to Tanner, but he locked eyes with Ian Greenwood of the UK Local Authorities Pension Fund when he advocated stripping Murdoch of the chairman role. “We want to thank you very much for making us a lot of money,” he said speaking to Murdoch directly, “but this won’t go away as an issue.” Greenwood added, “I’d urge you reconsider the issue .. give investors a timeline in the public arena.” Murdoch said that he and his family are aligned with other shareholders who want to “build a great company.”
The amount — equal to more than $11.2M using today’s exchange rate — includes cash and pension payments as well as an allowance for legal fees and a chauffeur-driven car, the Financial Times reports, citing “two people with knowledge of her compensation.” But the former News International chief, at the center of the company’s hacking and bribery scandals, shouldn’t spend it all: There are unspecified conditions under which the company can reclaim some funds — so-called clawback clauses that one person says are “substantial.” Rebekah Brooks joined News International in 1989. The UK government has charged her with three counts of alleged phone hacking, including a general charge that could affect as many as 600 victims including celebrities such as Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. She also faces three counts of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. Her trial is provisionally scheduled to begin September 9, 2013.
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.
David Cameron will become the first sitting UK Prime Minister to appear on The Late Show With David Letterman when he stops by for Wednesday’s show. In New York to give a keynote speech to the U.N. General Assembly, Cameron will use the slot to “bang the drum for British business” as he attempts to keep the country basking in the Olympics afterglow. The British press is having fun at the prospect with The Times calling it a “high-risk move” and The Guardian surmising it’s “brave, if slightly foolhardy” given Letterman’s ability to ask “awkward” questions. London Mayor Boris Johnson appeared on The Late Show in June and almost came up short when the host asked the famously disheveled politician how long he’d been cutting his own hair. A Downing Street aide told The Times that Cameron’s interview “will certainly have some light-hearted parts.” Perhaps not so light-hearted if Letterman queries the PM on his cozy relationship with some of the folks involved in the News Corp. phone-hacking scandal: Both his former communications director, Andy Coulson, and his neighbor, Rebekah Brooks, are set to appear in court Wednesday on charges related to the scandal.
UK Phone-Hacking Could Haunt Murdochs For Three More Years
Rupert Murdoch could be 84 years old before the British police complete multiple investigations into The News of the World phone-hacking scandal. Deputy assistant commissioner Sue Akers, who’s in charge of three overlapping probes into alleged criminal wrongdoing by journalists, said the task may continue through 2015, according to the Guardian. Akers, who is retiring in October, told a Commons home affairs select committee that “resources have been factored in for the next three years.” She said the force had identified more than 4,700 potential phone-hacking victims and found 1,069 were likely to have had their voicemail messages intercepted. So far 79 people have been arrested including former News International legal adviser Tom Crone, former chief executive Rebekah Brooks, her husband Charlie and Prime Minister David Cameron’s former spin doctor Andy Coulson. Akers said the Metropolitan Police and Crown Prosecution Service would consider the likelihood of further criminal prosecutions, adding, “We are now prioritising getting cases through court.” Scotland Yard still has 185 officers working on the investigations.
Network Ten Shares Slide To Record Low
Australia’s Network Ten board members Lachlan Murdoch (chairman), Gina Rinehart and Jack Cowin seem powerless to stop a steep slide in the company’s fortunes. The share price hit a record low of 37.5 cents today, down from 80 cents in March, and broker Commonwealth Bank Global Markets Research forecasts it will sink as as low as 30 cents. Ten’sratings have taken a hit from the failures of three Australian shows launched after the London Olympics, Everybody Dance Now, I Will Survive and Don’t Tell the Bride, which resulted in the exit of chief programmer David Mott. The only new show that has any traction is Puberty Blues, a drama inspired by Bruce Beresford’s 1981 feature. The ratings of Ten’s main channel have declined by 5% this year while Nine is up by 5.3% and Seven is off by 0.3%. The broker said Ten is “working hard to reposition itself and build out a new programming lineup, however we see continued ratings/revenue share risk given the large number of hours that need to be replaced and expect the TV ad market to remain challenging.” - Don Groves
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.
It’s expected to amount to the biggest single revelation of alleged phone-hacking victims. Prosecutors are preparing to announce the names of up to 600 people related to a criminal case against former News Of The World staffers. High-profile names already to surface include Jude Law, Sienna Miller, Sadie Frost, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. Within weeks, however, the public face of the list will grow, according to The Independent. Expected to come to light are the names of more actors along with pop stars and politicians, the newspaper reports. Police are said to be contacting hundreds of people to let them know.
Andy Coulson and six other former News Of The World journalists appeared in a London court this morning on phone hacking charges relating to their time at the now defunct paper. The group were given a preliminary hearing date of Sept 26. That’s the same day that former News International chief exec Rebekah Brooks is expected to have a plea hearing on charges of perverting the course of justice amid the investigation into phone hacking at the News Corp-controlled tabloid. Coulson – who was also the former press secretary to UK prime minister David Cameron – and the other journalists have each been charged with conspiring to intercept the voice mails of well-known people and/or those associated with them. Those well-known people include Jude Law, Sienna Miller, Sadie Frost, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. Earlier this month, Brooks, who has been arrested twice, was officially charged with phone hacking and will appear at Westminster Magistrates Court on that charge on Sept 3.
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.