UPDATES WITH NEW INFORMATION: A 130-day trial highlighted by testimony as lurid as the tabloid headlines at its center ended today with a split decision for two of media mogul Rupert Murdoch‘s most trusted consiglieres. Rebekah Brooks, the flame-haired former head of Murdoch’s U.K. print operations, was found not guilty on five charges related to the notorious telephone-hacking scandal that resulted in the 2011 shuttering of the News Of The World scandal sheet. The official jury findings were not guilty on one count of conspiracy to hack voicemails, two counts of conspiracy to pay public officials and two counts of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice
Brooks’ successor, bespectacled tabloid editor Andy Coulson, the former communications chief to Prime Minister David Cameron, may face prison time, having been found guilty of conspiring to hack phones while he ran the News Of The World. The jury is still considering charges of misconduct in public office against Coulson and former News of the World royals editor Clive Goodman.
Coulson, a former lover of Brooks’s, was the only one among seven on trial found guilty of conspiracy to intercept mobile phone calls and messages. The Cameron connection will undoubtedly exacerbate reaction to the decision, as the verdicts reverberate through UK and U.S. political and media centers.
News UK, formerly known as News International and part of Murdoch’s News Corp, said in a statement: “We said … Read More »
Hacking Trial Lawyer: Brooks And Coulson Had 6-Year Affair
The phone-hacking trial taking place in London was the source of new revelations Thursday as prosecuting attorney Andrew Edis told jurors that defendants Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson carried on a six-year “secret” affair from 1998-2004. Brooks is the former head of News International (now News UK), the British press arm of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, and Coulson was editor of the now-closed News Of The World before leaving to join Prime Minister David Cameron’s team as his communications director. As part of his opening remarks, Edis stressed that he was not bringing up the relationship between Brooks and Coulson, which the prosecution said was evident from a letter to Coulson that was found on one of Brooks’ computers, to intrude on their privacy or pass judgment. “The point that I’m going to make in relation to that letter is that over the relevant period, what Mr Coulson knew, Mrs Brooks knew too. And what Mrs Brooks knew, Mr Coulson knew too — that’s the point.” He told the court the affair spanned the period covered by the phone-hacking conspiracy charges the pair is facing, according to The Times. “Mrs Brooks and Mr Coulson are charged with conspiracy,” Edis said, “and, when people are charged with conspiracy, the first question a jury has to answer is how well did they know each other? How much did they trust each other?” At the time of the letter in 2004, Brooks was editor of The Sun and Coulson was at NOTW. Read More »
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.” Read More »
‘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. Read More »
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.
Google Wins Copyright Fight Vs. France’s TF1
Google won a round this week when a French court dismissed claims from French television channel TF1 that Google should be liable for TF1 programs that appeared on Google’s YouTube video website. The court ruled that YouTube is a “hosting” service and thus isn’t responsible for filtering videos its users upload for copyright infringement — as long as the website has a system for removing content upon notification by owners. TF1 sought $187.5 million in damages but the court instead ordered TF1 to pay Google $99,000 in legal fees. TF1 is considering whether to appeal.
Universal Intl. Buys ‘Foosball 3D’ for Spain, Latin America
Universal Pictures International has acquired distribution rights in the territories of Latin America and Spain for Oscar-winning Secrets In Their Eyes director Juan Jose Campanella’s new film, Foosball 3D (Metegol/ Futbolin). Animated family movie is about a boy whose table football players come to life and help him defeat a rival and win back his childhood sweetheart. Animation is being supervised by Sergio Pablos (Despicable Me, Rio) and the film is produced by Jorge Estrada Mora’s Jempsa in Argentina, and by Plural-Jempsa and Antena 3 Films in Spain. Foosball 3D is currently in post and will be released next year. Read More »
Scottish police have arrested and charged Andy Coulson, the former communications chief of British Prime Minister David Cameron and former editor of News Corp.’s News of the World tabloid, of committing perjury before the High Court in Glasgow, the Wall Street Journal reports. Coulson was taken to Scotland for questioning about his testimony at the perjury trial of former Scottish politician Tommy Sheridan in 2010. On the witness stand in that case, Coulson denied there was a culture of phone hacking at News of the World during his tenure. The paper alleged Sheridan had visited a swingers’ club. Sheridan was convicted of perjury and recently got out of prison.
Former News Of The World editor Andy Coulson today said he did not believe in a “grand conspiracy” between News Corp‘s UK press arm, News International, and the UK’s Conservative Party. Coulson, who left the tabloid in 2007 and ultimately became Prime Minister David Cameron’s communications chief, was giving evidence before the Leveson Inquiry into UK media ethics. He also dismissed rumors that he had kept a detailed diary during his stint working for Cameron. But, it was revealed that he may have had access to government secrets that his security clearance did not cover. It’s also understood that the Conservatives did only perfunctory background checks on Coulson before he was hired. Those revelations come as the inquiry has recently begun to emphasize its focus on the relationship between Rupert Murdoch‘s camp and UK politicians. But rather than further tarnish the Murdoch name in Britain, the inquiry has lately had the effect of shifting attention from the Murdochs to Downing Street. The issue heated up with last month’s revelations of communications between Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s office and that of James Murdoch during the BSkyB bid process that News Corp eventually aborted. Cameron since has been under pressure to launch an inquiry into Hunt’s ministerial conduct, something he has been reluctant to do.
Related: UK Prime Minister David Cameron Denies “Grand Deal” With Murdochs On BSkyB
Coulson told the inquiry today that he didn’t think he was “pushed … Read More »
UPDATE: Paul McCartney’s ex-wife Heather Mills has declared she is being made a “scapegoat” by Piers Morgan. Mills’ name popped up repeatedly at a Tuesday session of the Leveson Inquiry into UK press ethics during which Morgan was grilled about a message left by McCartney on Mills’ voice mail which he previously said had been played for him. The erstwhile News Of The World and Daily Mirror editor refused to reveal who played the message, but it was suggested it was Mills or someone authorized by her. In a statement posted to her website, Mills writes in part: “For the avoidance of doubt, I can categorically state that I have never ever played Piers Morgan a tape of any kind, never mind a voice message from my ex-husband. Piers Morgan is doing all he can to deter the Leveson inquiry from finishing their important job. Morgan is using me as his scapegoat and I would be more than happy to answer any questions that the inquiry would like to put to me.” Lord Justice Leveson on Tuesday said he was considering calling Mills.
PREVIOUS: London police arrested a female officer on suspicion of corruption in connection with a multipronged investigation into activity connected to phone hacking at the shuttered News of the World. Additionally, former News of the World editor Andy Coulson lost a bid to force publisher News Group to pay … Read More »
In some of the most startling testimony yet in the British government’s investigation into press ethics and phone hacking, former News of the World deputy features editor Paul McMullan declared Tuesday that departed editor Andy Coulson and Rebekah Brooks were well aware of and actively encouraged illegal voicemail interception. To a direct question of whether Coulson and Brooks knew phone voicemails were being intercepted, McMullan replied, “Yes.” Coulson and Brooks have repeatedly declared either their ignorance or denied that the activity was taking place. Defending the practice, McMullan said ”I don’t think anyone realized that anyone was committing a crime at the start” and asserted that “Phone hacking is a perfectly acceptable tool given the sacrifices we make, if all we are trying to do is get to the truth.” Read More »
UPDATE, 8:10 PM:
Scotland Yard has blocked the release of the names of several News of the World journalists who ordered a private detective to hack into mobile phones belonging to six public figures. The agency declined comment today but has in the past prevented the release of facts surrounding the case on the grounds its investigation would be compromised. The names could show how widespread the practice was at the paper, which was closed down by Rupert Murdoch last month.
PREVIOUS, 3:54 PM: While Rupert Murdoch and his son James await a likely summons to the UK High Court to answer more questions under oath about News Corp’s involvement in the News of the World phone-hacking scandal, there is a report today that lawyers for News Corp arm News International are looking into reporting practices, financial records and emails at their UK newspapers — specifically to see whether there’s anything there that could be construed as violations of the U.S.’ Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
Meanwhile, the inquiry at the Royal Courts of Justice that would include questions to Rupert and James Murdoch could get underway by October. Prime Minister David Cameron and other politicians also could be called. A UK Telegraph report said letter already have been sent to potential witnesses, who also could include former News International CEO Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson, both former NOTW editors. Read More »
London’s Metropolitan Police have made their 12th arrest in the ongoing News of the World phone-hacking scandal. He is understood to be Greg Miskiw, 61, a former assistant editor on the tabloid, which closed last month. Miskiw walked in to a London police station this afternoon to be arrested by appointment. He has said he has been cooperating with police for some time. Police are investigating claims that some reporters for the Murdoch tabloid hacked into the messages of celebrities and others between 2005 and 2006. Miskiw worked as news editor for ex-editors Andy Coulson and Rebekah Brooks, who have both also been arrested as part of Operation Weeting, the Met Police’s hacking investigation. Since leaving News International in 2005, Miskiw moved to Florida. where he has worked for supermarket tabloids National Enquirer and The Globe. He once said of tabloid journalism, “This is what we do. We go out and destroy other people’s lives.”
James Murdoch could lose his job as News Corp’s deputy COO or BSkyB’s chairman as soon as this fall. That’s the informed prediction of The Guardian’s Nick Davies in an exclusive interview with me. The journalism muckraker says there’s “every chance” that the Parliamentary committee investigating the News of the World phone-hacking and police-bribery scandal will conclude that James misled them about a key question in the case: Did James pay $1.4M in hush money in 2008 to a hacking victim who could have disclosed that NOTW‘s violations were more extensive than the company publicly admitted? James says he didn’t. But three former News International executives dispute his testimony. If Parliament decides James is wrong, then “that’s a severe development,” says Davies. His predictions matter. Because Davies is the reporter who broke open the Murdoch scandal and has led the coverage at every turn. He’s also writing a book about the case, due in late 2012, called Hack Attack: How the Truth Caught up with the World’s Most Powerful Man. On a visit to the U.S. this week looking for new dimensions to the story, he spoke to me about where things stand — and where the tale could lead.
DEADLINE: How high do you think the scandal will go?
DAVIES: In terms of criminal charges at the moment there’s no reason to think it will go higher. You’ve got to the level of Rebekah Brooks, the former chief executive of News International — and it’s in relation to her function as an editor [of News Of The World]. You’ve got Andy Coulson, a former (NOTW) editor and Prime Ministerial right-hand man. So at the moment that’s as high as the criminal stuff goes. Ethical questions go higher. Clearly James Murdoch is in a tight corner because there’s every chance that the select committee is going to produce a report during September or October which will say that he has misled them. First of all, in reputational terms, that’s a severe development if the committee says you’ve misled Parliament. That matters in British politics. The second thing is in the detail: What they would be saying is that back in May 2008 he was shown evidence of criminal activity by reporters at News Of The World and he didn’t do anything about it. Investors have lost a small fortune as the shares have died. I think those shareholders may react to that committee report and say, ‘Well, you’ve got to go’.
DEADLINE: Do we basically know the contours of the story? Is it just a matter now of filling in the blanks — or could this grow much bigger?
DAVIES: In theory the story could break out in lots of different directions. There are other private investigators, we could find out about them. There are other newspapers in Britain that are hiring private investigators to do the same illegal things. We could bring in the other papers. There are other illegal techniques: It’s mostly focused on hacking voicemail and getting access to confidential databases. But there has been a lot of e-mail hacking, getting inside of computers, and there has been some burglary. There has also, to a smaller extent, been live tapping of phone calls. Then you might overflow into other countries. It is interesting to ask whether anything similar has been happening in the United States or Australia. At the moment I wouldn’t claim to know the answer to those questions. That’s what I’m looking for.
DEADLINE: Have you heard anything to suggest that any of Rupert Murdoch’s U.S.-based news organizations – the New York Post or Fox News – might be pulled into the story? Read More »
A former News Of The World show business reporter who said that Andy Coulson personally encouraged phone hacking when he was editor was found dead at home the Guardian reports. The paper says that police are treating the death of Sean Hoare as “unexplained” but “not suspicious,” suggesting that it may have been a suicide. Hoare made his charges against Coulson, who went on to become Prime Minister David Cameron’s spokesman, to The New York Times last year for a magazine story about the phone hacking at Rupert Murdoch’s UK newspaper. He was quoted as saying that Coulson “actively encouraged me” to hack into other people’s cell phone messages. At the time, Coulson responded that he ”never condoned the use of phone hacking and nor do I have any recollection of incidences where phone hacking took place.” NOTW Managing Editor Bill Akass told The Times “we reject absolutely” that the paper’s higher-ups approved hacking and accused the paper of running a story based on “unsubstantiated claims” – in part to run down a competitor.
But last week Hoare told The Times that “the chain of command is one of absolute discipline and that’s why I never bought into it, like with Andy saying he wasn’t aware of it and all that. That’s bollocks.” He added: “There’s more to come. This is not going to go away…what you’ll find now is a lot of people are going to want to cover their arse.”
Andy Coulson, UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s communications director, was interviewed Friday by Metropolitan Police over the growing British tabloid phone-hacking scandal. Three years ago, Coulson stepped down as editor of the weekly Sunday tabloid News of the World, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, after one of the paper’s reporters was convicted of illegally accessing voicemail messages left for staff members of the royal household, including some from Prince William and Prince Harry. Coulson has always denied any knowledge of allegations his reporters listened in to private conversations of royals, politicians, and stars. However, journalists who used to work for him say he knew full well what they were doing. Having this ex-Murdoch executive who’s bound so closely to Cameron’s inner circle interviewed by police will be embarrassing for the new British Prime Minister whose spinmeister has now become the story. Earlier this week former Columbia Studios boss and now House Of Lords parliamentary member rew attention to the close links between Cameron and Murdoch, pointing out that Rupert slipped in the back door of 10 Downing Street while BBC Director General Mark Thompson like most visitors used the front door. The British Left argues there’s a cabal between the Conservatives and Murdoch, whose News Corp’s bid to buy 100% of pay TV operator BSkyB is payback for supporting Cameron in the general election. Others point out that ex-Prime Minister Tony Blair was just as keen to … Read More »
The actor, who’s starred in several recent Fox releases including Marmaduke and Percy Jackson, is one of several celebrities whose mobile phone was allegedly hacked by Glenn Mulcaire, a private investigator hired by Murdoch tabloid News of the World. Coogan has instructed London lawyers Schillings to complain to the Murdoch publishing empire, and Schillings has written to News International threatening to sue. Coogan could argue that his privacy has been invaded and data protection laws breached. It will now be up to the newspaper giant as to whether it chooses to settle or defies Coogan in court. News Corp has already paid out more than $1.6 million settling similar legal cases, Read More »
Tom Watson, a Labour member of Parliament, says Murdoch must explain to the UK House of Commons about journalists illegally hacking into people’s phones. The Commons has approved an inquiry into phone hacking, to investigate whether MPs have been targeted by newspapers – in particular the Murdoch-owned News of the World, a weekly tabloid owned by his company. MPs have moved the matter to the Standards and Privileges Committee, due to meet on Tuesday. The British media has been boiling for the past few days over the phone hacking story. Two News of the World reporters were sent to jail for illegally listening to mobile phone calls. But its former editor Andy Coulson – now Prime Minister David Cameron’s communications head – denied knowing anything about it when he was at News Corp. An editor not knowing what his reporters were up to raised a lot of eyebrows here. The Labour Opposition is piling on the pressure, hoping to force Coulson out and inflict damage on the government.
Now Watson says Rupert Murdoch should be asked to explain the actions of reporters and editors at the News of the World. Watson said: “I doubt that Rupert Murdoch knows about these indiscretions, but he is responsible for appointing people to positions of great power who should, and for that reason he too should explain his actions to the committee.” Normally these Parliamentary committees are … Read More »