In the wake of revelations of a secret recording of Rupert Murdoch addressing staff at his Sun tabloid, the UK’s Department of Culture, Media and Sport in July invited the mogul to discuss the matter at an official hearing. (The comments inlcuded Murdoch talking about his company’s handling of bribery and hacking charges at his UK newspapers.) Murdoch accepted the invitation, but no date was set at the time given the impending summer recess. Now it looks as though Murdoch’s appearance could be postponed by as much as a year. According to The Guardian, the hearing was shelved after the attorney general and Murdoch’s own lawyers intervened. With criminal trials about to begin in relation to the activities of News Corp’s UK press arm, News International (now News UK), there was a consideration on both sides that any testimony could prejudice those proceedings. Eight defendants go to trial on October 28, including former Murdoch lieutenant Rebekah Brooks. A further three trials are scheduled, with the last expected in June 2014. The Guardian says that Murdoch wrote to the committee this week saying lawyers advised him not to submit to questioning until all the criminal trials were finished. Committee chair John Whittingdale confirmed receipt of the letter and said, “At the same time, the committee received its own advice that there was a risk that any questions might prejudice the trials. …
News International, the British newspaper division of News Corp which was recently renamed News UK, is being actively investigated by Scotland Yard, say reports from Reuters and The Independent. The probe is said to be seeking possible criminal violations related to the phone-hacking scandal at the now defunct News Of The World as well as allegations of illegal payments to public officials by journalists. Since 2011, police attention has appeared focused on employees of the Rupert Murdoch-controlled businesses, but The Independent says investigators are treating News International as a “corporate suspect.” Reuters, quoting a source familiar with the matter, said detectives and prosecutors are also actively considering action against News Corp as a corporation. Were corporate action to be taken, Reuters opines, it would lead to more expense for News Corp as well as potentially further tarnishing its image. If company directors or executives were held accountable, it could impact News Corp’s ownership of BSkyB since broadcast license holders have to be deemed “fit and proper.” However, BSkyB no longer has ties to the press business, having become part of the entertainment company after News Corp split into two entities. According to the reports, News Corp’s Management and Standards Committee was informed more than a year ago that action was being considered. The reports say it was this revelation that led News Corp to scale back its cooperation with …
Just ahead of News Corp.‘s official split into two entities, its UK press arm, News International, is rebranding. The company that’s parent to The Sun, The Times and The Sunday Times, will henceforth be known as News UK. The new name and logo are “designed to convey a more coherent and logical identity for the new parent company across the globe,” News UK said. News International spiralled into controversy when the phone hacking scandal broke open in July 2011; the company has since shuttered tabloid News Of The World. Mike Darcey, CEO of News UK, said the company was beginning “a bright new chapter.” Referring to the scandals, Darcey said the rebrand “follows the fundamental changes of governance and personnel that have taken place to address the problems of the recent past. News International apologized to its victims and set up a compensation scheme; closed the News Of The World and co-operated with all the relevant authorities. New policies and procedures are in place across the company, its main titles are all under new leadership and the executive team has been transformed.”
Joe Utichi contributes to Deadline’s UK coverage.
A swathe of high-profile names are getting big paychecks from Rupert Murdoch’s News International this week as the company tries to consign the News Of The World phone-hacking scandal to the past. Doctor Who star Christopher Ecclestone and actor-turned-press ethics campaigner Hugh Grant will both receive “substantial damages”. There are more payouts, along with public apologies, for Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, and celebrity magician Uri Geller, bringing the total number of settlements to 143. But with police still in the process of notifying victims, new cases continue to be brought forward. American Idol producer Nigel Lythgoe and former Crystal Palace Football Club owner Simon Jordan are among those filing new claims. A lawyer working on behalf of victims said the settlements reflected an urge by News Corp‘s UK publishing arm to persuade victims to drop lawsuits ahead of a case management hearing held today, according to the Guardian.
Endemol Taps Former FremantleMedia Exec To Oversee Asian Operation
In the latest in a string of executive appointments, Big Brother producer Endemol has named Fotini Paraskakis managing director of its Asian operations to oversee creative, production and format sales activities across the region. The exec joins from FremantleMedia Asia where she was director of content for all of the company’s formats in the region including Idols, Got Talent and X Factor. As Endemol looks to expand in Asia, its recent projects there include a first series of Fear Factor and a second season of The Money Drop for Astro in Malaysia; a third season of Your Face Sounds Familiar on Hunan Satellite TV in China and the return of Deal Or No Deal and the launch of The Money Drop in the Philippines.
Rupert Murdoch was in London last week, crowing about scoring rights to online clips of Premier League soccer matches and reportedly visiting his UK newspapers. He also held a private dinner that’s becoming a hot potato in the local media. London Mayor Boris Johnson, a rival to Prime Minister David Cameron for leadership of the Conservative Party, is widely believed to have attended along with Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, whose office confirmed his presence to The Guardian. (Also reportedly there was Homeland star Damian Lewis, whose show is produced by News Corp.-owned Fox21, and who’s a graduate of Eton, as is Johnson.) While private meetings between politicians and media owners don’t run afoul of parliamentary or party rules, this particular dinner has raised eyebrows in light of last year’s Leveson Inquiry into UK media ethics where an overriding theme was the cozy relationship enjoyed by newspaper proprietors and the highest levels of government.
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 …
ITV’s ‘Come Dine With Me’ Format In 36 Territories
ITV Studios Global Entertainment has signed multiple deals for its hit format Come Dine With Me including Asia’s first local version of the format to air on Indian broadcaster Star India. The network has commissioned 40 30-minute episodes. The Star India deal brings the total number of international territories producing the show to 36. Additionally, ITV Studios Nordic has been recommissioned to produce a 10th series of 60 episodes by Sweden’s TV4 and a second series of 40 episodes by Nelonen in Finland. Meanwhile, ITV Studios Australia has been recommissioned to produce a fourth (6 x 60’) series for Foxtel’s Lifestyle Channel to air in 2013. The format has also recently re-launched in Turkey on Fox TV and Belgium on Vier 4.
The actor was one of the most high-profile victims of the scandal that ended in the shuttering of the News Corp-owned UK tabloid News Of The World. Hugh Grant‘s settlement for damages with Rupert Murdoch’s British publishing arm News International was for a “substantial sum”, his lawyer said today, and will be donated to Grant’s Hacked Off campaign, which is advocating for responsible press. Grant had filed his complaint in September. Earlier this month, News International settled 22 other cases related to the scandal, which led into a UK government inquiry into press ethics and several ongoing probes into corruption and bribery. Grant also testified before the Leveson Inquiry, which after a 16-month investigation called for an independent regulator to oversee the British press, an order UK publishers are now trying to figure out how to implement.
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 …
News Corp announced tonight that Tom Mockridge, who has served as CEO of News International since July 2011, will leave the company at the end of the year. Wall Street Journal Managing Editor Robert Thomson is in line to head the News Corp publishing unit when it is spun off from the company’s entertainment operations, so Mockridge’s decision is not surprising. Thompson’s appointment as CEO of the new division is expected to be announced this week along with promotion of his Journal deputy Gerard Baker to managing editor as his replacement. News Corp Chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch praised Mockridge as “a skilled executive and a trusted friend. His decision to step down is absolutely and entirely his own. I am sorry to see him leave us but I know he will be a great success wherever he goes.”
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.
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.
Global Showbiz Briefs: News Intl Fights Pricey Doc Disclosures, Nine Financial Woes, Honor For ‘Rise Of The Guardians’
News International Fights Expensive Document Disclosures In Phone-Hacking Case
News International has argued against pricey document disclosures relating to civil damages in the ongoing phone hacking case, warning that the cost to the company might reach $12.1M. The branch of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. has already spent $1.6M on disclosure searches of documents and emails pertaining to litigation, with consultants PricewaterhouseCoopers spending a further $5.6M. News International counsel Dinah Rose QC argued at a high court civil case management hearing that the disclosures served the interest of prosecuting legal teams and not their clients. They are claiming for compensation related to News International’s four-year denial of phone hacking, when no claimant has pleaded this. “That’s the source of this problem,” Rose said. “We have here a superstructure created not because of the claims of a particular claimant, but [because of] the interests of a legal team.” Meanwhile, the Metropolitan police investigation into phone hacking continues, with a senior counter-terrorism detective charged Monday with breaching the Official Secrets Act. Detective chief inspector April Casburn is charged with feeding information pertaining to the Met’s inquiry into phone hacking to staff at the News Of The World. Police have also made two more arrests in the computer hacking investigation. One is believed to be a former News Of The World journalist and the other a private investigator. – Joe Utichi
News Corp. director Andrew Knight has been named chairman of Times Newspapers Holdings Ltd, the UK subsidiary that publishes The Times and The Sunday Times. Rupert Murdoch is stepping down as chairman of Times Newspapers as part of the proposed split of News Corp. into two distinct companies. Knight, who was once chairman of News Corp.’s UK press subsidiary, News International, has sat on the News Corp. board since 1991. He was also chairman of the Compensation Committee and a member of the Audit Committee of the board. He’ll officially resign from the board at the company’s annual meeting on Oct. 16. Murdoch said of Knight: “His experience and insight as a journalist and as an executive will be a huge asset to The Times and The Sunday Times as they face the challenges and seize the opportunities of the future.” Apart from running News International from 1990-1994, Knight’s journalism credits include serving as CEO and editor-in-chief of the Daily Telegraph and as editor of The Economist.
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.
The News International British publishing subsidiary acknowledged today that the company is aware that London police are considering whether to file charges against its board over phone hacking at the shuttered News of the World tabloid, Bloomberg reported. Prosecutors are advising the Metropolitan Police Service on possible corporate offenses. News International said deputy assistant police commissioner Sue Akers, who is leading the probe, had referred to possible corporate offenses but also “that she agreed that the current senior management and corporate approach at News International has been to assist and come clean,” News International said in a statement. Some 60 people have been arrested so far including former News International CEO Rebekah Brooks and News of the World editor Andy Coulson, who later served as an adviser to U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron. Even if company officers could face criminal charges, prosecutors would have to prove that anyone charged was aware of wrongdoing.
News International sent out an email today informing staffers that Rupert Murdoch last week resigned as director of News International and a string of other companies connected with the company’s London-based newspaper holdings. The email said Murdoch’s resignation is “part of the preparation of the business for the upcoming restructure into two companies.” Filings show Murdoch stepped down as the head of News International, Times Newspaper Holdings, and News Corp Investments last week. Newscorp has stated the resignations are “nothing more than a corporate housecleaning” before the company splits into separate publishing and entertainment businesses. Murdoch had previously stated he intends to remain as chairman of both companies. In February, son James Murdoch relinquished his position as executive chairman of News International. Analysts think both Murdochs want to abandon their role in UK publishing because of the phone-hacking scandal and probes.
Just now the Wall Street Journal, which Murdoch owns, reported:
News Corp. Chairman and Chief Executive Rupert Murdoch has quit the boards of several company subsidiaries as part of preparations for the coming split of the media giant into two companies, News Corp said. The boards include that of News International, the holding company of News Corp’s UK newspapers, said a person familiar with the situation. Other boards are in the United States, Australia and India.
“Last week, Mr. Murdoch stepped down from a number of boards, many of them small
It’s a busy day in London as former News International CEO Rebekah Brooks appeared in court for the first time and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg is giving evidence to the Leveson Inquiry — the hearings hatched in response to the phone-hacking scandal at News Corp’s News International. Clegg is also testifying as Parliament is due to vote on whether Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt should face an independent investigation over his handling of News Corp’s bid for BSkyB.
Government sources have told UK media that Clegg, who is the Liberal Democrat leader, has instructed his MPs to abstain from the vote. The move drives a wedge into Britain’s Coalition government. Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron has refused to open an investigation into Hunt’s conduct while Clegg has pressed for a formal probe since Hunt’s close ties to James Murdoch’s office during the bid process were unveiled at Leveson. The current conflict is potentially damaging to the PM. Cameron has been led to deny any “grand deal” between himself and the Murdochs over the BSkyB bid in exchange for their support of the Conservative Party; his stance on Hunt has angered Clegg and his decision not to delve deeper into the Hunt issue has led to some scrutiny. Cameron himself appears at Leveson for a full day tomorrow.