The News Corp boss will stay in London to oversee the launch of a Sunday edition of The Sun next week. That’s the replacement for the corporation’s previous Sunday tabloid, News Of The World, which was shuttered in July after it became the focal point of what is now a wide-ranging phone-hacking scandal. In an email to Sun staff Sunday, Tom Mockridge, the CEO of News Corp’s UK newspaper division News International, said “every one of us will seize the opportunity to pull together and deliver a great new dawn” for the newspaper. The news comes after Murdoch flew to London on Friday to meet with Sun employees and play peacemaker after eight journalists were arrested for allegedly bribing police officials. Sun staffers were prepared to revolt after learning that News Corp had provided police with evidence that led to the arrests. Murdoch lifted the suspensions of the journalists, said News Corp would cover their legal expenses and announced the launch “soon” of a Sunday edition. Said Mockridge in today’s email: ”The commitment of News Corporation to invest in a new edition is the strongest possible message of support we could wish for.”
The News Corp chief sought to reassure journalists at The Sun today by announcing his plan to launch a Sunday edition of the UK tabloid — and by offering to help the staffers who were arrested last weekend for allegedly paying cops for tips and information. “We are doing everything we can to assist those who were arrested — all suspensions are hereby lifted until or whether charged and they are welcome to return to work,” he said in a letter to employees. “News Corporation will cover their legal expenses. Everyone is innocent unless proven otherwise.” He added, though, that the company also will cooperate with a police investigation into the scandal and “will turn over every piece of evidence we find — not just because we are obligated to but because it is the right thing to do.” Sun staffers were prepared to revolt after learning that News Corp had provided police with evidence that led to the arrests. 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.” Here’s Murdoch’s letter:
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.”
Freelancer Cari Lynn is contributing to Deadline’s coverage.
Add the News Corp COO to the list of Big Media execs who believe that they were simply misunderstood in the debate that led Congress to put aside the Hollywood supported anti-piracy bills. “Clearly this got turned upside down, the whole issue,” he said at a conference sponsored by All Things D. Despite the claims of opponents, including those in the tech industry, the proposals empowering the government to block overseas Web pirates “isn’t about censorship…If they did it in the U.S., they’d be shut down. So they moved it offshore. You should still be able to shut them down.” He seemed to take a subtle dig at the MPAA for not making the industry’s case more effectively as opponents turned the issue into a populist crusade. ”If you look at what went on, you’d say that was not a process to replicate,” Carey says. The creative community didn’t ”anticipate the viral aspect and message getting twisted.”
Four current and former staff members of the popular British tabloid The Sun and a policeman were arrested today as part of the continuing investigation into corruption that arose out of phone hacking at News Corp’s shuttered News Of The World, Reuters reported. The five arrests involved suspected payments by journalists to police officers for information. Police also searched London offices of Sun publisher News International, the British arm of News Corp, whose Management and Standards Committee said today’s operation was the result of information it had passed to police. Said a Sun reporter, who asked not to be identified: “Everyone is a bit shocked, there is disbelief really. But there is a big difference between phone hacking and payments to the police.” Today’s operation raises to 13 the number of arrests in the police bribery probe, which is separate from the phone-hacking inquiry that has resulted in three criminal investigations.
British police have made what could turn out to be a high-profile arrest in conjunction with the phone-hacking scandal at News Corp’s former tabloid News Of The World. Metropolitan Police officers took a 41-year-old man into custody this morning in London who is believed to be private eye Glenn Mulcaire, a prominent figure in the ongoing investigation. Police said in a statement to the press that the man had been arrested “on suspicion of conspiring to intercept voicemail messages … and on suspicion of perverting the course of justice.” This is one of few of the 18 arrests in the case to include the latter charge. When contacted by Deadline, the Met said it could neither confirm nor deny the identity of the man and wouldn’t release a name until formal charges had been made. However, The Telegraph reports that neighbors of Mulcaire’s say they heard “something going on” at his house this morning.
Despite growing opposition from shareholders of British broadcaster BSkyB, as expected, James Murdoch has been re-elected as chairman at the company’s annual meeting. According to the AP, 81.24% of shareholder votes were in favor of retaining Murdoch, with 18.76% going against. Speaking of Murdoch, deputy chairman Nicholas Ferguson told the attendees: “He runs an excellent board. Discussions are open and frank, his chairing is very good. He has put in place strong governance procedures. He has a strong strategic view.” Shareholders had asked for Murdoch’s resignation because of the phone-hacking scandal at News Corp’s UK newspaper publishing division News International, of which Murdoch is also chairman. News Corp owns 39% of BSkyB. The conglomerate was on path to acquiring the remaining 61% earlier this year but had to abandon the attempt in light of the hacking controversy. “The vote is as expected but that doesn’t mean it will not have an impact,” Sanford Bernstein analyst Claudio Aspesi told Reuters today. “Murdoch will have to work hard to get his image back with the institutional investment community to where it was before the scandal broke.” Murdoch also recently survived a vote by News Corp shareholders, many of whom wanted to remove him from the board of directors. He was ultimately re-elected with 65%.
UK Media Ethics Inquiry Hears Celeb Horror Stories: JK Rowling & Sienna Miller Testify; CNN’s Piers Morgan To Be Questioned
Horror stories of car chases, intense paranoia, spitting paparazzi, and most of all an ineffective regulatory system peppered today’s inquiry into News Corp’s News Of The World phone hacking scandal by a British government-backed inquiry into UK press ethics and practices. Notably appearing in London Thursday were actress Sienna Miller and Harry Potter author JK Rowling. Also giving evidence was media lawyer Mark Thompson whose client Hugh Grant gave evidence at the inquiry earlier this week. Thompson accused the UK’s Press Complaints Commission, which is the body that deals with complaints about the editorial content of newspapers and magazines, of being ineffective. “Some of the worst offenders are photographic agencies and paparazzi and the PCC can’t control them,” he said. Also on Thursday, the Leveson Inquiry announced that it would call former British newspaper editor Piers Morgan as a witness to talk about UK media methods. Morgan, who now hosts CNN’s Piers Morgan Tonight, said he would appear soon. Hearings will resume Monday with testimony from singer Charlotte Church among others.
BSkyB Board Backs James Murdoch Following Testimony MPs Appear To Accept As Spectacularly Ill-Informed
James Murdoch can breathe a little easier, if Parliament’s conclusion about his and former employees’ roles in phone-hacking plays out the way the Guardian predicted Friday. While Murdoch’s MP inquisitors seem inclined to believe the News International chairman’s assertions that he was never informed of the full extent of what had been taking place at News of the World, the paper’s former lawyer Tom Crone and former Editor Colin Myler aren’t likely to get off as easily. Both Crone and Myler are expected to be censured by the House of Commons culture, media and sport select committee for failure to disclose all the evidence they were aware of at previous hearings. Murdoch has consistently maintained that Crone, Myler and Les Hinton, among others, never apprised him of the full extent of phone-hacking, for which MPs will at worst characterize the News Corp deputy COO as spectacularly ill-informed.
Following Murdoch’s emergence from Thursday’s second Parliamentary grilling relatively unscathed, the board of British Sky Broadcasting on Friday expressed confidence in his continued performance as chairman of the satellite broadcaster. “We agreed that James Murdoch has done a first class job,” Nicholas Ferguson, BSkyB’s senior independent director, said in a letter to investors asserting that Murdoch’s handling of the scandal had “no effect on sales, customers or suppliers over the last five months.” A group of British pension funds who hold about 1% of …
Here is more fodder for the UK parliamentary committee that is scheduled to hear testimony from News Corp deputy COO James Murdoch on Thursday: It looks like the conglomerate’s now-defunct News of the World hired an investigator to tail a pair of lawyers that were representing victims of the UK tabloid’s phone-hacking scandal. The BBC reported that the surveillance of Mark Lewis and Charlotte Harris took place during the 18 months that James was executive chairman of News International, the UK newspaper arm of News Corp and the parent company of NOTW. The practice included having Derek Webb, a former police officer who ran a private-eye agency, follow and film Lewis’ family — including his teenage daughter — in an effort to dig up dirt on the lawyer and stop him from taking more cases as the scandal grew (Lewis represented the family of Milly Dowler, the murdered schoolgirl whose voicemails were hacked into by NOTW, a revelation that most directly led to the tabloid’s demise). Said News International in a statement: “While surveillance is not illegal, it was clearly deeply inappropriate in these circumstances. This action was not condoned by any current executive at the company.” The BBC said Webb is speaking out about the practice because News International has not paid him for his services; he had been working for the tabloid for eight years.
Rupert Murdoch’s not-quite-so-apparent-heir James will face even tougher questioning Thursday when he returns to Parliament for more testimony about the phone-hacking scandal that has shaken the News Corp empire. In the latest of a string of disclosures since the UK’s culture media and sport select committee last interviewed Murdoch, The Guardian revealed over the weekend that News International’s disgraced former CEO Rebekah Brooks received $2.7 million, use of a London office and chauffered limousine for two years as part of her severance package when she was fired in the wake of the scandal. ”It is remarkably curious that such a generous package is given to Ms. Brooks when others have been cut loose,” said Tom Watson, the member of parliament who has taken the lead in efforts to expose the scandal surrounding News Of The World. “It is almost as if she hasn’t really left the company. I am sure Mr. Murdoch will want to explain the decision to his shareholders.” Scotland Yard on Friday arrested a journalist from News International paper The Sun as part of a related investigation into News Corp employees bribing police and other government officials. Brooks was editor between 2003 and 2009 before being elevated to chief executive of News International.
Hacking Update: News Corp’s UK Arm Offers Compensation Plan As Number Of Victims Rises; Arrest At Murdoch-Owned Sun
News Corp’s UK newspaper arm News International, the company that controlled the now-shuttered tabloid News Of The World, has set up a website for victims of the paper’s admitted phone-hacking scandal to seek compensation rather than go to trial. The company has appointed former UK High Court judge and arbitration expert Charles Gray “to act as an independent adjudicator to assess applications for compensation under the scheme.” The site could be busy fast: it launched the same day that London police revealed that they have ID’d 5,795 people in the notebooks of private eye Glenn Mulcaire, who was contracted by NOTW to hack into phones before his eventual arrest in 2006. The Metropolitan Police told the Financial Times that the number of hacking victims could be 50% higher than originally thought and more names could be uncovered. Meanwhile, the UK hacking probe spread from NOTW to the News Corp-owned tabloid The Sun on Friday, when Scotland Yard arrested a Sun journalist as part of a related investigation into News Corp employees bribing police and other government officials. News International confirmed the arrest, saying “the company is cooperating fully with the investigation.” It’s the first time the scandal has been linked to other Rupert Murdoch-owned newspapers.
Rupert Murdoch’s children saw a family counseling psychologist as recently as this past February to help them sort through their feelings about who should succeed their father as CEO of News Corp, Vanity Fair contributing editor Sarah Ellison reports in the magazine’s December issue. They agreed that James, who’s Deputy COO, should be first in line. But their opinions changed after the News Of The World phone-hacking scandal broke open in July. Elisabeth Murdoch, at Rupert’s suggestion, urged James to step aside before he testified that month at a UK Parliamentary hearing. Rupert changed his mind after a sleepless night. As talk grew about a possible arrest and jail time, Ellison reveals that Rupert’s estranged second wife Anna flew to London and urged her ex-husband to publicly back his son.
As for the NOTW case itself, Ellison supports an important claim by two of James’ chief opponents – ex-News International executives Tom Crone and Colin Myler — over whether they told him in 2008 that the scandal was broader than the company had acknowledged. Murdoch, who oversaw News International, says he believed that the lawbreaking was limited to a single “rogue” reporter as he authorized a $1.4M settlement with a hacking victim on the condition that he keep quiet about the matter. But Crone and Myler say Murdoch knew about an email in the case that showed a second reporter had been involved — suggesting that Murdoch’s settlement was a form of hush money. Murdoch …
The Metropolitan Police in London have found a cell phone hidden in the newsroom of News Corp’s now-shuttered News Of The World newspaper that they believe was the one used to hack into hundreds of voicemails. That’s the illegal practice that has ensnared News Corp in a scandal that has been felt all the way to the conglomerate’s board and the Murdoch family that controls it. The Financial Times reports the phone could have been used more than 1,000 times to hack phones between 2004 and 2006, and that it is the first piece of physical evidence that the practice was going on inside the walls of the tabloid. The phone is registered to News International, News Corp’s UK newspaper arm; several ex-News International and NOTW employees have been arrested and questioned in the police’s Operation Weeting investigation. The next big news in the probe could come from James Murdoch, the head of News Corp’s European operations, who is scheduled to re-appear in front of a parliamentary panel November 10.
OK, so based on the makeup of News Corp’s voting shares — they are 40% controlled by Rupert Murdoch and his family, as well as 7% by ally Prince Alwaleed bin Talal — there was no way any of the Murdochs were in danger of being kicked off the board of directors during a vote at last week’s shareholders meeting. But the results, which News Corp made official in SEC documents today, are striking anyway as they show the huge number of company investors who are against Rupert and his sons James and Lachlan. In all, 433,028,510 votes (in shares) were in favor of James Murdoch’s re-election to the board, while 232,013,203 were against, giving the executive and focal point of News Corp’s hacking scandal in the UK the most “no” votes of any of the 15 board members. For Lachlan Murdoch, it was 440,906,956 for and 224,151,616 against, and for Rupert it was 561,685,725-91,798,107. Other board members also had higher-than-normal votes against. The question is, will the optics of so much dissent in the ranks make Rupert acknowledge that there is a problem, and then will he do something to address that problem? The smart money is on no way.
It’s already been a busy day in News Corp land. As Rupert Murdoch, company shareholders, at least one member of the UK Parliament and Occupy Los Angeles protesters gathered this morning for the annual News Corp shareholders meeting on the Fox lot (see updates here), the company already has made news overseas. News Corp’s UK newspaper arm News International, the unit that oversaw the News Of The World newspaper, said it has agreed to pay a $4.8 million to settle claims the now-shuttered tabloid hacked into the voicemail of murdered UK schoolgirl Milly Dowler. The biggest payout since the scandal began includes two-thirds of the total going to Dowler’s family and the rest to charity. “When I met with the Dowlers in July, I expressed how deeply sorry I was for the hurt we had caused this family,” Murdoch said in a statement. “The behavior that the News of the World exhibited towards the Dowlers was abhorrent.”
Tom Watson, the Labour MP who spoke at today’s shareholders meeting on the Fox lot in Century City, told Bloomberg News that News Corp’s $32 million fund set aside to settle the hacking cases is not enough to handle the load as more allegations are revealed. In a separate interview, former UK Prime Minister and longtime Murdoch friend Gordon Brown said the phone-hacking allegations “are only the tip of the iceberg,” referring to recent talk that computers also …
A report in Sky News today said that lawyers representing the News of the World‘s phone-hacking victims in the UK are planning to cross the pond and sue parent company News Corp and directors including James and Rupert Murdoch. In addition to the hacking claims, investigators are probing whether bribes offered to police officials by company representatives constitute a violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act — which can be enforced even if the bribes are made overseas. The lawyer for murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler, whose phone was hacked by journalists at the now-defunct NOTW tabloid owned by News Corp arm News International, is part of the legal push, telling Sky the action “will raise issues about the role of a parent company over its subsidiaries.” He has hired New York lawyer Norman Siegel, who represented several families of 9/11 victims, to investigate legal options stateside. Reports are coming out of the UK daily about the hacking scandal and its reverberations, but any time the words “Murdoch” and “U.S.” are involved, it fuels fears of stockholders and board members, who already are wary that the scandal could have far-reaching implications for the future of the media giant, which is based in New York.
Report: Evidence Suggests News Corp’s UK Newspaper Group Knew About Phone-Hacking Earlier Than It Claims
More trouble for James Murdoch today: UK police told several News International executives — including former CEO Rebekah Brooks — in 2006 that several News of the World journalists were involved in phone hacking, according to a report today in The Independent. The paper says it has “strong circumstantial evidence” that in August 2006 a senior police officer supplied names of lawbreaking reporters to Brooks. She’s one of Rupert Murdoch’s closest allies and was arrested by Scotland Yard in July.
The report raises new questions about Murdoch’s claim that he believed as late as 2008 that only one reporter — former NOTW royals reporter Clive Goodman — had been implicated. The date is important: Murdoch maintains that he wasn’t trying to cover up the extent of the scandal in 2008 when he paid an astronomical $1.4M settlement to a hacking victim who was aware of a second reporter’s involvement — on the condition that the matter be kept secret.
Can News Corp Escape Scandal Unscathed?
There’s not much good blood between Ted Turner and Rupert Murdoch (maybe Turner challenging Murdoch for a fist fight once has something to do with that), but still, Turner’s suggestion that Murdoch step down from News Corp for the company’s role in the UK phone-hacking scandal makes for good TV. Bloomberg TV had the interview (the Murdoch stuff begins at the 4:58 mark). “He hasn’t survived anything like this,” Turner said of his longtime rival.