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What A Lousy Week For Rupert Murdoch…

It was bad enough that hundreds of Occupy Wall Street protesters stopped by his Fifth Avenue home on Tuesday to chant slogans about the unfairness of the tax system. The media mogul’s troubles also grew as he had to deal with a second UK newspaper scandal: The publisher of the Wall Street Journal Europe, Andrew Langhoff, resigned amid allegations that he had cut a deal to artificially inflate circulation figures by 41%. And that story began to unravel just as the UK Parliament’s Culture, Media and Sport Committee said it will interrogate Murdoch’s right-hand man Les Hinton on October 24 as part of its investigation into Murdoch’s other UK newspaper problem –  the News Of The World phone-hacking scandal. This matter has already begun to loom large as investors prepare to converge in Los Angeles next Friday for News Corp’s annual shareholder meeting. Advisory firms Institutional Shareholder Services, Egan Jones, and Glass Lewis asked stock owners to reject several company board nominees — including Murdoch’s two sons, James and Lachlan — for failing to get to the bottom of the hacking allegations before the company was forced to close NOTW. Read More »

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U.S. Justice Department Asks News Corp For Information About Paying British Bribes

Can News Corp Escape The Scandal Unscathed?

U.S. prosecutors are checking to see if News Corp violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. They have have written to request info on alleged bribes paid by its employees to UK police, Bloomberg reported. The inquiry comes on the heels of a Justice Department and FBI probe investigating claims that victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks had their phones hacked by News Corp employees. The request for information in the bribery case doesn’t carry the same legal force as a grand jury subpoena, which would compel a response under law. News Corp is the target of three UK police investigations and a Parliamentary probe on phone hacking by reporters at the News of the World. The company shut down the newspaper and abandoned BSkyB takeover plans after allegations that its reporters deleted voice mails from a murdered schoolgirl’s phone.

In London meanwhile, Scotland Yard said it won’t force reporters at The Guardian to reveal their sources on the bribery and phone hacking cases after all. They had sought the names under the UK’s Official Secrets Act, normally used to prosecute spies. “This decision does not mean that the investigation has been concluded,” the police said in a statement. The department said their probe “has always been about whether a police officer has leaked information and gathering any evidence that proves or disproves that.” The Daily Telegraph and Sky News have … Read More »

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News Corp Scandal: Scotland Yard Goes After Reporters Who Embarrassed Them

Scotland Yard is demanding that reporters at The Guardian disclose the confidential sources that enabled the paper to break the News Corp phone hacking scandal story. The police are citing the UK’s Official Secrets Act — normally used against spies — in a legal bid to get the names. It was The Guardian’s revelation in July that Scotland Yard had poorly handled its investigation of the News of the World for hacking the phone of a missing murdered girl that set the scandal in motion. The fallout from that and allegations that the police were influenced by News Corp officials resulted in the ouster of top Scotland Yard officers. It also caused Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp to close the News of the World, abandon its BSkyB takeover bid and submit to the current series of legal and government inquiries. The Guardian’s editor Alan Rusbridger said, “We shall resist this extraordinary demand to the utmost.” Former Labour minister Tom Watson said: “It is an outrageous abuse and completely unacceptable that, having failed to investigate serious wrongdoing at the News of the World for more than a decade, the police should now be trying to move against The Guardian.”

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Hacking Update: U.K. Trials Could Be Delayed Until 2013, Face Media Blackout

UPDATE: If prosecutors decide to charge several people over the allegations surrounding former News of the World journalists, all the defendants would likely be tried at the same time, London’s Telegraph reports today. Because of the parallel police inquiries into phone hacking and police corruption, any trials are likely to be delayed until the spring of 2013 as detectives sift through thousands of documents. And since some of the possible defendants could face trial relating to both inquiries, the media is likely to be banned from reporting any of the evidence in any of the trials until all have been concluded.

EARLIER, AUGUST 19, 12:20 PM: We could hear some important revelations next week in the News Of The World scandal: Private investigator Glenn Mulcaire is expected to disclose by Friday who at the defunct tabloid asked him to hack the phones of six people including model Elle MacPherson, PR agent Max Clifford, and former Professional Footballers Association chief Gordon Taylor. The Telegraph reports that on August 1st Mulcaire lost his appeal of a court order to name names in the six cases — although he’s still fighting a different order to reveal who asked him to hack the phone of comedian Steve Coogan. The disclosure comes a day after Mulcaire sued News Corp for breach of contract: Last month the company stopped paying the legal bills for the PI who was convicted in 2007 of phone hacking.

Meanwhile, … Read More »

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Rupert Murdoch Ad Apologizes for “Serious Wrongdoing” In Phone Hacking Scandal

News Corp CEO Rupert Murdoch is placing a signed ad — written as a letter to readers — in UK newspapers this weekend that includes the headline “We Are Sorry,” The Guardian reports. Here’s the text, followed by a response from Guardian News & Media:

The News Of The World was in the business of holding others to account. It failed when it came to itself.

We are sorry for the serious wrongdoing that occurred.
We are deeply sorry for the hurt suffered by the individuals affected.
We regret not acting faster to sort things out.
I realize that simply apologising is not enough.

Our business was founded on the idea that a free and open press should be a positive force in society. We need to live up to this.

In the coming days, as we take further concrete steps to resolve these issues and make amends for the damage they have caused, you will hear more from us.

Rupert Murdoch

Now here’s the Guardian’s response:

News International responded to our original revelations about phone-hacking in July 2009 by telling MPs that we had ‘deliberately misled’ the British public.

It has taken two years of subsequent reporting by the Guardian to force the truth out. We are happy to accept News International’s paid-for advertisements apologising for the reality of what our journalism revealed.

The money we receive from News International will be donated to charity.

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DreamWorks Enters WikiLeaks Movie Sweepstakes, Buying Two Major Books

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: DreamWorks has officially entered the derby to turn the story of Julian Assange and WikiLeaks into a feature film. The studio has acquired rights to two books by pivotal players in the WikiLeaks drama. DreamWorks has secured screen rights to Inside WikiLeaks: My Time with Julian Assange at the World’s Most Dangerous Website, the Crown book by Daniel Domscheit-Berg. He’s the former top WikiLeaks former executive who defected because he wanted WikiLeaks to exercise journalistic discretion instead of the document dump that took place.  ICM brokered that deal. DreamWorks has also bought WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange’s War on Secrecy, written by David Leigh and Luke Harding, the two journalists from the UK-based The Guardian who worked with Assange on bringing his first revelations into play through their paper,  as well as Der Spiegel and The New York Times. That book was published by Guardian Books. They detail their dealings with Assange, who at one point hid from the CIA in Leigh’s London house. The book covers the WikiLeaks phenomenon from its 2006 launch onward.

I’m told that DreamWorks executives from Stacey Snider, Steve Spielberg to co-presidents Holly Bario and Mark Sourian, are intrigued enough by the Assange story to cobble together rights that will allow them to attack the story creatively from any of several angles. They are content to gather string, but haven’t hired a writer yet. A good … Read More »

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‘Hurt Locker’s Mark Boal At Center Of WikiLeaks Film Deal As Other Julian Assange Movies Mobilize

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: The Hurt Locker screenwriter Mark Boal and Management 360 have partnered with financier/producer Megan Ellison to option The Boy Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, an article about WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange in The New York Times Magazine written by the newspaper’s executive editor Bill Keller. Ellison, an exec producer of True Grit, will finance the film through her Annapurna Pictures and she, Boal and Management 360 will produce. Boal might write the film, but that will depend on if he has time. In addition to the Kathryn Bigelow-directed Triple Frontier with Tom Hanks, Boal is collaborating with Bigelow on a drama that might go sooner, about a secret Middle East mission movie. If Boal is going to write the Assange script, he will have to do it quickly.

His is just the latest in a growing number of Julian Assange/WikiLeaks movies that should continue to swell as more books about the controversial figure get published. I’ve heard DreamWorks is circling Inside WikiLeaks, a book that will be released February 15. It is written by Daniel Domscheit-Berg, Assange’s number 2  at WikiLeaks who defected because he wanted WikiLeaks to apply journalistic discretion in the dispersal of secret government documents while Assange wanted to release as many as he could get his hands on.

There is also the $1.5 million memoir by Assange. Movie/TV rights will be handled by CAA for lit agency … Read More »

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Director Orson Welles Final Film To Screen?

By | Sunday January 23, 2011 @ 3:55pm PST

UK newspapers report that director Orson Welles’s unseen 1972 film The Other Side of the Wind could now see the light of day. The unedited film has been hidden away in a vault and been the subject of an ownership dispute. Now Los Angeles attorney Kenneth Sidle, who reps one of the film’s producers, tells The Guardian that negotiations for its release may be concluded soon. Among those who appear in the film are directors John Huston and Peter Bogdanovich. Now the question is whether the footage should be shown raw or edited.

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Venice Fest “No Longer Special” Say Critics

Newspaper critics are increasingly being put off by how expensive the Venice Film Festival, which begins tomorrow, has become. One critic from Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf says that he can spend two weeks covering Toronto for the same cost of one week in Venice. This at a time when newspapers are reducing staff and slashing travel budgets. Increasingly, critics are covering either the first few days or the closing few days. The London Guardian is sending just two critics and a reporter to the festival. And those two critics who are leap-frogging each other.

Baz Bamigboye, show-business reporter for the Daily Mail, tells me: “My sense is that it’s no longer special. There are fewer important films and the place has become another junket nightmare.” Bamigboye isn’t going to Venice this year. Peter Bradshaw of the Guardian agrees: “Venice is declining in importance.”

A deeper problem though is Hollywood stars staying away. It’s very expensive to get Hollywood A-listers to come out to Italy. And when they are there, they want to stay at one of the city’s big luxury hotels such as the Gritti Palace or the Danieli – both of which are some distance from the Lido, where the fest takes place. Even transporting Hollywood stars from their suites to the event becomes expensive. Distributors cannot justify dropping so much money this early in the awards season. Toronto is a great deal … Read More »

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UTA Signs Producer Mark Johnson’s TV Biz

By | Monday August 9, 2010 @ 4:00pm PDT

I’m told Oscar-winning producer Mark Johnson and his Gran VIA production company have signed with UTA for representation in television. Johnson, who’s produced everything on the big screen from Rain Man to The Notebook to the Chronicles of Narnia series, is looking to significantly expand his presence on the small screen. The agency has already received interest from networks and studios regarding a possible exclusive arrangement. Johnson exec-produced 2004′s CBS drama The Guardian with Simon Baker. And currently he’s an exec producer of AMC’s Emmy-nominated Breaking Bad, whose star Bryan Cranston is also repped by UTA.

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