James Harding resigned as editor of Rupert Murdoch’s The Times neswspaper in December saying, “It has been made clear to me that News Corporation would like to appoint a new editor of The Times.” Reports suggested that Harding’s departure was the result of upset at The Times’ parent company over the paper’s somewhat critical stance during the phone-hacking scandal that had engulfed News Corp.’s UK press arm, News International. When Harding starts his new job as director of news and current affairs at the BBC on August 12, he’ll be joining another company that has seen its share of recent crises.
The BBC’s news division has been plagued by troubles in the past six months including the Jimmy Savile scandal, botched reporting at the flagship Newsnight program and walkouts by journalists. Its Panorama program is drawing fire this week over allegations that London School of Economics students were put in harm’s way during the filming of a documentary in North Korea. Read More »
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.
Gerald Scarfe’s cartoon in the UK’s Sunday Times depicts Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu using blood to build a wall that includes the bodies of Palestinians. The image, published on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, infuriated the Anti-Defamation League, which charged that the “blatantly anti-Semitic theme” is “a modern day evocation of the ancient ‘blood libel’ charge leveled at Jews.” The World Zionist Organization-Israel said it violated “all lines of decency and morality.” The Murdoch-owned paper initially defended the drawing, telling The Guardian that ”It is aimed squarely at Mr Netanyahu and his policies, not at Israel, let alone at Jewish people. It appeared yesterday because Mr Netanyahu won the Israeli election last week.” But News Corp CEO Rupert Murdoch sees things differently. In a tweet today he says that “Gerald Scarfe has never reflected the opinions of the Sunday Times. Nevertheless, we owe major apology for grotesque, offensive cartoon.”
James Harding has run the flagship Times newspaper since 2007. In his resignation speech, Harding said, “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. I called Rupert this morning to offer my resignation and he accepted it.” The Times has been somewhat critical of its parent company during the phone-hacking scandal and reports suggest this may have been the reason Harding ankled. This is the second time in two weeks that News Corp.’s UK press arm, News International, has lost a senior exec. News International CEO Tom Mockridge said he was stepping down on December 2. In related news, The Telegraph reports that senior News International execs have made informal approaches to the British government about being allowed to combine The Times and The Sunday Times into one operation. Under an agreement Murdoch made back in the early 80s when he acquired the papers, he is bound to keep them separate. Since Harding’s announcement yesterday, it has been speculated that Sunday Times editor John Witherow may replace him.
Richard Horton, a detective who formerly penned an anonymous police blog, filed suit on April 11 in London against Times Newspapers Ltd, a unit of News Corp’s News International, Bloomberg reports. Horton was exposed by The Times as the author of the blog back in 2009. At the time, he sued to block publication of his name, but lost when the newspaper aruged his identity was in the public interest. Earlier this year, Times editor James Harding acknowledged to the Leveson Inquiry into UK media ethics that the paper had misled the judge in Horton’s case and that a reporter had been given a formal warning after accessing the emails without authorization. He later said, “I sorely regret the intrusion into Richard Horton’s email account by a journalist in our newsroom. On behalf of the newspaper, I apologize.” Horton’s suit against The Times, which has largely avoided the phone hacking and bribery scandals at News International’s The Sun and the now-shuttered News Of The World, seeks “substantial” damages. The new suit comes as British attorney Mark Lewis arrives in the US to begin legal discussions that could lead to several lawsuits being filed over alleged phone hacking by News International employees. Those cases are understood to relate primarily to celebrities whose phones may have been hacked while they were visiting the US.
In May 2009, a reporter working for the News Corp-controlled UK newspaper, The Times, hacked into the email of an anonymous police blogger. Today, The Times’ editor, James Harding, apologized to the Leveson Inquiry into media ethics saying, “I sorely regret the intrusion into Richard Horton’s email account by a journalist in our newsroom. On behalf of the newspaper, I apologise.” Last week, British Labour Party MP Tom Watson said the Metropolitan police had begun an investigation into The Times over email hacking. That would make it the third News Corp controlled paper to be subject to related probes. Harding, who was recalled today to Lord Justice Leveson’s chamber, previously told the inquiry that a Times reporter had been given a formal warning after accessing private emails without authorization. Today, he added, “I squarely do not approve of what has happened.”
So now no member of the Murdoch family sits on the boards of News Corp’s marquee British newspapers. The London Evening Standard is reporting from regulatory filings that James Murdoch in September “dramatically resigned” in a “surprise move” as a director of the various News Corp companies that publish The Times, The Sunday Times and The Sun. James faces calls to also quit as chairman of BSkyB at next week’s annual general meeting. But James is still enjoying his promotion to News Corp deputy chief operating officer in New York last April and a News International spokesman confirms that James remains chairman of the company. NI remains at the center of the UK phone hacking scandal.