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News Corp: “Toxic Institution”, UK Lawmaker Says In New Book

By | Thursday April 19, 2012 @ 7:13am PDT

Labour MP Tom Watson bared his contempt for Rupert Murdoch’s company in his new book Dial M For Murdoch, according to the Guardian’s report about his comments today at a press conference to introduce the tome. A member of the Parliamentary committee that’s investigating the UK phone hacking scandal, Watson and his co-author — journalist Martin Hickman — called News Corp a “toxic institution” that operates as a “shadow state” in the country. For example, the book says that the mogul’s now-shuttered tabloid News Of The World tried to embarrass members of the committee by searching for “secret lovers” or “extramarital affairs.” Watson specifically cites an interview he had with former NOTW chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck who said that his former editor, Colin Myler, instructed journalists to “find out everything you can about every single member” of the committee. The book says that Thurlbeck revealed that “Each reporter was given two members [MPs] and there were six reporters that went on for around 10 days.” The search for scandal ”fell by the wayside” when the paper’s news editor, Ian Edmondson, “realized that there was something quite horrible about doing this.” But Watson says that MPs were intimidated enough to decide not to insist that Rebekah Brooks, who at the time was chief executive of News International, testify before the committee.


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Rupert Murdoch’s Times Newspaper Now Part Of Hacking Probe, MP Says

Today brings more potential bad news for Rupert Murdoch’s embattled News International. British Labour Party MP Tom Watson tweeted this morning that the Metropolitan police have confirmed to him they are investigating News International-owned The Times newspaper over email hacking. Watson, who is also a member of the Parliamentary committee for Culture, Media and Sport, had written to the police last month asking if they would investigate after the newspaper’s editor, James Harding. He told the Leveson Inquiry into U.K. media ethics that a Times reporter had been given a formal warning after accessing private emails without authorization. A police spokesman told the BBC officers were in contact with Watson regarding the specific issues he seeks to raise, but said they would not provide “running commentary.”

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RUPE ON THE ROPES At Annual Meeting: Insults Fly As News Corp Fights Shareholders Pushing For Better Governance & Independent CEO

The Deadline team is covering the News Corp shareholders meeting inside and outside LA’s Fox Studios. Nikki Finke is now writing from staff and news reports.

4TH UPDATE, NOON WRITETHRU: News Corp.’s annual shareholder meeting today at LA’s Fox Studios turned into a pitched battle of words and accusations and insults. Rupert Murdoch’s critics lined up at two microphones and vented their anger at what they consider to be a corporate culture run amok. At the same time the Chairman/CEO’s defenders opposed the shareholder calls for better corporate governance and the separation of the chairman/CEO title in order to have a CEO independent of Murdoch. Rupert, for his part, could barely stay polite when he was challenged again and again. ”I hate to call you a liar, but I don’t believe you,” he cut off shareholder Stephen Mayne, director of the Australian Shareholders Association who was criticizing News Corp’s corporate governance. Edward Mason of the Church of England spoke in support of the motion that would oust Murdoch as chairman. But Murdoch interrupted Mason almost immediately, saying “your investments haven’t been that great”.

Other shareholders were focused on the UK phone hacking scandal and its origins within the company. UK parliament member Tom Watson caught a plane from London to LA just to confront Murdoch during today’s shareholders meeting. He asked in a very British polite way whether the chairman and CEO was aware of more allegations, this time of computer hacking, at News Corp-owned newspaper News of the World. Murdoch said he wasn’t and responded, “I have assured that what went wrong a few years ago and the recent rumors by you is being worked out with the police. We will put this right.” Watson was interrupted by News Corp board member and Murdoch ally Viet Dihn, who said, “We’re fully cooperating with the police and aren’t permitted to comment on allegations per their instruction. I welcome any information you have for our investigation after the meeting.” But Murdoch told the shareholders: ”I promise you absolutely that we will stop at nothing to get to the bottom of this and get it right.”

Murdoch also tried to reassure shareholders that News Corp was doing well financially, boasting about ”digital treasure droves” from New Media and results showing that cable channels were providing half of the company’s total profit. But that didn’t appear to calm the shareholders at the microphones. Especially with institutional investors like Calpers, the Christian Brothers investment services, and the Australian Shareholders Association calling for an independent CEO.

Outside, members of the media and police far outnumbered a small group of protesters numbering about 50 in total who gathered at the main gate of Fox Studios. Occupy Los Angeles, according to information posted on the Occupy Wall Street offshoot’s website, planned to protest “one-sided reporting, job cuts, phone hacking, and bad governance.” Besides a “Fox News Lies” banner, protesters seemed to focus mainly on animal rights and anti-war issues. There was no disruption to the work of studio employees who were allowed to go in without incident.

2ND UPDATE, 9:45 AM: News Corp intentionally drove the shuttle carrying media to the shareholders meeting on the Fox lot through a side gate so the press wouldn’t see the protesters.

UPDATE, 9:59 PM: A British Member of Parliament scheduled to join News Corp stockholders inside Fox’s Zanuck Theatre is expected to address protesters in front of the studio on Pico Boulevard before heading into the meeting, one of the organizers told Deadline late Thursday. Labor Party MP Tom Watson, a key figure in the Parliament’s investigation of the phone-hacking scandal, has said he plans to present new allegations of other types of technological surveillance methods News Corp has used in addition to phone hacking by representatives of the now-defunct News of the World. Holders of proxy shares — apart from institutional and other groups who plan to vote against Murdoch-allied board members — are also certain to have harsh questions for company execs.

PREVIOUSLY, 7:31 PM: News Corp shareholders arriving for their annual meeting Friday at the Fox lot on Pico Blvd. in West Los Angeles will encounter some uninvited greeters bearing unhappy tidings. Occupy Los Angeles, according to information posted on the Occupy Wall Street offshoot’s website, plans to protest “one-sided reporting, job cuts, phone hacking, and bad governance.” Read More »

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Hacking Update: News Corp To Pay $4.8M To Family Of Murdered Girl; Allegations “Tip Of The Iceberg”

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 … Read More »

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