Things are unraveling at warp speed for Rupert Murdoch.
After discovering that illegally hacked phones were more widespread than first thought and that in addition, police had been paid off, Downing Street sources confirmed that Government lawyers were planning to block Murdoch’s 14 billion dollar bid for BSkyB over the phone hacking scandal. This action is a separate move from Ofcom’s investigation into Murdoch’s fitness to operate BSkyB, which is worth more than all of Murdoch’s papers combined. Ouch.
A startling development that could harm Murdoch in America is the allegation that victims of the 9/11 attacks in New York “could also be among those targeted by phone hackers from the News of the World. The Daily Mirror cites an unnamed source claiming that a former police officer, working as a private investigator, was asked by News of the World journalists to retrieve the private phone records of those killed in the attack.”
The officer/PI turned down World of the News, and it’s unclear at this juncture whether or not News of the World was successful in getting someone to hack the 9/11 victims’ phones.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports:
A New York police officer has claimed besieged British tabloid the News of the World attempted to hack into the voicemails of victims of the 9/11 terror attacks, as Rupert Murdoch arrived in London for emergency talks aimed at diffusing the international crisis surrounding his media empire.
Rival red-top newspaper the Mirror reported the officer was contacted by News of the World journalists who said they would pay him to retrieve the private phone records of the dead.
Now working as a private investigator, the ex-officer claimed reporters wanted the victims’ phone numbers and details of the calls they had made and received in the days leading up to the atrocity.
The voicemails would likely include harrowing messages from desperate loved ones trying to make contact with their relatives caught up in the 2001 terror strikes on the World Trade Center, in which thousands perished.
Hacking into victims of a horrific tragedy to listen to their loved ones’ pleas is beyond morally reprehensible; it’s monstrous and unimaginable. It’s unfortunate that the callousness of Murdoch’s News of the World modus operandi will no doubt reopen tender wounds for the victims’ families and loved ones.
As if that weren’t bad enough, the cover-up of the phone hacking is turning out to be the undoing of Murdoch’s bid for BSkyB in Britain. The Independent writes, “Rupert Murdoch’s takeover of BSkyB appeared to be dead in the water last night after proof emerged that executives at his British newspaper empire mounted a cover-up of the full scale of alleged criminal wrongdoing at the News of the World.”
The Independent breaks down the collapse of the hacking cover-up:
The collapse of the cover-up came as:
* Rupert Murdoch flew into London and was seen entering News International’s Wapping HQ carrying a copy of the last ever News of the World.
* Labour leader Ed Miliband confirmed his party’s opposition to the BSkyB bid and won backing from senior Lib Dems.
* One of Scotland Yard’s most senior officers, John Yates, admitted that his decision to fend off demands for a re-opening of the criminal investigation into the NOTW had been “pretty crap”.
* The parents of the murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler, whose phone was targeted by the paper, prepared to travel to Downing Street to demand action over the growing scandal.
* The News of the World published its final edition after 168 years with the headline “Thank You & Goodbye”, and and an apology for having “lost its way”.
* An audacious bid was being made by to resurrect the Sunday paper.
The Government’s U-turn over its backing for the BSkyB deal is a humiliation for the Prime Minister, who last week said he was powerless to stop it.
Since April, when he was first shown a Scotland Yard report from 2007, James Murdoch has known the phone hacking victims number over 4,000.
As always, it’s the cover-up that’s getting the criminal. In this case, unidentified executives at News International misled Parliamentary inquiries in 2007 and 2009, saying that the hacking was one rogue journalist instead of the obviously widespread practice it was. Nine journalists and three police officers are facing jail over corruption charges so far.
If Murdoch loses BSkyB, his empire faces serious challenges. Australia is calling for an investigation into all of Murdoch’s media and in the US, Murdoch may face challenges holding on to Fox’s FCC license.
In Britain, Government lawyers are drawing up plans to block Murdoch’s takeover of BSkyB in addition to the Ofcom investigation. In America, if it’s proven that 9/11 victims’ phones were hacked, News Corp’s stock could suffer a damaging blow. While Murdoch will no doubt survive, the reputation of his brand is permanently damaged at this point, and we are only in stage one of the corruption revelations. If further witnesses come forward with allegations regarding hacking 9/11 victims’ phones, the flood gates will be wide open.
Our condolences go to the victims’ families and loved ones for what may unfortunately turn into yet another painful reminder of their loss.