As a rule, I have told my writers not to talk politics. I think with some it is more subtle then others, but this is a culture magazine; so I almost didn’t talk about this. However, I have decided as a journalist, I am going to still address the News Corp. (News international in Britain) controversy.
For those of you unaware, the News International story started with a tabloid newspaper called the “News of the World.” If you are unaware as to why people like Rupert Murdoch are involved or News Corp. is in trouble with a newspaper, News Corp is massive. Rupert Murdoch owns a lot, I was going to include a list, but it was over nine pages long and around 356 properties. However I will share a few key ones; 20th Century Fox, Fox Searchlight Pictures, 20th Century Fox Television, 20th Television, Fox News Channel, FX Networks, SportSouth, News International, The Sun, The Times of London, Sunday Times, Dow Jones & Company, Consumer Media Group, The Wall Street Journal – the leading US financial newspaper, Barron’s – weekly financial markets magazine, Dow Jones Newswires – global, real-time news and information provider, HarperCollins, and National Rugby League (NRL) (50%). He is an Aussie by birth, where he owns over 150 news papers, but an American by citizenship (he became American in 1985 because only a US citizen can own TV stations in the US). However, this is not the controversy. The controversy stems from a tabloid news paper, Britain’s oldest, which allegedly hacked voicemails. The first instance was in 2005, when the Royal reporter hacked the Royal voicemail to report on Prince Williams knee injury. Scandalous stories of celebrities and footballers (soccer players) were hacked and they were going to sue and go to the Guardian (the biggest newspaper in Britain, were paid off to the sum of between $25.000 to $1,500,000. Eventually, this started to fall apart. The former Public Relations manager for News International admitted that there were many more revelations that could have been released, if the whistleblower had not been paid over $1,500,000 himself.
So what is different this time? Well there is a tragic story of a little girl named Milly Dowler who was 13 when she was kidnapped and murdered in 2002. While trying to get the scoop, the reporters under the direction of Rebekah Brooks hacked into Dowler’s voicemails. This made it seem as though she was still alive and gave her parents the false hopes and interfered greatly with the investigation. This is shocking stuff and grossly illegal in Britain. By this point, the brand had become so toxic that Murdoch and his son James (the head of the Asian and European News Corp Holdings since 2004) decided to close the magazine, News of the World, on July 7th.
After revelations that the former Prime Minister, Gordon Brown had had his own voicemail hacked so the News of the World could report that his son Fraser had Cystic Fibrosis, not to mention his financial documents and personal accounts. So why is this suspicious, other than the obvious? Well the former head of the News of the World Andy Coulson, who had been arrested for the Royal hacking as well, became the communications director for David Cameron, the current Prime Minister of Britain and former minority leader of the Conservative party. While these revelations of wrongdoing were coming out, News Corp was trying to buy BSkyB, a major British broadcaster, with an assured victory in front of the monopoly commission because of their friends in the now majority party. However, the deal has now fallen through.
What does all this have to do with an innocent girls murder? Well, where were the police on this whole voicemail hacking scandal? Surely they were aware of the tampering, they are police right? Turns out they knew and did nothing. The head of Scotland Yard quit as well. Apparently, a whistleblower by the name of Sean Hoare had gone forward with the information to the cops and been turned down, so he turned to the New York Times. The interview in the NY Times tells that the phone hacking was not only widespread, but encouraged; as well as other illegal activities. He has since, yesterday, died. At this point, no foul play is suspected; it is most likely suicide.
The aftermath is still unfurling. Rebekah Brooks is in prison. Les Hinson, Murdoch’s press adviser has resigned, and Murdoch and his son are in front of Parliament right now, though I doubt any news will come out of that. (Though at first, they were going to refuse stating that since they were not citizens of Britain; Parliament could not force them, however, this leads to an interesting American twist I will get to in the end).
So you may think, so what? This doesn’t affect me! Well, unfortunately it does. The FBI is investigating the hacking of victims of 9/11 by News International journalists. How is American media covering this? Well, as you can imagine, growing concern and horror, with the notable exception of the Fox News, who has brought on PR people, introduced as journalism experts, to defend News International and portrayed them as the victims.
Just remember, in the end, there are innocent victims. I know there will be political back and forth on this, but please, keep them in mind.
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