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from MediaFile:

Murdoch in good times and bad

By Sir Harold Evans
The views expressed are his own.

There is a clear connecting thread between the events I describe in "Good Times, Bad Times" and the dramas that led so many years later to Rupert Murdoch’s “most humble day of my life.” I was seated within a few feet of him in London on July 19, 2011, during his testimony to a select committee of MPs with his son James at his side. Not many more than a score of observers were allowed into the small room at Parliament’s Portcullis House, across the road from the House of Commons and Big Ben. A portcullis is a defensive latticed iron grating hung over the entrance to a fortified castle, the perfect metaphor for News International, which perpetually sees itself as beset by enemies.

Murdoch, as chairman and only begetter of the giant multi-media enterprise News International (NI), was called on to defend his castle and himself as best he could for the outrages of hacking and police bribery inflicted on the British public by his News of the World and the cover-up that he and his company conducted over nearly five years. The paper Murdoch most affects to despise, the Guardian, was the instrument of his undoing.

It persisted with the unraveling story almost alone in the face of repeated denials, defamation and threats and the sloppy exonerations of News International by Scotland Yard and the Press Complaints Commission. Among those waiting patiently – one might say humbly – for admission to the Portcullis House committee room was Nick Davies, the back-packing Guardian reporter, who led the paper’s investigation courageously sustained by his editor Alan Rusbridger. It was cheering to think of the impetus for good contained in Davies’ little notebook as he assiduously scribbled away during the hearing.

Murdoch had begun badly on jetting into London, all smiles in a jaunty Panama hat and embracing his ex-editor and CEO Rebekah Brooks whom he called his “first priority”; she was arrested days later. He quickly sensed the vengeful public mood and made a well-publicized consoling visit to the family of Milly Dowler, the murdered schoolgirl. He apologized profusely enough for his soon-to-be-shuttered paper’s most outrageous invasion of privacy, the hacking into voice mails left for Milly, and the hacker’s erasure of messages to make room for more that the News of the World could milk for despicable “exclusives.”

from Felix Salmon:

A few Murdoch questions

After taking phone calls about Rupert Murdoch on Brian Lehrer's show this morning and then immediately doing an hour-long diavlog with Alex Massie on the subject, I'm beginning to get a little Murdoch-ed out. But there are three newish points that are worth raising.

Firstly, what was the mechanism by which it was agreed that Rupert and James Murdoch would appear in parliament together? Having James by his side was a godsend for Rupert, and James clearly took his role as a shield for his father very seriously. I'm sure the more aggressive MPs would have preferred to be able to grill Rupert on his own, as they did Rebekah Brooks. How did that not happen?

from Felix Salmon:

The Murdochs pass their parliamentary trial

The biggest surprise for me, at the Murdoch hearings today, was the lack of political theater and crocodile tears of remorse. I was expecting a ceremonial piling-on -- a group of politicians all jumping at a very rare opportunity to tell Rupert exactly what they thought of him, with the billionaire mogul just sitting there and taking the insults, reiterating over and over again just how very sorry he was about everything that has happened.

But that's not how it turned out at all. The politicians didn't grandstand nearly as much as their US counterparts are wont to do, and instead asked substantive questions. The Murdochs, for their part, spent more time blustering and denying knowledge of key events at key times than they did apologizing.

Constitution in crisis as tyrannical journalists devour cowed politicians

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A sordid tale of excess and brutality, of a world dominated by journalists with their ears to the keyhole, of tyrannical newspapers wielding remarkable power and of a political class not only cowed, but consumed, by that power.

Sound familiar? With two of Britain’s most senior policemen out of a job, the prime minister under pressure for his serenading of News Corp and one of the world’s most powerful press barons, in the form of Rupert Murdoch, summoned to testify to parliament, it would be one way of describing the current state of affairs.

from Felix Salmon:

Could News Corp end up in play?

The increasingly-fragile nature of Rupert Murdoch's hold on News Corp has refocused attention on its dual-class share structure. As John Gapper noted last week, such structures aren't particularly good for minority shareholders like you or me. And if you plug today's share price into the Breakingviews Murdoch discount calculator, you'll see that the company is trading at roughly 30% below its fair value. Or, to put it another way, if Murdoch and his voting control were to disappear tomorrow, the shares could jump a good 45%.

Murdoch has a seemingly inviolable 39.7% position in the Class B voting shares of News Corp. No one else comes close: the only other shareholder with more than 2% of the Class B stock is Prince Alwaleed, with his 7% stake. The Class B shares are exactly the same as Class A shares, with the single difference that Class B shares have voting rights at the annual meeting and Class A shares don't. Both classes of share trade on the Nasdaq; here's a chart of how they've behaved over the past few years. The blue line is the B shares, the red line is the A shares, and the yellow line is the difference between the two. It's currently about 45 cents per share, down from a high of $2.60 per share in April last year.

from Felix Salmon:

News Corp’s future

The abrupt departure from News Corp today of Rebekah Brooks (early) and Les Hinton (late) is yet more proof that News Corp is flailing around and incapable of getting out in front of the phone-hacking story. It's a bit like the way in which the cost of bailing out Lehman Brothers would rise by a few billion dollars an hour at the height of the financial crisis in 2008: every day of bluster and delay just makes this crisis worse for News Corp and for Rupert Murdoch.

If the News of the World had been shut and Brooks and Hinton both defenestrated back in 2009 when the hacking allegations first surfaced, that would have been more than enough to signal that News Corp was taking them seriously, was saying that such behavior was unacceptable, and was drawing a firm line under an unfortunate and illegal episode. Now, however, such actions only serve to make News Corp look even more guilty -- especially since the time gap between the resignations served to draw the story out over two news cycles and makes the whole thing look ad hoc and teetering on the back foot. There's now a clear sense that the virus is moving up and across the News Corp org chart, from the News of the World to News International to Dow Jones, with no sign that its virulence is diminishing.

from Felix Salmon:

What damage could Rebekah Brooks do to News Corp?

The implosion of the News of the World, and of News Corp's bluster surrounding hacking and bribery allegations, comes less than a week after the Bribery Act of 2010 finally became law in the UK. The Bribery Act had an unbelievably long gestation -- a distant relation of mine, Cyril Salmon, headed up the Salmon Commission on Standards in Public Life and put forward recommendations on the subject as long ago as 1976.

Today, the Bribery Act -- which finally came into force on July 1 -- is considered the toughest anti-corruption legislation in the world. And it's one of the few pieces of UK legislation under which a company itself can be convicted of criminal activity, as opposed merely to its executives individually. There's a new corporate offense now, of failure to prevent bribery, which is relatively easy to prove. If News International executives are ever found approving bribes to the UK police, then a conviction under the Bribery Act would be extremely easy.

from MediaFile:

News of the World hacking scandal: UK’s Miliband speaks out

UK opposition leader Ed Miliband called on the British media to clean up its image and emphasized the need for a speedy public inquiry into the News of the World phone-hacking scandal. Watch clips of Miliband's comments at a Thomson Reuters Newsmaker event below:

Miliband to British media: "Clean up your image"

Miliband calls for judge-led inquiry into phone-hacking scandal

Miliband wants media watchdog scrapped

Miliband calls for BSkyB referral

Miliband urges UK Prime Minister David Cameron to apologize

Follow our live coverage of the phone-hacking scandal below:

from MediaFile:

Rupert Murdoch’s global empire

A scandal rocking Rupert Murdoch's media empire deepened on Thursday with claims his best-selling News of the World paper hacked the phones of relatives of British soldiers killed in action. The latest allegations prompted News Corp to shut down the 168-year-old tabloid. Here's a look at the rest of the empire.

from Reuters Investigates:

The end of an era for British tabloids?

No sooner had our special report today on British tabloids hit the wire than Rupert Murdoch's News Corp shocked everybody by announcing it would close down the 168-year-old News of the World.

Steven Barnett, professor of communications at London's Westminster University, spoke for a lot of people when he said of the news: "Astonishing. I'm completely gobsmacked. Talk about a nuclear option."

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