BREAKING NEWS: London: Murdoch Folds News of the World Over Phone Hacking Scandal: UPDATED

7 Jul

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Video: Murdoch Folds News Of The World Over Hacking  1:48

This Sunday’s News Of The World will be the last ever issue of the tabloid, News International chairman James Murdoch has announced.

He said this newspaper would not run any commercial adverts this weekend, adding the advertising space would be donated to causes and charities.

NEWS UPDATE:

LONDON (AP) — News International says shuttering the scandal-wracked News of the World will cost about 200 tabloid staffers their jobs.

News International spokeswoman Daisy Dunlop says employees laid off in the closure will be able to apply for other jobs within the media company.

The abrupt decision Thursday to shut down the best-selling tabloid at the center of Britain’s phone hacking scandal follows an extraordinary three days in which multiple revelations about intrusive phone hacking cost the paper its advertising base and reader support.

The Rupert Murdoch-owned tabloid was found to have hacked into the phone message of a teenage murder victim and was suspected of possibly targeting the relatives of slain soldiers in its quest to produce attention-grabbing headlines.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

LONDON (AP) — News International says shuttering the scandal-wracked News of the World will cost about 200 tabloid staffers their jobs.

News International spokeswoman Daisy Dunlop says employees laid off in the closure will be able to apply for other jobs within the media company.

The abrupt decision Thursday to shut down the best-selling tabloid at the center of Britain’s phone hacking scandal follows an extraordinary three days in which multiple revelations about intrusive phone hacking cost the paper its advertising base and reader support.

The Rupert Murdoch-owned tabloid was found to have hacked into the phone message of a teenage murder victim and was suspected of possibly targeting the relatives of slain soldiers in its quest to produce attention-grabbing headlines.

NEWS UPDATE:

File photograph of Rebekah Brooks, chief executive of News International and Rupert Murdoch, News Corp chief executive

File photograph of Rebekah Brooks, chief executive of News International and Rupert …

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British actor Hugh Grant, right, speaks with an unidentified 'Hacked Off' campaigner outside the Houses of Parliament in London, where a debate was being held into the allegations of phone hacking by journalists Wednesday July 6, 2011. Britain's voracious tabloids may have hit a new low: The News of the World, part of Rupert Murdoch's global media empire at News Corp, is facing claims that it hacked into a missing 13-year-old's phone messages, possibly hampering a police inquiry into her disappearance. "Newspapers were using phone hacking on a widespread and industrial basis ... (with) the apparent collusion of parts of the Metropolitan Police," actor Hugh Grant told BBC radio. (AP Photo/Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire) UNITED KINGDOM OUT

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LONDON (AP) — Rupert Murdoch’s News International shocked Britain on Thursday by announcing it is shutting down the News of the World, the best-selling tabloid at the center of an ugly phone hacking scandal.

The tabloid, long known for its dubious undercover reporting techniques, had gravely offended the British public by hacking into the cell phone voicemail of a missing teenage girl, possibly even interfering with the police investigation into her murder.

What was an acceptable, if illegal, tactic used to gather scoops on drug-using celebrities, philadering politicians or cheating film stars suddenly became completely unacceptable when missing children, the relatives of soldiers slain in Afghanistan or the families of victims of London’s 2005 terror attacks were targeted.

Murdoch’s son James Murdoch, who heads European operations for the paper’s parent company, said the 168-year-old weekly newspaper would publish its last edition on Sunday, without ads. The closure was spurred in part by the decision by many large advertisers to withdraw their ads in protest of the paper’s gross intrusions of privacy.

News International says shuttering the scandal-wracked News of the World will cost about 200 tabloid staffers their jobs. Journalists at the paper had no advance word of the decision.

However, some analysts said decision may make strategic business sense for Rupert Murdoch if it allows him to salvage a controversial bid to fully take over the broadcaster British Sky Broadcast in a deal estimated at 12 billion pounds, ($19 billion). Murdoch might even be able to fill the gap left by the News of the World with one of his other media properties.

News International spokeswoman Daisy Dunlop denied rumors that The Sun, the News of The World’s sister paper that publishes Monday through Saturday, would become a seven-day operation to pick up the slack and restore Murdoch’s financial position in the vital Sunday market.

“It’s not true at the moment,” she said.

She said employees laid off in the closure will be able to apply for other jobs within the sprawling media company.

The news of the shutdown and mass job loss sparked outrage at the paper’s headquarters, especially because Rebekah Brooks — the editor in charge at the time, now one of Murdoch’s top lieutenants — is keeping her highly paid executive position as News International chief.

The abrupt decision to shut the newspaper follows an extraordinary three days in which multiple revelations about intrusive phone hacking cost the paper its advertising base and reader support. The tabloid was found to have hacked into the phone message of a teenage murder victim and was suspected of targeting the relatives of slain soldiers in its quest to produce attention-grabbing headlines.

Britons of all stripes said they were disgusted and revolted by the Rupert Murdoch-owned newspaper’s tactics and British lawmakers held an emergency debate on Parliament on Wednesday in which many condemned the paper.

The tabloid’s executives had already admitted the widespread hacking of cell phones used by celebrities, film stars, royal aides and politicians and reached cash settlements with prominent victims. But the intrusion into — and possible interference with — an ongoing murder investigation of a child proved to be the final straw in losing the public’s trust.

Police are now examining 4,000 names of people who may have been targeted by the paper.

Murdoch said in a memo to staff that all revenue from the final issue, which will carry no ads, would go to “good causes.”

The announcement took British media-watchers — and the newspaper’s staff — by surprise.

The News of the World, which sells close to 3 million copies a week, has acknowledged that it hacked into the mobile phone voice mails of politicians, celebrities and royal aides. A reporter and a private investigator working for the paper were jailed for phone hacking in 2007.

But in recent days the allegations have expanded to take in the phones of missing children who were found slain, the relatives of terrorist victims and families of soldiers killed in Afghanistan.

James Murdoch, Rupert’s son, said if the allegations were true, “it was inhuman and has no place in our company.”

“Wrongdoers turned a good newsroom bad,” he said, “and this was not fully understood or adequately pursued.”

“While we may never be able to make up for distress that has been caused, the right thing to do is for every penny of the circulation revenue we receive this weekend to go to organizations — many of whom are long-term friends and partners — that improve life in Britain and are devoted to treating others with dignity,” he said.

News International spokeswoman Daisy Dunlop denied rumors that The Sun, the News of The World’s sister paper that publishes Monday through Saturday, would become a seven-day operation to pick up the slack. Still, she seemed to leave room for further developments.

“It’s not true at the moment,” she said.

Shares in News Corp. were up 1.6 percent at $18.22 on the Nasdaq index in New York, though they have fallen from above $18.50 since Tuesday.

NEWS UPDATE:

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LONDON (Reuters) – In a breathtaking response to a scandal engulfing his media empire, Rupert Murdoch moved on Thursday to close down the News of the World, Britain’s biggest selling Sunday newspaper.

As allegations mounted this week that its journalists had hacked the voicemails of thousands of people, from child murder victims to the families of Britain’s war dead, the tabloid had hemorrhaged advertising and alienated millions of readers.

Yet no one, least of all the 168-year-old paper’s staff, was prepared for the drama of a single sentence that will surely go down as one of the most startling turns in the 80-year-old Australian-born press baron’s long and controversial career.

“News International today announces that this Sunday, 10 July 2011, will be the last issue of the News of the World,” read the preamble to a statement from Murdoch’s son James, who heads the British newspaper arm of News Corp.

Hailing a fine muck-raking tradition at the paper, which his father bought in 1969, James Murdoch told its staff that the latest explosion of a long-running scandal over phone hacking by journalists had made the future of the title untenable:

“The good things the News of the World does … have been sullied by behavior that was wrong. Indeed, if recent allegations are true, it was inhuman and has no place in our Company. The News of the World is in the business of holding others to account. But it failed when it came to itself.

“This Sunday will be the last issue of the News of the World … In addition, I have decided that all of the News of the World’s revenue this weekend will go to good causes.

“We will run no commercial advertisements this weekend.”

Steven Barnett, professor of communications at Westminster University, said he was “gobsmacked”:

“Talk about a nuclear option,” he told Reuters.

“It will certainly take some of the heat off immediate allegations about journalistic behavior and phone hacking.”

Tom Watson, a member of parliament from the opposition Labor party who had campaigned for a reckoning from the paper over the phone hacking scandal, said: “This is a victory for decent people up and down the land.

“I say good riddance to the News of the World.”

GOVERNMENT TIES

There was no immediate response from members of Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservative-led government, which has found itself embarrassed by the avalanche of allegations this week after it gave its blessing in principle to News Corp’s takeover bid for broadcaster BSkyB.

It was unclear whether the company would produce a replacement title for the lucrative Sunday market, in which, despite difficult times for newspaper circulations, the News of the World is still selling 2.6 million copies a week.

One option, analysts said, might be for its daily sister paper the Sun to extend its coverage to a seventh day.

News of the World journalists were stunned. Anger may be directed at top News International executive and Murdoch confidante Rebekah Brooks, who edited the paper a decade ago during the period of some of the gravest new allegations.

“We didn’t expect it at all. We had no indication. The last week has been tough…none of us have done anything wrong. We thought we were going to weather the storm,” said one News of the World employee who asked not to be named.

The scandal had deepened with claims News of the World hacked the phones of relatives of British soldiers killed in action in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The military veterans’ association broke off a joint lobbying campaign with the paper and said it might join major brands in pulling its advertising.

The British Legion said it could not campaign with the News of the World on behalf of the families of soldiers “while it stands accused of preying on these same families in the lowest depths of their misery.”

Signaling how far the racy, flag-waving title has alienated a core readership already horrified by suggestions its reporters accessed the voicemails not only of celebrities and politicians, but also of missing children and crime victims, an online boycott petition had garnered hundreds of thousands of signatures.

TELEVISION TAKEOVER

The Conservative-led government had already backed a deal for News Corp to buy out the 61 percent of BSkyB it does not already own, and says the two cases are not linked. But U.S. shares in News Corp fell over 5 percent on Wednesday, though they recovered somewhat in a stronger general market on Thursday.

Formal approval for the deal had been expected within weeks after the government gave its blessing in principle. But it now seems unlikely for months, although officials denied suggestions that they were delaying a decision because of the scandal.

“The Secretary of State has always been clear that he will take as long as is needed to reach a decision. There is no ‘delay’ since there has been no set timetable for a further announcement,” a government spokesman said. Some British media reported that a decision was now expected in September.

Critics, notably on the left of British politics, say giving Murdoch full control of Sky television would concentrate too much media power in his hands and risk skewing political debate.

Cameron has proposed inquiries into the newspaper and into the wider issue of ethics in the cut-throat, and shrinking, news business. Arguments over privacy, free speech and the power of the press have already stirred heated debate this year.

However, critics called Cameron’s move to set up official inquiries a tactic to push the embarrassing affair far into the future. The precise form of those inquiries is still unclear.

Labor opposition leader Ed Miliband has called for the BSkyB deal to be referred to the Competition Commission and said that Brooks, Murdoch’s most senior British newspaper executive, should quit: “The prime minister has a very close relationship with a number of the people involved in this,” said Miliband.

“He should ignore those relationships and come out and say the right thing because that is what the country expects.”

PERSONAL TIES

So far, Murdoch has said he will stand by Brooks, 43, who edited the paper from 2000 to 2003, when some of the gravest cases of phone hacking are alleged to have taken place. She is a also a regular guest of the prime minister, and enjoys good relations with previous Labor leaders in power until last year.

Senior politicians from all parties, including Cameron and Miliband, rubbed shoulders with Murdoch, Brooks and other News Corp executives at Murdoch’s exclusive annual summer party last month, underlining the power his organization wields.

Both Miliband and Cameron chose former News International employees as media advisers, although Cameron’s choice of Andy Coulson, who succeeded Brooks as News of the World editor, has caused the prime minister the more obvious problems.

Coulson quit the paper over the first hacking case in 2007 and went to work as Cameron’s spokesman. He resigned from the prime minister’s office in January as police reopened inquiries.

The main accusations are that journalists, or their hired investigators, took advantage of often limited security on mobile phone voicemail boxes to listen in to messages left for celebrities, politicians or people involved in major stories.

Disclosure that the practice involved victims of crime came when police said a private detective working for the News of the World in 2002 hacked into messages left on the phone of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler while police were still looking for her.

Police have also been criticized over allegations officers took money from the News of the World for information. London’s Evening Standard newspaper said on Thursday that police officers took more than 100,000 pounds ($160,000) in payments from senior journalists and executives at the paper.

Analysts believe the global Murdoch empire, which includes Fox television and the Wall Street Journal, can weather a storm of reproach from advertisers, readers and politicians in Britain — though there were signs of international ramifications.

In Murdoch’s native Australia, the leader of the Greens party said he wants the government to examine the ramifications on Australia of the phone hacking scandal.

The secretary general of the Council of Europe, Thorbjorn Jagland, said it was concerned by allegations of breaches of privacy. He said: “Governments need to act resolutely to fight and to prevent violations of this fundamental right, whilst actively protecting and promoting freedom of speech.”

(Writing by Alastair Macdonald)

NEWS UPDATE:

Head Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation will close the News of the World  after this Sunday’s edition, as a result of an escalating phone hacking scandal, his son James Murdoch said today.

“The News of the World  is in the business of holding others to account,” the deputy chief operating officer of News Corporation told staff. “But it failed when it came to itself.”

The title’s Irish edition employs 22 full-time staff and 10 others on a part-time basis. The Irish-base staff were informed by email this afternoon.

Mr Murdoch said the newspaper will not run any adverts in this Sunday’s edition.

“We will run no commercial advertisements this weekend. Any advertising space in this last edition will be donated to causes and charities that wish to expose their good works to our millions of readers,” he said in his statement. “These are strong measures. They are made humbly and out of respect. I am convinced they are the right thing to do.”

He praised the paper’s achievements but condemned this week’s revelations that phone hacking victims may have included murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler, the parents of murdered Soham schoolgirls Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, bereaved military families and relatives of 7/7 bombing victims.

“The good things the News of the World  does, however, have been sullied by behaviour that was wrong,” he said. “Indeed, if recent allegations are true, it was inhuman and has no place in our company.”

Mr Murdoch admitted that the paper’s internal inquiry into earlier phone hacking claims was inadequate.

Royal editor Clive Goodman and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire were jailed in 2007 after plotting to intercept voicemail messages left for royal aides.

Mr Murdoch accepted that the paper made statements to Parliament “without being in the full possession of the facts” and said he wrongly approved out-of-court settlements without having a “complete picture” of what had happened.

Mr Murdoch said he wanted all News International’s journalism to be “beyond reproach” and the company was co-operating “fully and actively” with the two Scotland Yard inquiries into allegations of phone hacking and payments
to police officers.

He said the company acknowledged it had made mistakes and was doing its “utmost” to “fix them, atone for them, and make sure they never happen again”.

Energy company Npower, telecoms firm O2 and supermarket chain Sainsburys have become the latest companies to pull advertising from the newspaper in the wake of phone-hacking allegations. A number of major brands have already suspended deals with the newspaper, including the Halifax bank, Virgin Holidays, The Co-operative Group, Butlins, Vauxhall and Mitsubishi.

The scandal surrounding the newspaper deepened today with claims it hacked in to the phones of relatives of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The head of the British armed forces, General Sir David Richards, condemned the allegations that bereaved military families’ phones were hacked.

“If these actions are proved to have been verified, I am appalled. I find it quite disgusting,” he told Sky News. “The prime minister, I, everyone across Whitehall in Government, feel very, very strongly about this.”

The developments threaten to delay News Corp’s planned take over of broadcaster BSkyB with the British government having received more than 100,000 responses to its consultation process over the proposed takeover.

News Corp’s bid already faced opposition from rivals in the media industry and some politicians but the phone-hacking scandal has brought the deal even more under the spotlight and yesterday Labour leader Ed Miliband urged the government to refer it to the Competition Commission.

Baroness Buscombe, chairwoman of the Press Complaints Commission (PCC), which regulates most British newspapers and magazines, said it was “extraordinary” that Rebekah Brooks, News Corp chief executive and former News of the World  editor, was leading the internal inquiry into the scandal at News International and said all executives at the company needed to examine their consciences. “The corporate culture was clearly there to mislead us. We were misled by commission or omission,” she told BBC Radio 4’s Today  programme.

Prime minister David Cameron has promised a public inquiry after allegations that the newspaper listened in on voicemails sent to victims and relatives involved in some of the country’s most notorious crimes. The scandal has raised fresh questions about the power Mr Murdoch wields over the British press, politicians – including Mr Cameron – and the police.

Rupert Murdoch has said he will stand by Ms Brooks, who once edited the paper and is a regular guest of Mr Cameron.

Also under fire is Andy Coulson, another link between Mr Cameron and the News of the World . Mr Coulson succeeded Ms Brooks as editor but, having quit over the first hacking case in 2007, went to work as Mr Cameron’s spokesman. He resigned from the prime minister’s office in January when police reopened inquiries.

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James Murdoch’s statement in full | 07/07/2011

Bacik calls on Irish ‘News of the World’ readers to boycott paper | 07/07/2011

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No evidence of hacking in Ireland but experts say it is likely to have occurred | 07/07/2011

A charmer with ruthless determination who has the full backing of the Murdoch family | 07/07/2011

Revulsion at the intrusions of a tabloid brimming with arrogance | 07/07/2011

Murdoch says claims ‘deplorable’ | 06/07/2011

Tabloid hacked phones of murder victims and families | 06/07/2011

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One Response to “BREAKING NEWS: London: Murdoch Folds News of the World Over Phone Hacking Scandal: UPDATED”

  1. Kendall Erhart 1JulyJ2011 at 5:53 am #

    Thanks so much for the article.Much thanks again. Awesome.

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