A phone hacking scandal—which has mushroomed from hacking celebrities' cell phones to revelations that murder victims' and dead soliders' phone were also hacked and cops were paid off—at a Rupert Murdoch-owned British tabloid, News of the World, has proven so troubling that the weekly will shut down after Sunday. News International announced the impending closure today, and chairman James Murdoch, Rupert's son, said the proceeds from the final issue would go to good causes.
James Murdoch issued a statement to his staff, saying, the good deeds of the paper "have been sullied by behaviour 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... 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 organisations - many of whom are long-term friends and partners - that improve life in Britain and are devoted to treating others with dignity."
News International is the British newspaper division of News Corp., which also publishes newspapers in Australia and the U.S. (like the Wall Street Journal and NY Post) and owns Harper Collins, the book publisher. The NY Times reports, "Over all, revenue from the publishing division of News Corporation accounted for only 17 percent of its revenue in the last nine months. In that time, cable network programming accounted for 61 percent, and film, which includes the 20th Century Fox studio, was 20 percent." In recent days, News Corp. stock has fallen by over 3%, but is up 1.5% after announcing the News of the World would shut down.
In the meantime, former NYC Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, who was hired away to head News Corp's educational division (hello, big contract from the NYC Department of Education), is now handling the phone hacking scandal. And to explain why it's a big deal in the UK, here's this take from the Spectator:
et’s try a thought experiment. Let’s imagine that BP threw an extravagant party, with oysters and expensive champagne. Let’s imagine that Britain’s most senior politicians were there — including the Prime Minister and his chief spin doctor. And now let’s imagine that BP was the subject of two separate police investigations, that key BP executives had already been arrested, that further such arrests were likely, and that the chief executive was heavily implicated.
Let’s take this mental experiment a stage further: BP’s chief executive had refused to appear before a Commons enquiry, while MPs who sought to call the company to account were claiming to have been threatened. Meanwhile, BP was paying what looked like hush money to silence people it had wronged, thereby preventing embarrassing information entering the public domain.
And now let’s stretch probability way beyond breaking point. Imagine that the government was about to make a hugely controversial ruling on BP’s control over the domestic petroleum market. And that BP had a record of non-payment of British tax. The stench would be overwhelming. There would be outrage in the Sun and the Daily Mail — and rightly so — about Downing Street collusion with criminality. The Sunday Times would have conducted a fearless investigation, and the Times penned a pained leader. In parliament David Cameron would have been torn to shreds.
Instead, until this week there has been almost nothing, save for a lonely campaign by the Guardian. Because the company portrayed above is not BP, but News International, owner of the Times, the Sunday Times, the News of the World and the Sun, approximately one third of the domestic newspaper market. And last week, Jeremy Hunt ruled that Murdoch, who owns a 39 per cent stake in BSkyB, can now buy it outright (save for Sky’s news channel). This consolidates the Australian-born mogul as by far the most significant media magnate in this country, wielding vast political and commercial power.