Bad Run For Murdoch and NewsCorp

Rupert Murdoch - World Economic Forum Annual M...
Image by World Economic Forum via Flickr

It’s been a rough few weeks for Rupert Murdoch and his media conglomerate News Corporation (NewsCorp).  Last week he took a half-billion-dollar loss when he sold off the dying MySpace subsidiary.  It’s not often that billionaires lose hundreds of millions of dollars but the golden goose of MySpace had long ago been served up for pate. Now Murdoch announces the closure of a 168 year old newspaper in jolly-old England.  Why?

Our stiff-upper-lipped allies across the pond are not happy with the investigative “techniques” employed by the journalists-turned-hackers at the News of The World (NotW) paper.  Apparently it has been accepted practice (for quite some time) to hack into the personal voice-mail of athletes, celebrities and politicians in the course of investigation for the NotW. In the wake of the backlash against the newspaper, advertisers have been pulling spots faster than MySpace was losing value and now the decision from NewsCorp is to shutter the tabloid.

The row started with the revelation that NotW had hacked into the voice mail of a missing, later murdered, 13-year-old victim and used the breach of security in their reporting of the story.  In addition the hacker erased some messages while accessing the victim’s voice mail system.  If true, NotW not only obstructed justice, but also destroyed evidence in the process of violating the privacy of an under-age crime victim.  As more details emerge, it is believed that there are up to as many as 4000 victims who had their phone hacked by members of the NotW staff, one reported has been arrested and another arrest is pending.  As if this was not enough, Scotland Yard management alleges that NotW bribed police offices to the tune of $160,000 in order to cover-up the hacking incidences.  The incidents go as far back as 2002 and the victims include members of the Royal Family, Celebrities and even family members of the terrorist attack victims.

The backlash, both political and societal, could not come at a worse time for Murdoch who is currently trying to convince UK regulators to approve NewsCorp’s complete take-over of British Sky Broadcasting (BSkyB).  NewsCorp already holds a 39% share of BSkyB, and has bid to purchase the remaining 61%.  With Murdoch having to answer questions about hacking and obstruction of justice, some are calling for the British government to rethink the take-over bid.

[image via: Guardian]

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