By The Associated Press - Thursday, November 29, 2012 - 0 Comments
Leveson says regulatory body should be established under law
LONDON – Britain’s unruly newspapers should be regulated by an independent body dominated by non-journalists with the power to levy steep fines, a judge said Thursday in a report that pleased victims of tabloid intrusion but left editors worrying about creeping state control of the country’s fiercely independent press.
Prime Minister David Cameron echoed concerns about government interference, expressing misgivings about a key recommendation of the report — that the new regulator be enshrined in law.
He called on the much criticized press to show it could control itself by implementing the judge’s proposals quickly — and without political involvement.
By macleans.ca - Wednesday, December 7, 2011 at 3:01 PM - 0 Comments
Glen Mulcaire tied to News of the World scandal
Glen Mulcaire, the private detective at the heart of Britain’s phone hacking scandal, has been arrested, according to reports in the English press. Mulcaire’s extensive notes have been key to a parliamentary inquiry into the dubious practice. As a contractor with the News of the World, the detective is believed to have intercepted voice mails from as many as several thousand prominent Britons.
By Leah McLaren - Monday, November 21, 2011 at 8:30 AM - 5 Comments
New revelations continue to tarnish the Murdoch empire
Last week the British public sat riveted through yet another episode in the ongoing, Hitchcock-worthy suspense thriller known as “Dial ‘M’ for Murdoch.”
Late Thursday morning, James Murdoch, the 39-year-old bespectacled heir apparent to the embattled News Corp. empire, was called for a second time to give testimony at a hearing led by backbench MPs on the House of Commons’s culture, media and sport select committee. The grilling was the latest chapter in the phone hacking saga that erupted into a full-blown scandal in July.
The catalyst then was public outrage over the revelation that 13-year-old murder victim Millie Dowler’s phone had been hacked by reporters from the now-defunct tabloid News of the World—which came after years of news of ill-gotten celebrity scoops and half-hearted police investigations into what we now know was a widespread London tabloid practice. Since then, the scandal has only snowballed. At last count, the list of potential phone hacking victims stands at around 6,000, about 2,000 more than previously thought, and the series of upcoming civil trials has not even begun. This week, the official government-sponsored inquiry spurred by the scandal kicks off. Led by Lord Justice Leveson, it is specifically tasked with examining the “culture, practice and ethics of the press,” and will probe the relationships between the country’s politicians, police and newspapers so as to “recommend on the future of press regulation and governance.”
By macleans.ca - Tuesday, August 16, 2011 at 12:04 PM - 0 Comments
Disgraced News of the World reporter says editors knew of hacking
Fresh allegations came to light Tuesday that upper-level executives in the Murdoch media empire were aware of phone hacking by journalists at Britain’s now-defunct News of the World tabloid. A letter written four years ago by the paper’s Royal correspondent Clive Goodman was published Tuesday, alleging that phone hacking was “widely discussed” at editorial meetings with “the full knowledge and support” of other journalists. The letter also describes how then-editor Andy Coulson —who went on to work in Prime Minister David Cameron’s office — offered to let Goodman keep his job if he agreed not to implicate the paper in the hacking accusations he faced before the court. The letter raises doubts about the media company’s previous position that Goodman was hacking phones on his own, without the newspaper’s knowledge. It also casts doubt on testimony provided by Rupert Murdoch and his son James, who denied suspicions the company tried to buy off Goodman by paying his legal bills during the ordeal. The letter is dated March 2, 2007, shortly after Goodman was released from prison for intercepting the voicemail of three members of the Royal Family.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, August 2, 2011 at 11:25 AM - 13 Comments
Rest assured, the Canadian news media isn’t nearly powerful enough for anything like the News International scandal to happen here.
But if a phone-hacking scandal is unlikely in Canada, it’s not because politicians and journalists here are inherently more ethical. It’s more a reflection of the fact that Canadian politicians simply don’t need the news media in the same way they do in Britain. ”Canadian newspapers are such a niche market — so few people actually read most of them — that they just don’t have the impact in Canada that News of the World did in the U.K.,” Harper’s former chief of staff Ian Brodie, told The Canadian Press in an email.
By macleans.ca - Monday, July 18, 2011 at 2:58 PM - 16 Comments
Sean Hoare first to implicate former editor in phone hacking
The former News of the World reporter who broke open the phone hacking scandal by implicating then-editor Andy Coulson has been found dead. In separate interviews, Sean Hoare told the New York Times and the BBC Coulson was not only aware of the hacking, he’d personally asked Hoare to tap into phones. Police say Hoare’s death “is being treated as unexplained, but not thought to be suspicious.” The former showbiz reporter for the News of the World was once a close friend of Coulson’s but was fired from the paper over substance abuse issues.
By Andrew Coyne - Monday, July 18, 2011 at 10:00 AM - 13 Comments
Andrew Coyne on how the culture of corruption did not just infect Rupert Murdoch’s empire, but much of the British establishment
Scandals used to be so simple. Power corrupts, we were taught, and scandals were the business of those few who held power. Teapot Dome, which before Watergate was what you thought of when you saw the words “American political scandal,” involved the payment of kickbacks to a single cabinet secretary. The Pacific Scandal was essentially a matter between Sir John A. Macdonald and Sir Hugh Allan.
In this democratic age, however, the locus of corruption has shifted. Now, scandals belong to everybody. The corruption more typical of our times—perhaps Watergate marked the transition—infects an organization generally, an “everybody does it” mentality in which large numbers of people who never thought of themselves as criminals become ensnared. Think of the huge numbers of people who participated in or at least knew about the various exchanges that went into the sponsorship scandal. The phrase popularized in Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point, social epidemic, seems apt. The culture of corruption spreads from person to person, encouraging each to adopt a standard of behaviour that, as individuals, they might otherwise find repulsive.
And so we come to the phone-hacking scandal—the second epidemic of corruption to strike the United Kingdom in recent years, after the parliamentary expenses scandal that led to charges being laid against more than half a dozen MPs and ended the careers of dozens more. It is by now well established that the hacking of personal phone messages by journalists at the News of the World was not, as was maintained for several years, a matter of a rogue reporter and his private investigator accomplice. Nor was it confined to the peccadillos of celebrities or royals.
It extended, as we now know, to literally thousands of people, including the widows of dead soldiers, the victims of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, and, most infamously, a missing 13-year-old girl, later found murdered, whose voice messages were not only intercepted but, when her mailbox became full, deleted, thus leading her family to believe she was still alive.
The invasions of privacy went beyond voice mail to include personnel records, bank accounts, and medical files—lawful in certain circumstances, but only where a public interest can be shown, as in cases of corruption. That would not appear to cover, for example, the news that the infant son of Gordon Brown, then the chancellor of the exchequer, had cystic fibrosis, discovered and splashed across the front page within days of the Browns learning it themselves.
This behaviour involved not only reporters at the News of the World, but at least in the Brown example, also the Sun and Sunday Times, sister papers in Rupert Murdoch’s News International empire. (The Sun denies it used Brown’s son’s medical records for its story.) In the fullness of time we shall learn whether it extended to other news organizations, though it is already established that some have hired the same private investigators.
If that were all, it would be shocking enough: the famously slipshod ethics of the British tabloid press spilling over into outright criminality. But it is the intersection with other pillars of British society that takes this story to the outer limits. Much of the confidential material sought by Murdoch’s spooks was supplied to them by police officers, often on the payment of bribes. Other police officers turned a blind eye to the News of the World’s phone-hacking activities, including those explicitly assigned the task of investigating how widespread the practice was, after the first cases came to light—in part, it seems, because their own phones had been hacked, and the evidence of professional and personal misconduct thus obtained. Even after it was revealed that News International had paid huge sums of money to other victims to settle their claims out of court, Scotland Yard somehow concluded there was no story here.
And overseeing all this, the political class of Britain: all of it, it seems, or nearly so. Since the days of Margaret Thatcher, leaders of both major parties have courted Murdoch with lickspittle zeal, in hopes of his papers’ endorsement. The current prime minister, David Cameron, employed one former editor of the News of the World as his communications director, and is close friends with another.
It wasn’t only political or personal connections that moved so many politicians to play nice with Murdoch. It was, as we are now learning, fear. Politicians who crossed him or his minions were openly threatened with the publication of embarrassing personal information. Only now that he is on the run, so to speak, are many daring to speak up. This was not so much a news organization as a bribery and blackmail racket.
The culture of corruption, then, did not just infect the Murdoch empire, but much of the British establishment. To be sure, it had its roots in power, as of old: the kind that comes with owning four national newspapers with a combined 40 per cent of total circulation. The reporters who stole people’s private information could not have done so without the approval of their editors, who in turn would have taken their cues from those higher up. All of them must have come to believe they could get away with anything. Who would dare stand in their way?
But it required also the acquiescence of hundreds of others, outside the News International ranks. Yes, they may have been acting, or failing to act, out of fear, or at least a sense of helplessness. But that is debauching in its own way. Power may corrupt, but so, it seems, does impotence.