In the most riveting story of the week, Rupert Murdoch’s media empire suffered blow after blow in England when Operation Weeting, an investigation by London’s Metropolitan Police Service (MPS), uncovered proof that journalists working for Murdoch’s News of the World (NotW) hacked the phones of celebrities, VIPs and relatives of British soldiers killed in action. An investigator with the paper also hacked the cell phone of a 13-year-old girl who was murdered and deleted voicemails to make room for new ones. Tragically, the girl’s parents thought she was still alive.
Operation Weeting spawned Operation Elveden which discovered that London police had taken over $160,000 in bribes from NotW senior journalists and executives in exchange for information. Former NotW editor Andy Coulson had resigned in 2007 in relation to a phone hacking scandal involving one of his reporters and subsequently became the communications director for current British Prime Minister David Cameron, a post he resigned from this year in relation to the phone-hacking affair. Coulson was arrested today on charges of corruption and phone hacking, potentially tainting Cameron in the process.
All of this is taking place as Murdoch’s ominously named News Corporation is under close scrutiny by the British media watchdog Ofcom regarding the buyout of British Sky Brodcasting (BSkyB), the largest subscription-based television service in England. With the purchase clearly in jeopardy, Murdoch unexpectedly closed down the 168-year-old News of the World. With all of the paper’s major advertisers jumping ship, the paper had lost hundreds of millions of dollars on Wednesday alone. Already pundits are speculating that Murdoch will roll operations over to the best-selling British tabloid The Sun, a shrewd move that could potentially increase revenues.
Now reports have surfaced that an executive at the Murdoch-owned News International deleted millions of e-mails dating back to 2005, including messages between NotW editors, in direct obstruction of the MPS investigation. News International Chief Executive Rebekah Brooks, also a friend of Cameron, is under fire for her role in the affair, and despite calls to #sackbrooks, Murdoch is keeping her onboard to conduct the proceedings.
With the British police, politicians and the media implicated and the scandal still unfolding, it remains to be seen how tangled the web is in the US where Murdoch’s properties include FOX News and the Wall Street Journal. Whatever the case, coverage of the events between Twitter and the mainstream press has been spectacular and the fallout from these incidents should have sprawling repercussions.