The News of the World’s practice of intercepting voicemail messages was designed to give them the inside track in stories.
Indeed the practice of phone hacking by Murdoch’s British tabloid paper appears so wide and so brazen that serious repercussions are likely.
It seems plausible that News International’s Chief Executive Rebakah Brooks may be asked to step down as Chief Executive of News International, though Murdoch is standing by her for now. There are also calls for James Murdoch, Rupert’s son, to step down from his role in the company. With advertisers leaving the News of the World in droves, it seems unlikely that heads won’t roll somewhere don’t the line.
However, there will likely be other repercussions that shape Britain’s economy and its politics. Here’s what you need to know:
BSkyB Takeover In Doubt
Murdoch has essentially had a stranglehold on the British newspaper industry for decades, owning most of its prominent tabloid newspapers and even the supposed “paper of record” The Times of London.
However, he had always sought more control in the UK, most notably through his proposed takeover of BSkyB, Britain’s largest paid-for television service in the UK.Murdoch had long eyed the satellite television network, perhaps the only true rival in the UK to the BBC’s power. Last year, he announced his plans to up his stake in the company from 39% to 100%. The move was primarily a business decision — Murdoch was happy to allow the company’s news wing, Sky News, be spun off as an independent company.
When the original minister in charge of the takeover bid, Vince Cable, was secretly recorded in November by Telegraph journalists announcing he was starting a “war on Murdoch“, he was shifted off the deal and another, more receptive minister was moved onto the deal. Despite protests, Culture Minister Jeremy Hunt announced he planned to approve the takeover at the beginning of March.
Of course, now the situation has changed. The British Government is now facing strong calls from the opposition and the public to halt the takeover and refer it to the Competition Commission. One insider told The Independent, “We are looking for a way out on the takeover. But it isn’t easy to find one. The timing is just awful.”
The decision, supposed to take place tomorrow, is now likely to take place in September according to Robert Peston of the BBC.
Cameron’s Uneasy Alliance
David Cameron must be wishing the phone hacking scandal would go away. Rebekah Brooks, Murdoch’s right hand woman at the centre of the scandal, is very much a close friend of Camerons. The last News of the World editor linked to the scandal was at the time his press secretary, Andy Coulson (until the scandal forced him to fire him).
The situation is providing ammunition for the opposition, with Labour leader Ed Milliband joking today in the House of Commons that the only two people in the country who thought Rebekah Brooks shouldn’t be fired were Murdoch and Cameron.
Cameron cozied up to Murdoch because most (successful) politicians have no other option if they want favourable press coverage from his media empire. However, if Cameron is seen as standing by a company that hacks into phones of relatives of murdered children and war heroes, he won’t just be alienating the Guardian-reading liberal crowd but also the very base of Conservative-party support.
Cameron has now agreed to at least one inquiry into the phone hacking.
Milliband Finds A Foothold
Conversely, Labour politicians, abandoned by Murdoch at the last election, are finding themselves in a position of righteous power.Labour MP Tom Watson has found a niche as a campaigning voice against Murdoch’s papers and government collusion. Ed Milliband has also found something to hit the government with, and is going to “war” with Murdoch.
Even Gordon Brown has come out well, with reports that he was contacted by Murdoch in the hopes of getting him to drop the phone hacking investigations (he didn’t, and Murdoch dropped Brown at the next general elections).
Could there finally be an election in the UK where Murdoch doesn’t decided the winner? It’s increasingly looking so…
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