Posts Tagged ‘Rupert Murdoch’

Monday News Review

11/07/2011, 06:29:49 AM

Rupert returns

Rupert Murdoch put on an extraordinary show of support for Rebekah Brooks yesterday – apparently unconcerned about her imminent interview under police caution. Flying into London to take personal charge of the phone-hacking scandal, the billionaire flaunted his confidence in his News International chief executive. Mrs Brooks, who has twice offered to resign over the controversy, was seen entering Mr Murdoch’s Mayfair apartment at around 5.30pm yesterday. Later, when asked what was his top priority, the 80-year-old media mogul gestured to Mrs Brooks. ‘She is,’ he replied.  The pair spent an hour in the apartment discussing the scandal on the day the final edition of the News of the World hit news stands. Then, in front of hordes of photographers, Mr Murdoch walked her out of the block of flats with his arm firmly around her. They had beaming smiles as they crossed the road to the Stafford Hotel, where they were expected to dine together and were later joined by Mr Murdoch’s son, James, the chairman of News International. Pictures of the ‘Rupert and Rebekah show’ will infuriate the victims of phone hacking and those who question her denials. – Daily Mail

For more than 30 years now there have been two truths about Rupert Murdoch’s increasingly infrequent visitations to the British outpost of his media empire. The first: anyone who is anyone in the world of politics and business angles for (and is delighted by) any kind of audience with the great man. The second is the chill his visit engenders amongst his senior editors and executives in Wapping. Yesterday as Mr Murdoch’s corporate Boeing 737 jet, complete with a boardroom and double bed, touched down at Luton Airport, it was clear how much has changed in the last week. The chill in Wapping is still there – worse than ever – but the audiences for Mr Murdoch have dried up. He and his company – feted by David Cameron and Ed Miliband just two weeks ago at the News International Summer Party – have become a political liability. To paraphrase the famous quote: “It was News of the World wot lost it”. Yesterday Downing Street made it very clear that Mr Cameron would be neither meeting nor speaking to Mr Murdoch on this visit. Privately Government sources are blunter. They are incandescent at the political damage done by the phone-hacking scandal and angry that News Corp has not voluntarily suspended its attempted takeover of BSkyB in the wake of the allegations. – the Independent

Hinton could be the moat senior casualty

Les Hinton, Rupert Murdoch‘s lifelong lieutenant and closest adviser, faces questions over whether he saw a 2007 internal News International report, which found evidence that phone hacking was more widespread than admitted by the company, before he testified to a parliamentary committee that the practice was limited to a single reporter. News of the existence of the 2007 report – the conclusions of which were kept hidden from the public, MPs and police – came as Murdoch, chairman and CEO of News Corporation, arrived in the UK to deal directly with the rapidly developing crisis. The collection of memos that formed the inquiry were sent to the Metropolitan police earlier this year. This step came after executives who had joined NI more recently discovered its existence and sent it to the Operation Weeting team investigating News of the World phone hacking. Despite the alleged conclusions of the memos, NI executives repeatedly went on the record to say hacking was confined to a single “rogue reporter” – and gave evidence to parliament that that was the case.  The Guardian understands that Hinton was among five NI executives who had access to the report. The then News of the World editor, Colin Myler, and legal counsel, Tom Crone, are also understood to have seen it. Hinton – an employee of Murdoch for 52 years – was succeeded by James Murdoch, who it is understood had no knowledge of the 2007 internal inquiry until recently. He joined NI from BSkyB, where he had been chief executive. Also in the dark was Rebekah Brooks, who at the time was editing the Sun. – the Guardian

Rupert Murdoch’s right hand man could become the highest-profile casualty of the scandal engulfing News Corp. Dow Jones chief executive Les Hinton looks set to be dragged into the firing line after it emerged a report was commissioned in 2007 – on his watch – showing that phone hacking may not have been restricted to royal reporter Clive Goodman and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire. Hinton, who after 52 years at the company is seen as a key Murdoch henchman, faces tough questions over whether he saw the report before he testified to a parliamentary committee that the phone hacking scandal was carried out by a “single rogue reporter”. Sources close to News Corp have been forced to deny that James Murdoch or Rebekah Brooks had knowledge of the report, which was carried out by law firm Harbottle & Lewis on behalf of the News of the World. The memo was finally handed over to police last month – four years after it was penned. Brooks was editor of sister publication the Sun at the time, which was not implicated in the scandal, and James Murdoch was at BSkyB. It now looks likely that heads will have to roll over the report. – City A.M.

Cameron’s ‘power to the people’ proposals

Virtually all public services would be privatised under “wrecking ball” plans to be unveiled today by David Cameron. The Prime Minister is to announce that companies will get the chance to run everything from elderly care and bin collection to schools and hospitals. Only the Armed Forces, the police and the courts system will escape Mr Cameron’s huge shake-up. In a speech today outlining his plans, he will accuse public servants of running “old-fashioned, top-down, take-what-you’re-given” services that are “just not working for a lot of people”. Sources close to the Prime Minister say all public services will be opened up to the private sector and the Government will be “neutral” on who runs them. But union leaders attacked the plans. Unison’s Dave Prentis said: “The Tories are now turning their wrecking ball on to the entire public sector.” But the PM, stung by criticism that he has made too many U-turns, has vowed to press ahead with the idea regardless of opposition. But Labour, which has backed the Mirror’s Save Our Services campaign, has accused the Tory-led Government of relying too heavily on private firms. – Daily Mirror

David Cameron will today set out “urgent” plans to boost significantly the role of charities, community groups and private companies in running services such as health, child care and education. Under the reforms, outside organisations could bid for work including ”mutual’’ companies formed by public sector workers and based on the John Lewis Partnership, the department store chain partly owned by its staff. Publishing the Open Public Services White Paper, the Prime Minister will insist he is not going to back down on his plans for reform, despite the doubts of some senior Conservatives. The Daily Telegraph understands that the paper will commit ministers to examine the case for a new “overarching” right to choice for all public services. The new law could be modelled on existing rules in education, which ensure that parents are given a choice of schools by their council. Such a choice could then be extended to anyone who uses state-funded services. Government sources say that the “right to choose” would mean that public sector bodies – including councils – would be forced to consider letting outside organisations provide public services. The John Lewis-style “mutual” companies would allow staff to have a say on how their service was run. Outside bodies running services will operate on the basis of “payment by results” contracts, giving them a clear financial incentive to deliver. – Daily Telegraph

Labour braces itself for Baldwin attack

A senior News International journalist warned Labour that the company’s papers intended to “turn on Ed Miliband and his staff” days before allegations were published in The Sunday Times and The Sun about his strategy director Tom Baldwin. The Independent understands the warning was made to a Labour spokesman hours after Mr Miliband had called on Wednesday for the resignation of News International’s chief executive Rebekah Brooks. Three days later, The Sun carried a story claiming that Mr Baldwin had been a heavy user of cocaine. Yesterday, The Sunday Times carried a story which said he had been accused – in a previous job – of hiring a private investigator to “blag” the bank details of the Conservative donor Michael Ashcroft. The broad theme of both allegations had been made in a book by Lord Ashcroft, which was published five years ago.  But the decision by The Sun and The Sunday Times to attack Mr Baldwin has caused tensions at The Times, where he was formerly chief reporter until he accepted the job with Mr Miliband in December last year. In his previous role, Mr Baldwin would not have been able to sanction such payments – suggesting that if the allegations were correct, someone higher up at The Times during the period in question would have had to sanction it. The last thing Rupert Murdoch would want is a sister paper of The Times precipitating a fresh investigation into the Ashcroft affair. – the Independent

Jarvis Cocker gets in on the act

Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker has celebrated the demise of the News Of The World at T In The Park. Ending its run after allegations of phone tapping were proved to be endemic, the newspaper’s demise has delighted some vociferous critics. Pulp took to the stage at T In The Park fresh from the knowledge that the newspaper would end production. Clearly in a gleeful mood, Jarvis Cocker opened the set with a passionate rendition of ‘Do You Remember The First Time?’. Later, the singer told the crowd to remember the last time the News Of The World was published. Holding the final edition aloft, Jarvis Cocker then proceeded to use the newspaper as toilet roll. With the crowd egging him on, the frontman then told the T In The Park audience “that’s the only thing that piece of shit has been good for in 168 years”. – Clash Music

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Sunday News Review

10/07/2011, 06:30:02 AM

Thank you and goodbye

After 168 years, we finally say a sad but very proud farewell to our 7.5m loyal readers. – News of the World

The end of the world

We do not celebrate the passing of the News of the World. At its best, it was one of the finest newspapers in Britain, with an astonishing record of scoops and entertainment. The Independent on Sunday would wish we enjoyed anything like its sales success. And no one, least of all the staff of another Sunday newspaper, should take pleasure in the sacking of fellow journalists, few of whom were responsible for the excesses that brought the title down. What is worse is that the closure of the NOTW was unnecessary. If Rebekah Brooks had resigned, the toxicity of the title could have been purged and advertisers might have been won back. It is almost universally agreed that phone-hacking of this kind, simply trawling for information about people in the news, or their families, is repugnant. It is bad enough when hacking is used as a short cut to easy stories about the private lives of celebrities, but in the Dowler case, the hacker gave false hope to Milly’s family and could have jeopardised a police murder investigation. What Ms Brooks meant when she said that there was worse yet to come out we can only shudder to imagine. – the Independent on Sunday

Suddenly, Rupert Murdoch seems much less a global mogul, much more a diminished man of glass. He flies into London this weekend from Sun Valley, Idaho, in time for the last rites of the most successful Sunday newspaper in Britain, the News of the World. One hundred and sixty-eight years ago, it pledged: “Our motto is the truth, our practice is fearless advocacy of the truth.” After today, the tabloid will appear no more, felled not by one royal rogue reporter but by the arrogance, ambition and apparent tolerance of systemic criminal behaviour by members of the senior News International management. The loss of a newspaper, especially one with a proud history of award-winning investigative journalism, is a cause for sadness. The News of the World was the biggest-selling Sunday tabloid in the English-speaking world. The death of a paper in such rude health is unprecedented and unwanted in the media. The individuals who are to blame are, as yet, unwilling fully to admit culpability. Rebekah Brooks, the chief executive, still in post, has warned that worse revelations are to come. The shameful saga stretches back over five years. Arguably, it would not have come to light but for the sterling and stoic persistence of the Guardian, some diligent lawyers and a handful of MPs such as Tom Watson and Chris Bryant. The News of the World’s termination is the price Murdoch is willing to pay to halt the accelerating erosion of the British wing of his international empire and to secure full ownership of “the cash machine”, the satellite broadcaster BSkyB, the leading provider of pay TV. However, over the past few days, BSkyB shares have lost more than £1bn in value. – the Observer

Ed to take on BSkyB deal in the Commons

Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, is seeking cross-party support for a motion in Parliament that would postpone any deal until the criminal investigation into the News of the World hacking scandal is complete. News Corporation fears that if the vote is successful the bid will have to be abandoned. Observers said that it would be difficult to see how the Government could “green light” the deal if Parliament has voted against it. It is believed Labour is hopeful it can get enough support to push through the vote, scheduled for Wednesday. Mr Miliband is expected to make an official announcement this morning on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show. Meanwhile, one of BSkyB’s most significant long-term investors has bought back into the UK television company, saying that he did not want Rupert Murdoch to get it “on the cheap”. – Sunday Telegraph

Rupert Murdoch‘s ambition to expand his media empire still further could be killed off by MPs this week after Labour announced plans for a Commons vote to thwart his bid for BSkyB. The move comes amid a mood of continuing public uproar over the phone-hacking scandal, which is now threatening to destabilise David Cameron’s government. The vote will present the coalition with a major test of unity as the Labour leader, Ed Miliband, seeks cross-party support for a motion in parliament which would halt progress on the takeover until the criminal investigation into the News of the World is completed. With many Liberal Democrats and Tory MPs deeply uneasy about Murdoch gaining an even bigger slice of the UK media market – and still incensed by the behaviour of News Corp executives – Labour is optimistic it can mobilise enough support to achieve a majority. Miliband will appear on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show on Sunday to announce his plan and to begin his push for support across all the major parties. He will lay the motion tomorrow and the debate and vote will be on Wednesday. If he is successful, the Labour move will drive a wedge between the coalition parties and leave Murdoch’s takeover ambition in tatters – because the police inquiry could take several years. – the Observer

Yates’ startling apology

A senior Scotland Yard detective has admitted he let down the victims of the News of the World phone-hacking scandal by too readily dismissing calls to reopen the case. Assistant Commissioner John Yates admitted he was too quick to rule out a full investigation into the allegations when he was asked to look into them in 2009. He also said he had never seen the 11,000 pages from private investigator Glenn Mulcaire’s notebooks, which had been seized by police. ‘I’m not going to go down and look at bin bags,’ he said. ‘I am supposed to be an Assistant Commissioner. Perhaps I should have been more demanding. I am accountable, and it happened on my watch, and it’s clear I could have done more.’ Using remarkably blunt language for a senior police officer, Mr Yates said his decision had been ‘a pretty crap one’. He dismissed the claims as ‘malicious gossip’. In a remarkable admission, Mr Yates, who has been widely criticised for failing to expose the full extent of the scandal, said: ‘Should I have come out so quickly and said there wasn’t anything in it? Tactically, I probably shouldn’t have. I should have cogitated and reflected but it’s so bloody obvious there was nothing there [that we didn’t already know]. I didn’t do a review. Had I known then what I know now – all bets are off. In hindsight there is a shed load of stuff in there I wish I’d known.’ – Mail on Sunday

Rooney’s hooker sets BoJo’s pulse racing

Boris Johnson partied the night away with Wayne Rooney’s call girl Helen Wood at a posh summer do – but seemed to have no idea who she was. Former prostitute Helen set the bumbling London Mayor’s pulse racing at the Spectator At Home bash, where posh guests included Chancellor George Osborne. One partygoer said: “Helen really stood out from the crowd on the night. Boris couldn’t believe someone that pretty would be at the Tory magazine’s bash. I’m not sure if he knew about Helen’s past though.” Boris, who arrived at the party on his bicycle, does have previous at The Spectator. He had an affair with columnist Petronella Wyatt while he was editor of the right-wing magazine. – Sunday Mirror

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Alex Salmond’s cosy relationship with Rupert Murdoch and the Tories

14/04/2011, 03:42:43 PM

At the 1992 election, Scotland was one place where the Tory-loving Sun didn’t publish its “If Kinnock wins today will the last person to leave Britain…” front page.

The paper’s infamous attack on Labour would have been wasted on Scottish voters. Instead, Rupert Murdoch’s favourite tabloid switched support from the increasingly toxic Tories to the SNP. The objective, though, was still the same – to stop a Labour government at Westminster.

Fast forward nearly two decades, and we see that history may be repeating itself. The Daily Record political editor, Magnus Gardham, reveals in his blog that News International is hosting a “business breakfast” with first minister, Alex Salmond. It’s an offer that certainly isn’t open to other party leaders during the campaign.

In recent weeks, Murdoch’s Sun has splashed on celebrity endorsers for the SNP and attacked Labour at every opportunity. So it’s odds-on they’ll support the SNP – or at the very least Salmond – by polling day.

Magnus also highlights how this SNP Scottish government has not challenged the Tory-led coalition with the same vigour as they did the previous Labour UK government.

For example, there was no fight-back from Salmond over a recent clampdown on finances by Danny Alexander. According to Magnus, the treasury bean-counter informed SNP finance secretary, John Swinney, that the Scottish government could no longer hold on to unspent cash at the end of the financial year.

Magnus notes that “in days gone by, Salmond would have trampled folk underfoot in his haste to reach the Holyrood chamber for an angry emergency statement”. But not under a Tory government, it seems.

Obviously, there are huge questions about how our print media does actually influence voters these days. As Alastair Campbell reminds us in his blog, the Tories ended up with just one seat north of the border at last year’s general election, despite the Sun supporting them devotedly in Scotland.

The real problem for both the Sun and the SNP is one of credibility. The gymnastics performed by the Sun are of Olympic proportions. Only four year ago, the paper ran an election day splash with the headline “Vote SNP today and you put Scotland’s head in the noose”.

This time round, the Nationalists could find the Sun’s support extremely counterproductive, given that the paper is also supporting the Tories in its other UK editions.

The Scots are too canny to be taken in and will see through Murdoch’s motives. Endorsement from News International for Alex Salmond, the SNP or for both isn’t about what’s best for Scotland. It’s all to do with what’s best for the Tories at Westminster. And the last thing David Cameron wants is Labour first minister in Holyrood fighting for the things that really matter.

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If Rebekah Brooks had any respect for Rupert Murdoch, she would resign this week

12/04/2011, 07:00:13 AM

by Tom Watson

Part of me wants to scoff at the idiocy of the people who are paid staggering amounts of money to represent the interests of Rupert Murdoch. My God they’ve let him down. Then I think of the parents of the Soham kids and remember why the campaign cannot stop. And I think of my own children. My gentle, beautiful boy, frightened by the nasty man at the door during the Damian McBride affair. And I remember my sense of helplessness, when I couldn’t keep him, his mum and sister safe, even in our home. It took me to the brink – but that’s another story.

In the autumn of the media patriarch, Mr Murdoch’s love of his own children is the one touching piece of a drama, played out over years and decades, that has pulverised careers, relationships and lives.

I’ve read with a sense of sympathy how Mr Murdoch’s daughter has been financially endowed after her TV company was purchased by News Corp. James Murdoch, schooled at Harvard but not in life, shipped off to New York before the court at the palace of Wapping disintegrates. This is a father getting his house in order before time takes its inevitable toll on one of the most remarkable figures of the last half century. It’s touching. It’s sad. I admire him for it, but it doesn’t take away the scandal. (more…)

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Thursday News Review

03/03/2011, 06:48:53 AM

Brega sends Gaddafi’s forces packing

Attacks by Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s fighter jets and artillery have been repulsed by the rebels threatening to end his 41-year rule of Libya. While the dictator sounded a defiant note during a public appearance in Tripoli, a surprise assault by his forces using 122mm heavy artillery on the town of Brega was repelled after bloody fighting in the town. And air strikes on an arms dump outside Ajdabiya again failed to ignite the enormous weapons stockpiles hidden in bunkers filmed by Sky News earlier in the week. Eyewitnesses say the battle in Brega was waged across sand dunes on the edge of town and around its university. Col Gaddafi’s air force again struck by dropping bombs on the university, but failed to stem the rebel counter-attack. While their forces have managed to hold off pro-Gaddafi onslaughts so far, opposition leaders continue to plead for outside airstrikes to help them oust the ruler. The question is now whether or not the rebels can turn their counterattack into a more sustained offensive and move the pro-Gaddafi lines further west after days of stalemate between them and the regime. – Sky News

A bloody counter-attack by crazed Colonel Gaddafi flopped yesterday – as the Mad Dog’s forces fled with their tails between their legs. Two hundred troops still loyal to Libya’s tyrant swooped to seize back a key oil port from democracy campaigners – arriving in a convoy of 50 sports utility vehicles. The handful of rebels guarding it were caught napping by the surprise dawn attack and scarpered in terror. Jubilant Gaddafi, 68, later went on state TV to launch another rant at armies of protesters out to end his four decades of iron rule. But his glee at retaking the country’s second biggest oil and gas terminal – Brega – was short-lived. By mid-morning rebel reinforcements were already streaming out of the nearby city of Ajdabiya in pick-up trucks – defying warplanes sent to bomb them. Soon it was the turn of Gaddafi’s men to run for their lives. By mid-afternoon they had retreated to the campus of a university – where they found themselves cornered. Late last night the tyrant was enraged to learn they had all fled. The hapless last stand at the university was summed up by a bomb dropped by one of Gaddafi’s warplanes. It harmlessly hit the nearby beach in an explosion of sand. – the Sun

Off to the polls in Wales and Barnsley

On election night the vast majority of candidates face the very public humiliation of losing, and years of commuting and committees await the winner. But just as there are men and women who feel compelled to jump into the arena and get their name on a ballot, so there are also people who give up their evenings and weekends to take part in even less glamorous campaigns. The issue of whether the Assembly should gain new – strictly defined – powers to make laws in the 20 areas for which it is responsible is not a topic of conversation that you will often hear at the hairdresser’s or during half-time at the Millennium Stadium. But on Thursday, the people of Wales will be asked to vote on this very topic. When just 38.2% of people cast a vote in the 2003 election to decide who they wanted to be in charge of Wales’ education, transport and health services, what chance is there that even this number will take part in the referendum? However, for two women in Wales this is too important a question to be left to the political anoraks and the constitutional obsessives. Neither is a professional politician, and each holds down a demanding day-job. But each cares passionately that you should take a few minutes to think about whether you want the Assembly to become a more powerful institution – and both of them want you to vote on March 3. Rachel Banner, an English teacher and Labour activist from Pontypool, campaigns for a No vote with True Wales. Cathy Owens, programme director for Wales for Amnesty International, is convinced the Assembly is ready for the next stage of devolution and works with Yes For Wales. And they both want you on their sides. – Western Mail (more…)

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Editorial: Neither Coulson nor Cameron is the real story

21/01/2011, 01:27:13 PM

Andy Coulson has now resigned from two massive jobs for something he says he knew nothing about.

On 23 November, Tom Watson predicted on Uncut that Andy Coulson would resign “within the next few weeks”. In the end, it was eight weeks. They moved the date back in response to Watson’s article.

On 12 January, Watson revealed on Uncut that the working date within Downing Street for Coulson’s departure was now 25 January. He has resigned on 21 January. The opportunity of a Friday combining Blair at the Chilcot enquiry with the aftermath of the Johnson resignation all but obliged them to bring it forward by the width of a weekend.

And Rupert Murdoch is due to be in London next week. He is sick of the scandal swirling more and more distastefully around his (distasteful) family business. He believes that it has been mishandled by his minions. Did he send word that the Coulson embarrassment (the only easy bit to fix) should be cleared up before he arrives?

Many people – including the prime minister’s official spokesman, on the record – dismissed Tom Watson’s intelligence as rubbish. It was not. Watson was telling the truth; Cameron and his people were brazenly lying.

Coulson’s official spokesman, Nick Robinson of the BBC, has said – as has most of the rest of the Lobby – that the worst damage this will do David Cameron is to deprive him of Andy Coulson’s expertise. (more…)

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Concentrating media influence in the hands of the few will lead to a narrowing of political discussion

07/11/2010, 01:49:17 PM

by Andy Dodd

RECENTLY I heard Lord Tim Bell, ex-advisor to Margaret Thatcher, defend Rupert Murdoch’s bid to take full control of Sky on the BBC world at one.  While Tim Bell’s views on media ownership are predictable, what caught my attention was how he enthused about the plethora of platforms and channels that enable us to have choice over how we access news and information, and how this diversity would ensure plurality and choice in the media.

I was momentarily beguiled by this warm, PR-spun vision of the always connected, always informed society, but then sanity prevailed and I began to realise that this vague, utopian sound bite really doesn’t stand up to any kind of scrutiny.

It’s faintly ridiculous to see someone like Tim Bell using the very philosophy of free and open content provision that Rupert Murdoch hates so much, as a means to justify News Corp being allowed to further eradicate pluralism in the media.

The reality is that large media groups are doing everything they can to roll back openness and return us to the walled garden of the early days of the internet. For example; restricting access to content unless people are prepared to pay for it.  Just because there are dozens of different ways to access information, it doesn’t follow that the content is accessible. (more…)

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