Wednesday 21 February 2018

Murdoch finally breaks his silence to condemn 'deplorable' behaviour

Robert Winnett in London

RUPERT Murdoch broke his silence yesterday to condemn the "deplorable and unacceptable" phone hacking and alleged payments to police officers at the 'News of the World'.

The media mogul intervened following intense criticism of the internal investigation into the scandal and amid growing calls for Rebekah Brooks, the chief executive of News International, to resign.

Mr Murdoch, the chairman of News Corporation, said he had appointed Joel Klein, a former aide to Bill Clinton, to oversee the company's inquiry.

Lord Macdonald, the former Director of Public Prosecutions, has also been retained by News International to examine the allegations that payments were made to police officers.

In an unusual public statement, Mr Murdoch said: "Recent allegations of phone hacking and making payments to police with respect to the 'News of the World' are deplorable and unacceptable."

Giving what City observers described as muted support for Ms Brooks, he added: "I have made clear that our company must fully and proactively co-operate with the police in all investigations and that is exactly what News International has been doing and will continue to do under Rebekah Brooks's leadership.

"We are committed to addressing these issues fully and have taken a number of important steps to prevent them from happening again."

At least seven major companies announced they would be withdrawing their advertisements from the tabloid newspaper yesterday.

The scandal also prompted a sharp fall in the News Corporation share price in New York.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said he would order an independent inquiry into media ethics once the police investigation had concluded. He also indicated that the initial police handling of the case would be the subject of a separate inquiry.

Disclosing that the police investigation into phone hacking was now one of the biggest in the country, Mr Cameron said: "I do think it's important that we have inquiries, inquiries that are public, inquiries that are independent and inquiries that have public confidence.

"It seems to me there are two vital issues we need to look into. The first is the original police inquiry and why that didn't get to the bottom of what happened, and the second is about the behaviour of individual people and individual media organisations and ... a wider look into media practices and ethics."

Mr Cameron insisted that the government was legally powerless to block News Corporation's takeover of BSkyB as a result of the 'News of the World' scandal.

Regulator

However, there was a theoretical possibility that Ofcom, the regulator, could withdraw the broadcasting licence from Sky on the basis that its owner was not a "fit and proper" person.

Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, demanded that the takeover be delayed until the police inquiry had concluded. He also said that Ms Brooks should "consider her position".

MPs spent three hours in an emergency debate on the scandal yesterday which heard extensive criticism of the media and the Metropolitan Police from politicians from all parties.

News International said that it welcomed a public inquiry. Further arrests were expected at the company in the coming weeks.

Senior Liberal Democrats pressed Mr Cameron and Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt to limit the damage to the government by derailing News Corporation's bid to buy the 61pc of BSkyB it does not already own. A source said: "We are looking for a way out on the takeover. But it isn't easy to find one. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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