Murdoch fights for control after Brown allegations


Rupert Murdoch fought to contain a crisis engulfing his media empire on Tuesday after allegations surfaced that journalists at several of his News Corp papers had targeted former British prime minister Gordon Brown.
Murdoch has moved quickly in recent days to try to draw the sting from the rapidly escalating scandal, first closing the 168-year-old tabloid at the heart of the problem and then referring for a prolonged investigation a multi-billion dollar takeover deal that had raised further fears over his media control. However allegations that other Murdoch titles including the respected Sunday Times were implicated in the hacking scandal, albeit to a lesser degree, threatened to deepen the crisis.
“The closing of the News of the World tabloid, in so far as it was designed to draw a line under this, has transparently failed,” media consultant Steve Hewlett told Reuters. “It’s focused attention on the company. “It’s not about the News of the World anymore, it’s about the company. It’s not a case of a toxic asset but a toxic company. So anything that comes up about another News Corp asset just adds fuel to the fire.”
The scandal, which has also included allegations of illegal payments to the police, will also shine a light on Tuesday on the role some of Britain’s most senior police officers took and why they failed to investigate the illegal practices earlier. John Yates, Assistant Commissioner at London’s Metropolitan Police, who been criticised for deciding in 2009 not to reopen an earlier phone hacking inquiry, will appear before parliament’s Home Affairs Committee.
Also attending will be Andy Hayman, the officer in charge of the original inquiry held after two men, one a News of the World journalist, were jailed in 2007 for intercepting the voicemails of royal officials. The New York Times reported that five senior British police investigators discovered that their mobile phones also were targeted soon after Scotland Yard opened an initial criminal inquiry of phone hacking by News of the World in 2006. The disclosure raised questions about whether the police officers had concerns about aggressively investigating the tabloid for fear that their own secrets would be divulged by the paper, the Times said. “We are not providing a running commentary regarding the investigation,” a Metropolitan Police spokesman in London said when asked to comment on the report.
Murdoch, Brooks asked to appear before MPs: British lawmakers have asked Rupert Murdoch, News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks and chairman James Murdoch to answer questions on phone hacking next week, a lawmaker said Tuesday. Tom Watson, a member of parliament with the main opposition Labour Party, said they have been asked to appear before the culture, media and sport committee in the House of Commons next Tuesday. He is a member of the committee.