From Bloomberg News:
News Corp. (NWSA)'s British publishing unit asked a judge to keep secret a series of new claims being made by victims of phone hacking at its News of the World tabloid in preparation for a group trial scheduled for February.
The details of the allegations, which could be used to seek punitive damages, should be kept from the public unless they are approved at a Sept. 7 hearing and added to the victims' so- called generic claims, Judge Geoffrey Vos said today in London.
The claims outline "generalized activities which we think are unsustainable" if challenged, Michael Silverleaf, the lawyer for the News International unit, said at the hearing. "They may change the approach we are taking" to the case.
News Corp., the New York-based company controlled by Rupert Murdoch, is trying to move on from the scandal after the civil case and a parallel criminal probe that began last year revealed a cover up and led to the closure of the tabloid and the arrests of more than 60 people, including another journalist today.
Last week, Rupert Murdoch resigned from a number of British newspaper boards that oversee The Sun, The Times, and The Sunday Times. Today, the senior police officer overseeing the investigation told the Leveson committee that the investigation spawned by phone hacking at News of the World is now investigating information obtained from stolen cellphones and significant payoffs to public officials.
From The New York Times:
The phone hacking investigation of Rupert Murdoch's tabloid newspapers in Britain has broadened to include allegations that information was obtained from stolen cellphones, significant payoffs were made to public officials, and "medical, banking and other personal records" were illegally accessed, the senior police officer in charge of the operations told a judicial inquiry Monday.
The officer, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Sue Akers of Scotland Yard, gave the most detailed assessment yet of the three investigations prompted by allegations in 2009 that The News of the World tabloid had illegally intercepted voice mail messages on an industrial scale.
The newspaper was closed last summer under the weight of public outrage. But detectives now suspect a swath of related illegal activities, Ms. Akers told the panel headed by Lord Justice Sir Brian Leveson.
The police are aware of information that Mr. Murdoch's papers obtained from two stolen cellphones, she said. One was in Manchester, in northern England, and the other in southwest London. She said that it seemed that one of thee phones had "been examined with a view to breaking its security code," in order to gain access to its contents. The authorities are trying to establish whether the thefts were isolated incidents, or "the tip of the iceberg," she said.
Allegations like these are why Murdoch faces a shareholder revolt over the "lax ethical culture and lack of effective board oversight" at News Corp.
This afternoon on Twitter, News Corp. chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch offered his take on the controversy his network willed into existence regarding comments Obama made about small businesses. Murdoch endorsed the distorted take on the president's July 13 remarks, writing: "Yesterday Obama went off script, showed real self ie government omnipotent, individuals secondary. Must be big damage," thus getting wrong both what Obama said and when he said it.
On July 13, the president made the determinedly unremarkable observation that success in business derives from "individual initiative" as well as a community supported by public works: schools, roads, bridges, fire stations, telelcommunications infrastructure, and so forth. Led by Fox News, the conservative press (and eventually the Romney campaign) have distorted Obama's remarks, claiming that he said success in business comes solely from the government.
Murdoch's been a busy tweeter of late: he endorsed Romney and prayed that he will "save us from socialism, etc," offered encouragement to the GOP nominee, and trolled the entire liberal blogosphere. This endorsement of Fox News' distortion of Obama's remarks shows impressive message discipline throughout the entire News Corp. family, from the top (Murdoch) all the way down to the very, very bottom.
The union representing most newsroom staffers at The Wall Street Journal is telling workers to seek "every dime" they earn in reaction to recent cutbacks and increased workload.
In a fiery email sent to 1,500 union members Wednesday, Steve Yount, president of the Independent Association of Publishers' Employees Local 1096. noted that 62 employees of parent company Dow Jones were laid off this year, including 31 in late June alone.
IAPE represents journalists at the Journal, Dow Jones Newswires, Barron's, SmartMoney, SmartMoney.com, MarketWatch, and all sales, support, and technical staff within those outlets, Yount said.
The email goes on to urge staffers to seek any additional compensation -- such as comp time, vacation time, and holiday pay -- they earn, a practice that had not always been followed to the letter. According to Yount, "The company is counting, as always, on your willingness to work for free: stay late or work weekends and never charge the company," but "Those days of free labor have to end."
The email states:
Since the first of the year, Dow Jones has laid off 62 of your co-workers (31 of them in the last week of June) and once again senior management is telling you "we simply have to do more with less." That means they get more and you get less.The company is counting, as always, on your willingness to work for free: stay late or work weekends and never charge the company.
Those days of free labor have to end.
Not everyone is eligible for overtime (most reporters aren't eligible for overtime, but all are eligible for, at least, comp time) and everyone is eligible for holiday pay and a premium for working on a scheduled day off. From now on, you have to file for every dime the contract says that the company owes you. We have to clearly demonstrate that we're tired of "Doing More With Less" and that there's No More Free Labor from Dow Jones employees. I promise you that IAPE will aggressively pursue each and every claim. If you have any problems or questions, let me know or reach out directly to union organizer Tim Martell.
IAPE CWA 1096
Dow Jones reported on many of the most recent layoffs last month when it announced the shutdown of SmartMoney's print production.
Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones officials did not respond to requests for comment Thursday.
Make no mistake, Rupert Murdoch's decision to split his News Corp. media empire into two separate entities is being viewed as an attempt to protect his most lucrative assets from the seemingly never-ending fallout connected to the hacking scandal - focused primarily on Murdoch's British publishing titltes - that's been raging for nearly one year.
For years, founder and CEO Murdoch resisted the idea of splitting up News Corp. But this week, the board, with Murdoch's approval, okayed the deal.
By next year, two separate companies will house News Corp.'s sprawling media properties. One will operate as a newspaper, coupon, and book publishing firm, with newspapers published in Australia, Britain and the United States. The other will be an entertainment company made up of the Fox TV network, Fox News, and the 20th Century Fox movie studio.
The publishing division will be much smaller, valued at $5 billion, compared to $54 billion for the entertainment company. That's because News Corp's television and, to a lesser degree, movie divisions have long been the revenue engines that drive the company. Even though Murdoch began his career as a newspaper publisher and still sees himself as something of a print press baron, his newspaper business, in the grand scheme of things, is basically a non-starter.
In fact, many of his high-profile dailies lose money. But none has lost more than the right-wing New York Post, which has been impervious to profits since Murdoch re-purchased the daily in 1993. (He had previously owned it from 1976 to 1988.)
The paper's chronic losses have only escalated over time. The figures aren't made public, but the Post's annual estimated losses have been pegged at $30 million in 2005, $70 million in 2009, and most recently $110 million. That, according to analyst Brett Harriss.
In the past, News Corp.'s vast entertainment profits helped paper over the constant losses at the openly partisan Post, which serves as a key media megaphone for the GOP Noise Machine.
A May 15 New York Times article reported that Rebekah Brooks, a former executive in Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., will be prosecuted on various charges stemming from the phone hacking scandal surrounding News Corp. Brooks was the former CEO of News Corp.'s British newspaper division, News International. From The New York Times:
Once among the most powerful figures in the British media, with close contacts stretching from her boss, Rupert Murdoch, to her friend, David Cameron, Rebekah Brooks, the former head of Mr. Murdoch's British newspaper empire, was told by prosecutors on Tuesday that she, her husband and four others will face charges of conspiring to pervert the course of justice in the hacking scandal that has burrowed into public life here.
It was the first time the charges have been formulated since police reopened inquiries into the affair in January 2011 and intensified their questioning six months later. The development brought the scandal to a watershed between criminal investigations, which have resulted in around 50 people being arrested and then set free on bail, and the prospect of trial before robed judges.
The six were accused variously of concealing documents, computers and archive material from officers investigating the scandal last July.
Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, News Corporation's second biggest shareholder, has reportedly said that the company's phone hacking scandal "is not helping the name of the company" and is "not something to be proud of."
Alwaleed also said that his backing of embattled News Corp. CEO and chairman Rupert Murdoch "is definitely unwavering." A British government panel recently concluded that Murdoch is "not a fit person" to lead a major company, citing his "willful blindness" to unethical behavior.
From The Guardian:
Alwaleed said that although News Corp was "very diversified," with interests covering books, magazines, newspapers, television and film, the phone-hacking scandal was having a company-wide effect. "I really hope that this is behind us because really it is not helping the name of the company," he said. "We hope that this page is folded and put behind us because really it is not something to be proud of."
News Corp investors have voiced concerns about the phone-hacking scandal since it erupted last year and, at the company's AGM in October, several shareholders, including powerful pension fund CalPERS, called for the appointment of an independent chairman. Murdoch currently holds the position of chairman alongside that of chief executive. Alwaleed is one of Murdoch's staunchest supporters and had never before spoken publicly about the wider impact of the scandal.
His most public previous involvement was to suggest the resignation of Rebekah Brooks as chief executive of News Corp's UK newspaper division, News International. Brooks was editor of the News of the World when its journalists hacked the phone of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler and in July last year Alwaleed told the BBC's Newsnight: "If the indications are for her [Brooks's] involvement in this matter is explicit, for sure she has to go, you bet she has to go ... Ethics to me is very important." Brooks resigned the following day.
News Corp holds a significant stake in Alwaleed's Saudi Arabian film, TV and music business Rotana Media Group and he said: "We have a strategic alliance with Rupert Murdoch for sure and I have been with him for the last 15 or 20 years. My backing of Rupert Murdoch is definitely unwavering."
Alwaleed said that although the scandal had had an impact on News Corp's reputation, its financial results had not been damaged. "The share price is really separating from what is happening in the UK," he said. "We see the price is hovering around $20 and the results are very good."
In his May 5 column, former New York Times executive editor Bill Keller noted that the "Fox News Primary probably did more to nominate Mitt Romney than New Hampshire or Michigan" and that despite the "acid rain of criminal charges" against News Corp. for its recent scandals, "at least for Americans -- Fox News is Murdoch's most toxic legacy":
In this beleaguered family of news enterprises, Fox is the good son. It is the most reliable profit center, expected to net a billion dollars this fiscal year. It is untainted so far by the metastasizing scandals. It is a source of political influence more durable than Murdoch's serial romances with British prime ministers. This year the Fox News Primary probably did more to nominate Mitt Romney than New Hampshire or Michigan.
And yet I would argue that -- at least for Americans -- Fox News is Murdoch's most toxic legacy.
My complaint is that Fox pretends very hard to be something it is not, and in the process contributes to the corrosive cynicism that has polarized our public discourse.
I doubt that people at Fox News really believe their programming is "fair and balanced" -- that's just a slogan for the suckers -- but they probably are convinced that what they have created is the conservative counterweight to a media elite long marinated in liberal bias. They believe that they are doing exactly what other serious news organizations do; they just do it for an audience that had been left out before Fox came along.
But we try to live by a code, a discipline, that tells us to set aside our personal biases, to test not only facts but the way they add up, to seek out the dissenters and let them make their best case, to show our work. We write unsparing articles about public figures of every stripe -- even, sometimes, about ourselves. When we screw up -- and we do -- we are obliged to own up to our mistakes and correct them.
Fox does not live by that code. (Especially the last part. In a speech at the University of North Carolina last month, [Fox News chairman Roger] Ailes boasted, "In 15 years, we have never taken a story down because we got it wrong." Gosh, even the pope only claims to be infallible on special occasions.) For a salient point of reference, compare Fox's soft-pedaling of the Murdoch troubles with the far more prominent coverage in The Wall Street Journal, which has managed under Murdoch's ownership to retain its serious-journalism DNA.
Keller went on to ask if "anyone [could] imagine Fox airing an unloaded profile of anyone left of center."
A British government panel investigating the News Corp. phone-hacking scandal has released a report concluding that Rupert Murdoch is "not a fit person" to lead a major company, citing his "willful blindness" to unethical behavior. At Fox News, which is a division of News Corp., this indifference has consistently manifested itself as an absence of journalistic ethics.
Rupert Murdoch's Wall Street Journal has a front-page article today about Parliament's new, damning report alleging that Murdoch is "not fit" to run News Corp. based on the rampant criminality the company has unleashed in Great Britain in recent years. The Journal piece is straightforward and informative and the paper deserves credit for acknowledging its parent company is being rocked by a media scandal that refuses to go away, and one that has destroyed the reputation of its owner.
Unfortunately for the Journal and its reputation, it's too little too late. The truth is the paper remains permanently scarred for the obtuse way it first handled the unfolding scandal last summer, and specifically how the paper initially played dumb about the role that its then-publisher, Les Hinton, had in the saga. (Prior to running the Journal, Hintonserved as chief of News International and oversaw Murdoch's British newspaper empire, including News of The World, where so much hacking occurred.)
Worse, in a clownish and defensive editorial that will likely live in Murdoch infamy, the WSJ last July lashed out at critics who dared question Hinton's increasingly unbelievable denials about his central role in covering up the rampant hacking that took place under his command. The editorial came in response to Hinton's resignation from News Corp.
Keep that editorial in mind while reading this British summary from the just just-released Parliament report on the News Corp. phone hacking and bribery scandal:
Ex-News International chief executive Les Hinton sanctioned a series of "extraordinary" payments to former News of the World royal editor Clive Goodman after his phone-hacking conviction in a bid to buy his silence - and then tried to cover-up his involvement in the payments, according to MPs.
According to the report, "Hinton was complicit in the cover-up at News International, which included making misleading statements and giving a misleading picture to this committee." Hinton was also singled out for "selective amnesia" during his "startlingly vague" testimony before members of Parliament in 2009.
Background: When Murdoch purchased the Wall Street Journal in 2007 he immediately selected his loyal aide and longtime confidant Hinton to run the Dow Jones Company and become publisher of the newspaper. Prior to the Journal, Hinton ran the mogul's British newspapers which served as a hacking hot bed.
Additionally, Hinton oversaw News Corp.'s initial internal investigation into the phone hacking scandal which claimed there was no evidence of widespread wrongdoing in the company, and that the hacking had been confined to just one reporter. (The company went to "extraordinary lengths" to uncover any crimes, Hinton boasted at the time.) And that's the feel-good line Hinton told to members of Parliament who pressed him in 2007 and 2009 about the long-simmering controversy.
Instead of a limited operation though, it's now estimated that thousands of phones were hacked by Murdoch's minions. In other words, very little of what Hinton told Parliament turned out to be accurate.
Hinton was forced to resign from Dow Jones and the Journal last summer. But as the new British assessment of the scandal makes clear, he played a pivotal role in the Murdoch saga. By defending its publisher, the Journal's integrity was badly tainted by the hacking debacle.
In the end, the Senate Select Committee investigating the Watergate crimes was never able to compel Richard Nixon to testify before Congress about criminality inside his White House. (Nixon's 1974 resignation made sure that never happened.) But I suspect if Nixon had ever been forced to appear before Congress and had been questioned for hours about the sprawling Watergate controversy and the ensuing cover-up, the sad spectacle would have looked, and sounded, something like Rupert Murdoch's uncomfortable testimony before a Parliament panel last week, in which the media mogul was confronted (yet again) with a litany of phone-hacking and bribery allegations.
The parallels between Murdoch and Nixon are striking. Unfortunately for the media mogul, the similarities are only growing more undeniable as his signature scandal approaches its one-year anniversary of detonating in Great Britain last summer (The sorry tale had been simmering for years, prior to last July.)
Both Nixon and Murdoch developed a culture of corruption. Both practiced partisan hardball but quickly cast themselves as victims when law enforcements started to ask difficult questions. For Murdoch and Nixon, the rules did not apply, as breaking the law became commonplace in the pursuit of the ultimate goal-- serving enemies with payback. And like Nixon, Murdoch's reputation has suffered a fatal blow in the form of a botched cover-up.
All of this has been made plain by a scathing new Parliament report issued today, which condemns the News Corp. CEO for being not only unfit to run an international corporation, but also for having turned "a blind eye and exhibited willful blindness to what was going on in his companies and publications. The inquiry found the culture of corruption permeated "from the top" of News Corp.; corruption that "speaks volumes" about the company's "lack of effective corporate governance."
And yes, Parliament's blunt assessment noted how extraordinary it was that a "journalistic enterprise" would be so deeply involved with lawbreaking. It's reminiscent of how Americans were amazed that Nixon's White House at times resembled a (political) crime syndicate.
The findings from the exhaustive Murdoch inquiry shatter the defense of the chairman's partisan defenders who in the past have claimed Murdoch's critics were simply trying to trip up the CEO for political gain. The report also mocks Murdoch's naive, elite media apologists who previously had spent years, if not decades, toasting the media baron while turning a blind eye to the rancid form of "journalism" his properties often produced.
The British parliamentary panel investigating phone hacking by News Corp. concluded in a report released today that Rupert Murdoch is "not a fit person to exercise the stewardship of a major international company" and that Murdoch "exhibited willful blindness to what was going on in his companies and publications." The New York Times reported:
In a damning report after months of investigation into the hacking scandal at Rupert Murdoch's newspapers here, a British parliamentary panel concluded on Tuesday that Mr. Murdoch was "not a fit person" to run a huge international company.
The report said Mr. Murdoch exhibited "willful blindness" toward wrongdoing at his organization and said News Corporation, his New York-based global conglomerate, had made "huge failings of corporate governance." The consequences of the panel's findings were not immediately clear.
"On the basis of the facts and evidence before the committee, we conclude that, if at all relevant times Rupert Murdoch did not take steps to become fully informed about phone hacking, he turned a blind eye and exhibited willful blindness to what was going on in his companies and publications," the report said. "This culture, we consider, permeated from the top throughout the organization and speaks volumes about the lack of effective corporate governance at News Corporation and News International," its British newspaper subsidiary.
"We conclude, therefore, that Rupert Murdoch is not a fit person to exercise the stewardship of a major international company."
During testimony last week, Murdoch admitted a "cover-up" to hide the widespread phone hacking at The News of the World and apologized for the scandal. Bloomberg has reported that there were likely more than 1,000 victims of The News of the World's phone hacking.
Two weeks after getting fired from Fox News for being a "mole" dishing dirt on Rupert Murdoch's news channel, Joe Muto reported that on Wednesday he received an early morning visit from New York County District Attorney officials who arrived with a warrant and left with his phone, laptop and notebooks. They were responding to News Corp.'s allegations that Muto had committed larceny when he shared his inside-Fox News account, complete with in-house video from the channel's servers, with Gawker in a series of controversial posts.
This week's swift law enforcement response to the relatively minor criminal case stands in stark contrast to when competitors to a News Corp. subsidiary, News America, spent years beseeching law enforcement agencies to fully investigate claims that News America employees had illegally hacked into a competitor's secure website and stolen proprietary information in an effort to steal away clients and "destroy" the company, according to one of its owners.
At the time, federal investigators at the New Jersey U.S. Attorney's office, overseen then by Chris Christie, refused to take the Murdoch-related case seriously and no criminal charges were ever filed. That, despite the fact that years later as part of a civil case, a News Corp. attorney admitted in open court that the company's computers had been used to hack into a competitor's website. (News Corp. insisted it couldn't determine who did the hacking; evidence suggests the company didn't dig very deep to find out.)
In the wake of the "mole" story there's certainly a sharp contrast in terms of how quickly the story about Muto's mid-level mischievousness sparked a criminal investigation, as compared to how the much more serious allegations of corporate corruption within the suites of Murdoch's American empire went mostly untouched for years.
During his second day of testimony at a parliamentary hearing on the phone hacking scandal, Rupert Murdoch apologized for the scandal, and, according to The New York Times, "coupled his apology with suggestions that there had been what he called a cover-up 'from within The News of the World' to hide the extent of the phone hacking scandal."
From The New York Times:
After a day of testimony at a British judicial inquiry over his ties, friendships and disputes with British politicians, Rupert Murdoch returned to the witness stand on Thursday, saying he apologized for failing to take measures to avert the hacking scandal that has convulsed his media outpost here.
"I also have to say that I failed," Mr. Murdoch told the so-called Leveson inquiry. "I am very sorry about it."
He said that he had not paid adequate attention to the newspaper at the center of the scandal, The News of the World tabloid, which Mr. Murdoch closed in July as the affair widened.
"It was an omission by me," he said, adding that he wished to apologize "to a lot of people, including all the innocent people" at The News of the World, a Sunday tabloid, "who lost their jobs."
Casting himself as a victim, Mr. Murdoch coupled his apology with suggestions that there had been what he called a cover-up "from within The News of the World" to hide the extent of the phone hacking scandal. And, like James Murdoch on Tuesday, he seemed to blame subordinates for not alerting him to the practices being used at the newspaper to secure its scoops.
Bloomberg recently reported that there were likely more than 1,000 victims of the News of the World's phone hacking.
On Wednesday, Murdoch testified that he doesn't "believe in using hacking, in using private detectives or whatever, that's a lazy way of reporters not doing their job. But I think it is fair when people have themselves held up as iconic figures or great actors that they be looked at."
The investigation by the British government into phone hacking by News Corp. prompted an appearance by Rupert Murdoch today at a parliamentary hearing into the matter.
Despite the widespread phone hacking from the Murdoch-owned News of the World, he testified that "I don't believe in using hacking, in using private detectives or whatever, that's a lazy way of reporters not doing their job. But I think it is fair when people have themselves held up as iconic figures or great actors that they be looked at."
Bloomberg recently reported that there were likely over 1,000 victims of the News of the World's phone hacking.
In additional testimony Murdoch sought to downplay his involvement in British politics. From The New York Times:
The government's lead attorney for the inquiry, Robert Jay, pursued a chronological line of questioning beginning with Mr. Murdoch's entry into the British newspaper market in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Much of the questioning centered on meetings with British political leaders and the pledges Mr. Murdoch had made not to influence his newspapers' editorial policies.
He acknowledged meetings, dinners and shared quips with a series of prime ministers, but sought to dismiss suggestions that he wielded any influence.
"I don't know many politicians," he said, on one of many occasions when he denied accusations from Mr. Jay that his newspapers supported politicians whose policies might offer him some commercial benefit. As to suggestions that his power might be more subtle than such obvious exchanges, he responded, "I'm afraid I don't have much subtlety about me."
The emails showed that News Corp. and representatives of the British government were discussing government approval of the media company's purchase of satellite TV network BSkyB.