Friday, July 08, 2011

We Are Sick And Tired Of Hearing Your Song, How You Are Changing Right From Wrong, Cos If You Really Want To Hear Our Views, You Haven't Done Nothing

The News of the World is to close this Sunday following devastating series allegations about phone hacking and a mass desertion of advertisers. In a statement, News Corporation's James Murdoch said that Sunday's News of the World will be the final issue after one hundred and sixty eight years in print. It will be edited by Colin Myler and all the revenue from it sale will go to good causes. Which, of course, now puts everybody threatening to boycott it in a very awkward position! Yesterday, the Royal British Legion announced that it has dropped the News of the World as its campaigning partner after allegations that the newspaper may have hacked into the phones of bereaved relatives of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. The report follows earlier claims that the paper also hacked the phone of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler, as well as families of people who died in the 7/7 London bombings, among many, many others. Ford, Specsavers, Sainsbury's, Asda, Dixons and Boots are among the numerous companies which had announced plans to remove their advertising from the newspaper in light of the scandal. Rebekah Brook, who edited the Sunday tabloid at the time journalists ordered the hacking of murdered teenager Milly Dowler's mobile phone, remains in place as News International's chief executive. Some News of the World staff alleged that they were told she had offered her resignation but that it had been refused. News International subsequently denies that claim. Her former deputy, Andy Coulson has been told by police that he would be arrested on Friday morning over suspicions that he knew about, or had direct involvement in, the hacking of mobile phones during his editorship of the paper. The arrest of Coulson, who resigned as David Cameron's director of communications in January, is likely to raise further questions about the prime minister's judgement and his relationship with the Murdoch empire. Cameron is also said to be a close personal friend of Brooks. In a statement to staff at News International, reported in full by the Gruniad, the company's chairman Murdoch said that the paper's closure was part of steps to 'address the very serious problems that have occurred.' He said that the News of the World's one hundred and sixty eight-year history has been 'sullied by behaviour that was wrong. Indeed, if recent allegations are true, it was inhuman and has no place in our company. The News of the World is in the business of holding others to account, but it failed when it came to itself,' said Murdoch. 'In 2006, the police focused their investigations on two men. Both went to jail. But the News of the World and News International failed to get to the bottom of repeated wrongdoing which occurred without conscience or legitimate purpose. Wrongdoers turned a good newsroom bad and this was not fully understood or adequately pursued.' Murdoch said that after consulting senior colleagues, he had decided to close the UK's most popular newspaper this Sunday and give all of the final issue's revenue to good causes. 'While we may never be able to make up for distress that has been caused, the right thing to do is for every penny of the circulation revenue we receive this weekend to go to organisations - many of whom are long-term friends and partners - that improve life in Britain and are devoted to treating others with dignity,' he said. 'We will run no commercial advertisements this weekend. Any advertising space in this last edition will be donated to causes and charities that wish to expose their good works to our millions of readers. These are strong measures. They are made humbly and out of respect. I am convinced they are the right thing to do.' The News of the World brand has, undeniably, been poisoned, probably beyond revival, by the revelations this week. Shutting it down, if only temporarily (Murdoch will, of course, retain the title), appears to be a smart business move in both the short and medium term. What remains to be seen is whether the poison has infected the rest of Murdoch's media empire. Former News of the World features editor Paul McMullan said that the decision to close the title was shocking. 'One really bad act by a rogue freelance private investigator who used to be a failed professional footballer - I mean who hired him - you know and it's all over,' he said. Labour MP Tom Watson responded to the news by saying: 'No-one was going to buy this paper anymore. No-one was going to advertise in it. They destroyed this paper.' Gruniad editor Alan Rusbridger added: 'Murdoch blames "wrongdoers" who "turned a good newsroom bad." He does not say who these wrongdoers were - and that is the crucial question people will be asking, including those who are paying with their jobs and who are angry about the loss of a one hundred and sixty eight-year-old newspaper title.'" Kevin Maguire, associate editor of the Daily Mirra said he found it 'astonishing that one hundred and sixty eight years of history had been wiped out but that Rebekah Brooks is still there.' Sophy Ridge, the Sky journalist and former News of the World staffer, describe a 'lynch mob' attitude within the paper last night. She claimed that a current News of the World staff member had told her 'for the sake of one person, five hundred people at the New of the World have been sacrificed.' Ridge added 'I'm told the editor Colin Myler only heard about News of the World closing twenty minutes before Rebekah Brookes announced it.' Sky News also claimed that Brooks - their boss, remember! - 'had security guards with her when she addressed staff earlier.' Colin Myler asked Brooks to leave and then addressed staff himself. He was said to be 'watery-eyed and very angry.' Which must've been a sight to see, frankly. News International later denied this report and others which suggested that any staff had directed any anger toward Brooks. Meanwhile, outside on the pavement at Wapping showbiz report Dan Wootten was giving a very different picture when being interviewed by the BBC's Clive Myrie. On the contrary, he said loyally, and clearly angling for a job on the forthcoming Sun on Sunday, Rebekah Brooks was a wonderful - almost saintly - woman who, frankly, had done more for the cause of world peace than Gandhi and Jesus put together. Tongue looking a smidgen brownish there, Daniel. The Torygraph reported: 'Staff were said to have cheered when told that Mrs Brooks had offered her resignation on Wednesday night, although it was turned down.' A - nameless - 'source' said: 'The joke ran through the room that we would accept the offer on the company's behalf. We were all feeling fatalistic. Colin told us that the decision to close the paper had been made in New York, that as soon as the suits there saw that the shares had started to slide they thought they had to cut us off. Rebekah tried to justify her actions by saying that the actions of a few had led to this, but the irony that she was one of those few was lost on her. She said that she would take any questions that people had, but Myler, who was standing next to her said, "No, Rebekah, I think it’s best if you leave the floor." An entire newspaper has been sacrificed to save one person.' Employees have been given a ninety-day paid period of consultation. They will then be given a pay-off comprising their notice period plus a month for every year they have worked for the newspaper. At which point, presumably, the likes of Ian Hyland will have to sign on. The Independent stated: 'In the News of the World newsroom, journalists saw the story flash up on television screens. Animosity was directed towards senior executives, with one member of staff describing Ms Brooks' role in the affair as "morally repugnant." Mr Myler, who was appointed editor in 2007, with a brief to clean up the paper's reputation, reacted angrily to Ms Brooks' invitation for him to address staff. "I will say some words to my staff after you've gone," he is said to have told her.' Rumours were circulating later in the evening that News Corp had already been planning to return to the Sunday tabloid market by launching the Sun as a seven-day-a-week newspaper and that Murdoch had merely seized an opportunity to be rid of what had become a damaging brand, as well as making cost savings and improving efficiency. The name Sun on Sunday had been registered two days previously. The former home secretary Alan Johnson, meanwhile, has suggested that James Murdoch could potentially face jail over the phone hacking scandal. Speaking on the BBC1's This Week, the former Labour minister said Murdoch's statement yesterday in which he admitted that the News of the World and News International failed to get to the bottom of the issue could lead to a prosecution under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000. Johnson pointed to Murdoch's comment that he personally (and, he admitted, wrongly) approved out-of-court settlements to victims of phone hacking, including a payment to Gordon Taylor of the Professional Football Association believed to be worth around seven hundred thousand smackers. The MP raised the prospect this could place the News International chairman in breach of section seventy nine of RIPA. This states: 'Where an offence under any provision of this Act is committed by a body corporate and is proved to have been committed with the consent or connivance of, or to be attributable to any neglect on the part of a director, manager, secretary or other similar officer of the body he (as well as the body corporate) shall be guilty of that offence and liable to be proceeded against and punished accordingly.' However sadly, a criminal lawyer has told the Financial Times that Murdoch was 'a million miles' from being prosecuted because the payment of reasonable compensation to victims was allowed under the law. The lawyer told the paper: 'You would have to show that he had knowledge at the time rather than after the fact.' Pity.

Mark Pritchard, secretary of the influential Conservative backbench 1922 committee and vice-chairman of the parliamentary media group, is yet another voice added to the growing body of opinion which wants the government to delay a decision on the BSkyB takeover. Which, of course, it now had after the vile and odious rascal and spineless coward Hunt, showing even less spine that usual, found himself in danger of being drowned in the huge pile of shite that David Cameron had dumped in his lap. Entertainment, as they say on MasterChef, doesn't get any tougher than this.

A short history lesson for you now, dear blog reader. Oi, wake up at the back, this is quality stuff. From its very first edition in 1843, the News of the World always took pride in causing scandal and excitement with its coverage of events. Always unashamedly working class and claiming to be 'the voice of the people', the paper's very first lead story was a classic Victorian Gothic sensation, the lurid tale of a female chemist raped and thrown into the Thames. That same dedication to revealing eye-catching, heart-breaking and (often) gut-wrenching details of human misbehaviour, moral frailty and a whiff of scandal would propel the paper to a central place in the British public's imagination, and eventually over the mountain to its own sorry demise. The real engine of the paper's commercial success was George Riddell,its second editor, who reorganised its national distribution using local agents. Matthew Engel in his book Tickle the Public: One Hundred Years of the Popular Press (Gollancz, 1996) says that the News of the World of the 1890s was 'a very fine paper indeed.' It was not without its detractors, however. As one writer later related: 'Frederick Greenwood, editor of the Pall Mall Gazette, met in his club one day Lord Riddell, and in the course of conversation Riddell said to him, "You know, I own a paper." "Oh, do you?" said Greenwood, "what is it?" "It's called the News of the World — I'll send you a copy," replied Riddell, and in due course he did so. Next time they met Riddell said, "Well Greenwood, what do you think of my paper?" "I looked at it," replied Greenwood, "and then I put it in the waste-paper basket. Then I thought, "If I leave it there the cook may read it" — so I burned it!"' In 1946, George Orwell's Decline of the English Murder described an idealised Sunday afternoon thus: 'You put your feet up on the sofa, settle your spectacles on your nose, and open the News of the World.' A decade later, The Sailor's Comic (or, more often, The Screws of the World) was selling nine million copies each week, making it the biggest-selling newspaper in the English-speaking world. In the sixties it was the newspaper which, largely, broke the Keeler/Perfumo affair - that particular story's mixture of illicit sex, glamour, celebrity, a bit of politics and loads of sensationalism being almost a microcosm for what News of the World readers wanted to read about. The paper's motto was the beautifully simple All human life is there. It was, everybody knew, a bit tawdry, a bit naughty what with its stories about vicars begin caught spanking one of their parishioners or the drug-taking antics of pop stars (the Screws was a major - and dodgy - player in the police's arrest of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards in 1967). But, it held a curious fascination for many in Britain. A bit like a slightly disreputable uncle who always turns up pissed at family weddings and is, we know, a bit embarrassing (but, whisper it, often rather entertaining in a sort of cheap and common way). In 1969, the newspaper was bought by Rupert Murdoch, owner of the Sun, snatching the paper from Robert Maxwell's Pergamon Press after an acrimonious year-long struggle. Under Murdoch's guidance, the paper continued to be something of a trend-setter, first by offering a colour magazine, then by adopting a tabloid format. They lurched to the right, politically - previously they'd always been not particularly interested in politics (unless there was a sex scandal involved) but, come election time, they usually went Labour out of a sense of their working class roots. Now, under Murdoch, they became unashamed Little Englander Tories, flag-wavers for Mrs Thatcher's abrasive form of neo-Conservatism. Under the editorship of the dreadful slimy Piers Morgan in the 1990s the paper was regularly sued for libel, regularly featured stories about the sex lives of Premier League footballers and soap actors and remained, by a distance, Britain's top-selling newspaper. In 2000, Rebekah Brooks took the chair once held by Sir Emsley Carr, one of the greatest editors in Fleet Street history, and, later by Stafford Somerfield, Derek Jameson, Cyril Lear and others. She held the post for three years - during which she began a controversial campaign to 'name and shame' alleged paedophiles following the abduction and murder of Sarah Payne. The paper's stance led to several cases of angry mobs terrorising those whom they suspected of being child sex offenders, which included several cases of mistaken identity, notably one instance where a paediatrician had her house vandalised by people who didn't know the difference between a paedophile and a paediatrician. In 2003 Brooks earned a promotion to edit the Sun. Her place taken by her deputy, Andy Coulson. Under Brooks and then Coulson, the News of the World was a paper at the peak of its powers, trampling over its competition with a string of classic tabloid exclusives: from David Beckham's alleged affair with his nanny to Prince Harry's alleged drug-taking and what Max Mosley, allegedly, got up to in the privacy of his own BDSM torture-chamber, it consistently landed stories which shocked, titillated and scandalised. And, they could still do proper relevant investigative journalism too when they put their mind to it - as recently as last year in a brilliant 'sting operation' they revealed that three Pakistani cricketers were taking bribes to bowl deliberate no-balls to aid spot-betting. Yet for all the agenda-setting front pages, it was two tiny, innocuous stories tucked away on an inside page that began the chain of events that would, this week, destroy the newspaper. In November 2005, Clive Goodman, the paper's royal editor, wrote a brief story revealing that Prince William had strained a tendon in his knee and sought medical advice. A week later, he revealed that the prince had borrowed some broadcasting equipment from his friend Tom Bradby, an ITV journalist. The stories baffled Royal officials, since few people knew about them and, those that did, would never in a million years talk to the likes of the News of the World. In a conversation between Bradby and the prince, the two established that the information which the paper had published could only have come from voicemails messages which they had left one another. Those suspicions led to a police inquiry. In January 2007, Goodman was jailed for four months for intercepting mobile phone messages. He was not alone in the dock, and subsequently, in pris. With him was Glenn Mulcaire, a private investigator who had worked extensively for the News of the World for several years. News International insisted that Goodman had acted alone in contacting Mulcaire to do some hacking and that no one else at the newspaper had been involved in this criminal activity. It was a claim that was widely derided on Fleet Street, though it would be four years before those suspicions were proved to be correct. During that time the News of the World and News International its parent company insisted every time they were ask (and they were asked plenty, by the police, by the PCC and by the House of Commons culture select committee) that Goodman and Mulcaire had acted alone and that no one else was in on this terrible malarkey. Les Hinton, the Murdoch consigliere who ran News International until December 2007, twice appeared before a parliamentary committee investigating phone-hacking and insisted, on both occasions, that Goodman acted alone. That claim has since been shown to be false. While he insisted that he knew nothing of Goodman's actions, however, Andy Coulson did the honourable thing and resigned over the affair. But, after falling on his sword, he was not out of work for long. In a move which was, arguably, decisive in the chain of events that followed, Coulson joined the staff of David Cameron, then-leader of the opposition. Given the political influence of News International's papers, the hacking scandal was always of great interest at Westminster. But Coulson's place at Cameron's side meant that the gossip now also had an overtly political dimension. In July 2009, the story was back on the front pages, with the disclosure in the Gruniad that Gordon Taylor, the chief executive of the Professional Footballers' Association, had received a large compensation payment because his phone had been hacked. The Gruniad subsequently published a series of reports showing that Mulcaire's work for the News of the World went far beyond the handful of offences so far admitted in court. A number of public figures were said to have had their voicemail messages illegally accessed: John Prescott, the former deputy prime minister, Boris Johnson, the London mayor, many celebrities including the model Elle Macpherson, comedian Steve Coogan and actress Sienna Miller, even Rebekah Brooks herself. The claims inevitably caused a political storm, and raised questions about why the police team which investigated Goodman and Mulcaire had not gone further in their inquiry. John Yates, the distinguished senior Metropolitan Police commander - Yates of the Yard - who had investigated Labour's 'cash for peerages' scandal, was called in. In a decision which now haunts Scotland Yard, Yates decided that 'no further investigation is required.' His decision rested on the notion that the police focused on illegal tapping of phone conversations, with 'hacking' of voicemails a secondary issue. By contrast, the Commons select committee on culture, media and sport, decided to reopen its investigations into phone hacking. The political edge to the story was sharpened further during the 2009 Labour Party conference. The Sun – overseen by Brooks in her new role as News International's chief executive – announced that it was no longer backing Labour, as it had done since 1997. It would endorse Cameron at the 2010 general election. Over the following months, the scandal – and News International's attempts to suppress it – continued to grow. The Gruniad simply would not let the story go - even though, in shades of Watergate, no other newspapers was particularly interested in pursuing the story alongside them. They chipped away at the surface, barely a week going by without another 'Hackgate' story emerging. Some merely covered old ground but, occasionally, there would be another name to add to the growing list of people whom believed they'd been hacked. And, they started to get politicians interested too - Labour MPs Tom Watson, Chris Bryant (himself alleged to be a hacking victim) and Paul Farrelly and the Tory chairman of the Culture committee John Whittingdale continued to keep the story alive with regular questions in the House of Commons and via the House culture select committee. Max Clifford, a celebrity PR adviser, dropped a civil action against the paper after receiving a reported one million pound payment. If the News of the World were paying out that sort of money, the Gruniad argued, then clearly they had something to hide. In February last year, MPs on the culture committee accused the News of the World's management of trying to 'conceal the truth' about its activities. Effectively, as close as a politician can get to calling someone a liar without actually saying so. With each new revelation, Cameron - by now prime minister - faced questions about Coulson, but stood by his advisor, who had followed him into Downing Street after the general election as Cameron's director of communications. Adding yet another layer of complexity to the saga, in June 2010, News Corporation launched a bid to buy the sixty odd per cent of British Sky Broadcasting which it did not already own. Murdoch's attempt to take complete control of the broadcaster he created would require government approval, once again turning attention on the relationship between Murdoch's companies and British politicians. Despite its uniquely British nature, the next act of the drama was started by American journalists, from the New York Times who, in September last year, reported that phone hacking had been widespread at the News of the World, that the police had turned a blind eye and that Coulson had been centrally involved. All three of which were hardly 'news' but it was fascinating to see someone other than the Gruniad alleging it. The report began another wave of claims and disclosures, as a growing list of celebrities launched civil lawsuits against the News of the World for invading their privacy. As more details emerged, News International abandoned its 'one lone rogue reporter' claim about Goodman, admitting that other staff must had been involved. A news editor who had worked closely with Coulson was fired. Neither Coulson's repeated denials nor Cameron's continued support could save Coulson, who resigned in January this year, accepting that his continued presence was damaging the Prime Minister's reputation. A week later, Scotland Yard launched another inquiry, Operation Weeting and, this time, appeared to be determined to get to the truth, no matter what it uncovered. About the News of the World or, indeed, the actions of some of its own officers. Officers whom Rebekah Brooks had already admitted, in an unguarded moment, that the newspaper had made payments too. Something which is at best morally questionable and at worst downright illegal under any circumstances. In April, the News of the World finally - after four years of complete denials - accepted liability in several civil suits, and made more large compensation payments (although many of those to whom they admitted liability refused to settle and the cases are pending later in the year). The police began to arrest News of the World journalists. Yet for all the political fury and journalistic fascination over the story, it had been almost entirely confined to the rather detached twilight demi-monde of celebrities, footballers, politicians and journalists. In short, no 'real people', worthy of any genuine public sympathy, had been directly affected by the affair. That was, genuinely, the way a lot of people felt. Who cares if Hugh Grant had his phone hacked, the argument went? He's a millionaire? It might be illegal but, does it really matter? It was all tittle-tattler and who's-shagging-whom, the stuff that the News of the World's been infamous for for one hundred and sixty eight years. Who, in all honesty, except some concerned yoghurt eating lefties in Hampstead and Islington really gave a damn? This week, that attitude - dramatically - changed. On Monday, lawyers for the family of Milly Dowler, abducted and murdered in 2002 aged thirteen, said that they had been contacted by Scotland Yard. The story was almost too shocking to believe, it was like something from bad fiction: News of the World operatives had told Mulcaire to access Milly's mobile phone voicemail after her disappearance. By deleting messages left there, they gave her family false hope that she was still alive and, potentially, interfered with an active police investigation which, subsequently became a murder enquiry. The Gruniad broke the story and, within a day, the News of the World were on the back foot in a way they'd never been even when Goodman and Mulcaire were standing in the dock. They no longer had plausible deniability. Worse, from their point of view, so far they had bent over backwards to limit any investigations to the period after 2003 when Andy Coulson was editor of the newspaper. Crucially, the Milly Dowler incident happened in 2002, when Rebekah Brooks (then Rebekah Wade) was the editor. Ed Milimolimandi, the Labour leader, saw a chance to channel public outrage - and he did it well, it has to be said. He called for Brooks's resignation. In response, News International tried to save Brooks by feeding Coulson to the wolves: the company revealed that it had passed e-mails to the police showing that Coulson had been aware his journalists had been making payments to police officers. Something which he had specifically denied on numerous occasions - once, under oath in a court of law during a perjury trial. But, even this was not enough to divert the raging torrent. Revelations followed at truly dizzying speed. Firstly, the news that the parents of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, two little girls murdered in Soham in 2002, were warned by detectives that their phone's voicemails may have been accessed. Then it was the families of some of those killed by terrorist bombs in London on 7 July 2005. The final, and fatal, blow was delivered on Thursday morning on the front page of the Torygraph: the grieving families of service personnel killed fighting for their country in a war had also been victims of the News of the World's insatiable, and heartless, appetite for sensation. The News of the World, sister publication of the Sun 'the paper that supports Our Boys' and all that. The outrage was vast, towering, heartfelt and utterly inescapable. All of the excuses in the world couldn't put this one right. 'The News of the World is in the business of holding others to account. But it failed when it came to itself,' James Murdoch said in his statement that the paper was to close. What a great pity it took News International so long to realise that fact. And, that its realisation comes, ultimately, at the cost of the jobs of two hundred plus staff whose worst crime was that they went to work for a newspaper which had once been edited by Rebekah Brooks.

In a very interesting little side bar to this story, most Irish papers are focusing on News International's statement that the Irish edition of News of the World used the same practices as its English counterpart. The Irish Independent is running with the emerging evidence that the Irish News of the World was hacking the phones of journalists on other papers in an effort to scoop them on stories. My thanks to Peter Nolan for alerting me to that development.

Pressure is mounting in America on Rupert Murdoch to contain the phone hacking scandal that has forced the closure of News of the World before it can spill over into his financially crucial US media interests. The paper's impending closure prompted expressions of astonishment from analysts who saw it as a sign of how deeply it has affected the US heart of Murdoch's empire. Martin Dunn, former editor of the Murdoch rival paper the New York Daily News, who used to work for Murdoch as editor of the defunct Today newspaper as well as the Boston Herald, said he was 'stunned by the swiftness and ruthlessness of the News of the World closure.' Though the decisiveness of the move might limit the damage in the US, Dunn said, he added that the extent of illegal activity by the News of the World had revived anxieties in America about Murdoch's style of journalism that had been rife when he first bought the New York Post in 1976. Michael Wolff, Murdoch's biographer and editorial director of Adweek, doubted that the fall-out could be restricted to the UK. 'Murdoch's bet is that closing News of the World will contain the scandal, but the sheer extreme measure he has taken just shows how difficult this is going to be.' News Corporation's US holdings – including the FOX cable TV channels, Twentieth Century Fox, Dow Jones which publishes the Wall Street Journal, and the New York Post – account for a dominant part of its more than thirty two billion dollars global annual revenue, and its shares are listed in New York. Its UK newspapers by contrast form a relatively tiny fraction of its wealth. Until this week, the phone hacking story was largely ignored by the US media and treated as a local British matter. But after the Gruniad revealed that the News of the World had hacked into the phones of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler and those of relatives of soldiers killed in Afghanistan, among others, the scandal has caught the imagination of the public and been intensively covered in US newspapers and TV outlets. 'Profiting on the backs of dead children and soldiers has resonated with American readers in a way that previous stories had not,' says Sarah Ellison, a contributing editor of Vanity Fair. 'People are starting to see this as a level of corruption that lacks humanity.' The phone hacking scandal had already begun to reach high up within the American core of Murdoch's media empire before the Milly Dowler revelations. Last month, Lawrence Jacobs, News Corporation's top lawyer, resigned after more than fifteen years with the company. Though he is not known to have had any direct role in the scandal, he was Murdoch's main legal adviser throughout the period in which laws were broken. A further indication of the heights to which the scandal is reaching within Murdoch's US headquarters is that he has entrusted two experienced lawyers now sitting on News Corporation's board of directors in New York with key roles in the handling of the crisis. Joel Klein, who until January was in charge of New York city's schools system and who now runs News Corp's education programme, has been asked to 'provide important oversight and guidance' in the investigation into what happened at the News of the World. Viet Dinh, like Klein a former assistant attorney general of the US, has been charged with keeping the board informed of any developments. US media executives told the Gruniad that Klein and Dinh had advised Murdoch that he needed to take drastic action to contain the phone hacking problems within the UK and prevent it spilling into a global crisis. One question that is likely to persist beyond the News of the World's closure is the extent of the involvement of Les Hinton, the chief executive of Dow Jones. He was the executive chairman of Murdoch's UK newspaper arm, News International, between 1995 and 2007 when he moved to New York. He told the British parliament on two occasions - in 2007 and 2009 - that the hacking had been limited to just one 'rogue' reporter, a claim now known to be entirely - and ludicrously - untrue. In his statement explaining the News of the World closure, James Murdoch, chairman and chief executive of News Corporation, said: 'The paper made statements to Parliament without being in the full possession of the facts. This was wrong.' The comment appears to apply, in part, to Hinton. Progressive campaigns that have long been critical of what they see as Rupert Murdoch's overweening presence in the US media market are stepping up their lobbying and demanding to know whether any of the invasion of privacy carried out by Murdoch employees in the UK ever took place on this side of the Atlantic. Media Matters, which monitors right-wing media outlets, recently confronted Murdoch personally on camera whether he could assure Americans that his US outlets had not committed any phone hacking. Murdoch replied: 'I have nothing to say.' Asked whether he didn't want to defend himself against the allegations, he said: 'I don't have to.' Ilyse Hogue, who runs Media Matters' News Corp Watch project, said that they were making formal approaches to the US Congress. The campaign is calling on congressional committees responsible for protecting the privacy of American citizens to launch investigations into whether any breaches have been carried out by the company in the US. Avaaz, a global progressive campaign that operates as a social network whose UK members have been lobbying for the suspension of the BSkyB takeover, says that it has launched its own investigation into whether rules have been broken within the US. 'It seems clear from the UK example that this was only the tip of the iceberg and we want to know whether it extended to News Corporation's operations around the world including America,' said the group's director, Ricken Patel. The involvement of a News Corporation subsidiary in illegal practices is particularly sensitive within the US given the importance of Murdoch as a political player. Most of the Republican candidates running for the White House in 2012 have until recently been on the payroll of the rabidly right-wing FOX News channel, while Murdoch donated one million dollars of News Corporation money to the Republicans in last November's mid-term elections.

Now, here's a question worth asking.

The prime minister's morning news conference of Friday turned into a train-wreck of mesmeric proportions. Having opened with some bland platitude and a load of fluff about how 'disgraceful' everything was, Cameron noted that the future of press regulation would be better approached on a cross-party basis. It is no good pointing the finger at this individual journalist or that individual newspaper, he said. Politicians 'including me' have not adequately 'gripped' this matter. He referred to the last government's failure to act but says the opposition, then the Conservatives under his own leadership, did not do enough either. But, when it came to questions, there was only one thing the assembled journalists wanted to talk about. Nick Robinson, from BBC News, said that the PM's judgement was now, clearly, at issue. Why did he believe a man who had resigned from the News of the World over phone hacking when he said he knew nothing about it? Cameron replied that no-one gave him 'specific information' about Coulson. This is a reference to the comments of the Torygraph's Peter Oborne and Gruniad editor Alan Rusbridger both of whom said that Cameron was warned about Coulson's links to phone hacking. The PM also took a swipe at Alistair Campbell, referring to 'dodgy dossiers' by previous directors of communications. Chris Ship from ITV News asked the prime minister to apologise for the appointment of Coulson. No apology was forthcoming. 'The second chance didn't work,' said Cameron. It's not 'meaningful' to go over it, he continued. People will judge whether they think it's right to give someone a second chance. Adam Boulton, from Sky News, then asked Cameron whether closing the News of the World was the right decision, asked about his relationship with the press, and whether BSkyB executives - his own current bosses, let it be noted - pass the 'fit and proper persons' test. Cameron fudged the issue, suggesting it is not for him to say whether the paper should have been closed. It is natural for the PM to speak to the press and cultivate relationships, he continued, but there was a 'fundamental failure' to tackle media regulation. 'It is not appropriate for the prime minister to say "I'd quite like that person to own a newspaper but not that person,"' he added on the subject of the 'fit and proper persons' test. There are organisations qualified and equipped to make those decisions. A Times reporter asked Cameron what questions he, Cameron, had asked of Coulson when he gave him the job. The prime minister said he sought 'specific' and 'general' assurances. (The PM said earlier he had also carried out background checks. Not very thorough ones by the look of things.) Coulson, he said, told him that he didn't know the hacking had taken place. Cameron says there is still a police investigation ongoing, adding: 'I certainly don't know who at News International knew what about what.' By now, Cameron clearly had a big sweat-on. The Gruniad's political editor, Patrick Wintour, asked if the PM was saying he had 'no warning' that Coulson had links with a private detective accused of murder. As noted previously, both Peter Oborne and Alan Rusbridger have said that he was warned. 'I wasn't given any specific information about Andy Coulson,' claimed the prime minister. 'I don't recall being given any information.' Ah, so now it's gone from 'I wasn't, to 'I don't recall.' Cameron said that he will check whether any of his staff were warned. Michael Crick from Newsnight asked if Cameron 'hauled Coulson into his office' when the Gruniad first broke the phone hacking story in 2009. And, if not, why not? 'I did have conversations with him throughout,' Cameron replied. 'But it didn't lead me to change my perception that he did not know about phone hacking.' he was then asked whether he has been in contact with Coulson and if he is still friends with him. 'He became a friend and is a friend,' Cameron replied. The prime minister said that he has has been in contact with Coulson since the latter resigned his post but 'not in recent weeks.' On the subject of Rebekah Brooks, Cameron said it was not for him to say who should and should not be running companies but, added an astonishingly pointed, caveat. 'It has been reported that Rebekah Brooks offered her resignation over this. I would have taken it.' A Bloomberg reporter asked whether James Murdoch should be questioned over his statement that he approved payments which he shouldn't have and would that not indicated that Murdoch himself was not a 'fit and proper person'? Whether he is a 'fit and proper person' is not a question for the PM, waffled Cameron. 'The police must feel they can go where they need and question everyone to get to the bottom of this.' Asked if he had 'screwed up' on the decision to employ Coulson, Cameron said: 'People will decide.' Well, to be honest, Dave, I think they already have. In possibly the most revealing moment, Cameron said that it would be up to Ofcom to look at 'the latest evidence' in deciding whether News International were' fit and proper persons.' Within ninety seconds of the prime minister finishing his press conference, BSkyB shares went into virtual free fall - down 15.5p at 796.5p.

For today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day I think we'll broadly stick with yesterday's theme a bit longer. He's a bit more from Stevie on the subject. Which proves, among other things, that hard as we try, white people just can't clap along in time.

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