British newspapers pounced Thursday on new reports of clandestine phone hacking by the News of the World tabloid, reportedly including the voice mail messages of relatives of fallen soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. One newspaper said the police planned to make arrests soon.
The developments came a day after Britain’s Parliament on Wednesday collectively turned on Rupert Murdoch, the head of the News Corporation, which owns The News of the World, and the tabloid culture he represents, using a debate about the widening phone hacking scandal to denounce reporting tactics by newspapers once seen as too politically influential to challenge.
It appears the use of phone-hacking by the Sun and News of the World, first uncovered in 2007, has grown since. British public opinion drew the line at revelations by The Guardian that Murdoch employees hacked the family phone of a teenage abduction/murder victim and perhaps others, including innocents killed in Britain’s 20005 subway bombing by terrorists.
Other accusations against News reporters are paying police officers for information and – the most bizarre – lending two murder suspects a News truck to spy on the chief detective in the case.
The significance of conservatives as well as liberals denouncing the tactics of Mr. Murdock’s operations is great. Murdock has supported conservative politics and causes his entire life. James Cameron tapped a former editor of the News as his spokesman after taking over as Prime Minister a year ago. Yet even conservatives used harsh language against Mr. Murdock’s outrageous hubris and influence. One conservative MP, Zac Goldsmith, had these words .
“There is nothing noble in what these newspapers have been doing,” he said. “Rupert Murdoch is clearly a very, very talented businessman — he’s possibly even a genius — but his organization has grown too powerful and has abused that power. It has systematically corrupted the police and in my view has gelded this Parliament, to our shame.”
The more serious criticism of Murdoch’s media empire in the US, particularly Fox News and The New York Post, has been their sensationalism and looseness with facts. What effect the British investigations and impending arrests of News reporters and agents will have on Murdoch’s business holdings long-term is not known. Some in Parliament, however, are calling for Britain to block his next grand purchase of Sky Pay-TV.