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JOURNALISM IN THE AMERICAS Blog

As Murdoch testifies in London, the impact of the News Corp. hacking scandal spreads to the U.S.



The scandal at News Corp., run by billionaire CEO Rupert Murdoch, has expanded from incidents of alleged phone-hacking by the U.K.-based News of the World tabloid to a bribery scandal that has led to multiple arrests and resignations and embroiled the British prime minister and his government. The newest revelations are that News Corp. employees, to cover up the hacking, may have bribed London police in a department where 10 of the 45 press officers used to work for Murdoch's company, The Associated Press and The Washington Post explain.

According to Business Insider, in Murdoch's July 19 testimony to the British Parliment, the CEO claimed to be ignorant of any bribery, voicemail hacking, or the lawsuits that were settled over the hacking

In an added development, Sean Hoare, a former News of the World reporter who spoke to the media and authorities about hacking and bribery at his paper was found dead July 18, though the police are not treating it as a homicide, the Guardian reports.

While the impact of the revelations have centered mainly on News Corp.’s business dealings in the U.K., the company’s ownership of major properties in the U.S. — including the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) newspaper, the Fox broadcasting company, and the Dow Jones wire agency — has led to complaints by officials and media commentators over the corporation’s conduct.

At the behest of several U.S. members of Congress, the F.B.I has begun probing whether News Corp. reporters hacked 9/11 victims’ voicemails, the Los Angeles Times reports. Additionally, according to the Guardian, the U.S. Justice Department is working with U.K. fraud officials to determine if News Corp. violated U.S. laws that bar companies from engaging in bribery abroad. Among the major figures to take a fall due to these revelations is Dow Jones CEO and WSJ publisher Les Hinton who resigned for being “ignorant” of criminal and ethical abuses that may have taken place under his time as an executive overseeing News of the World, ABC explains.

There could be broader regulatory impacts as well. The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will be revisiting its media ownership rules in the coming year, and The Washington Post reports that some are saying that Fox’s broadcast license (which includes more than 20 stations on public airwaves) should be revoked if News Corp. broke any laws. “If you’re at the FCC and you’re considering loosening media regulations, this scandal should certainly give you pause," said Craig Aaron, the president of the media reform group Free Press, quoted by the National Journal.

The critics have also jumped on News Corp-owned Fox News and the WSJ for failing to cover the scandal sufficiently and defending the conduct of their parent company. However the media outlets’ competitors are also under scrutiny for covering the events overzealously, especially as CNN has reportedly played down one of its employees' alleged role in approving illegal hacking.

The scandal is still developing, but the Associated Press reports that it could end the reign of founder and CEO Murdoch and block efforts to eventually name his son James as his successor. Critics like the Online Journalism Review’s Robert Niles and Roy Greenslade at the Guardian — a News Corp. rival and the outlet that broke the scandal — see this as a positive as they argue that the news culture promoted by Murdoch is opposed to “the ethics of responsible journalism” by prioritizing ideology and “lowest common denominator” reporting.



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