Murdoch arrives in London to face UK crisis

Rupert Murdoch leaves his London flat with News International executive Rebekah Brooks. [AFP]

Rupert Murdoch leaves his London flat with News International executive Rebekah Brooks. [AFP]


Challenges rising for Murdoch

Created: 11/07/2011

Last Updated: Mon, 11 Jul 2011 07:41:00 +1000

Media owner Rupert Murdoch flew into London on Sunday to tackle a phone-hacking scandal that has sent tremors through the British political establishment and may cost him a multi-billion dollar broadcasting deal.

Mr Murdoch, 80, arrived at his London headquarters in the front passenger seat of a car, holding up the final edition of the best-selling News of the World, the newspaper he bought in 1969 that became the foundation stone of his international media empire, which he closed last week in a bid to stem the crisis.

He later travelled across the city to his London home where he was joined by his newspaper group chief executive Rebekah Brooks, and then crossed the road to a hotel with his arm around her.

Mr Murdoch's son and heir apparent, James, later entered the hotel by a side door, witnesses said.

Best known for its lurid headlines exposing misadventures of the rich, royal and famous, the last News of the World said simply "Thank You & Goodbye" over a montage of some of its most celebrated splashes of the past 168 years. For admirers it had been a stock feature of lazy Sundays, for critics it had become a symbol of craven irresponsibility in the British media.

"All human life was here," the paper declared.

Deal in doubt

Only last week, Rupert Murdoch had seemed on the point of clinching approval for a cherished prize, the buyout of broadcaster BSkyB.

But revelations that phone-hacking had extended beyond celebrities to a murdered girl, and to relatives of victims of the 2005 London bomb attacks, and of soldiers killed in action stirred broad public anger.

Editor Colin Myler told media massed outside the newspaper's offices: "This is not where we wanted to be and it's not where we deserve to be, but as a final tribute to 7.5 million readers, this is for you and for the staff, thank you."

The scandal has raised questions about relations between politicians, including British prime minister David Cameron - who hired the paper's former editor Andy Coulson as his spin doctor - and media barons such as News Corp chairman and chief executive Mr Murdoch.

It has also brought to light accusations that journalists working for Mr Murdoch and others illegally paid police for information. A senior officer said the London police force had been "very damaged" by its failure to press an initial investigation into telephone hacking at the News of the World.

Government pressure

Mr Cameron's opponents have scented an opportunity in their efforts to block Mr Murdoch's $14 billion bid for the 61 per cent of the profitable pay-TV operator BSkyB that News Corp , the world's largest news conglomerate, does not already own.

Previously, those looking at whether Mr Murdoch should get the go-ahead have focused on whether it would give him too much power over Britain's media.

But allegations that senior editors were involved in illegally accessing thousands of voicemail messages and paying police for information to get scoops have now prompted the regulator Ofcom to say it will consider whether News Corp directors are "fit and proper" persons to run BSkyB.

The government has received more than 135,000 public complaints against the BSkyB deal.

Mr Cameron came under growing pressure on Sunday to halt Mr Murdoch's bid for BSkyB, at least until an investigation into phone-hacking had been completed.

Labour opposition leader Ed Miliband said he would force the issue to a parliamentary vote this week if Mr Cameron did not act.

"He needs to make clear that BSkyB cannot go ahead until the investigation is complete," he told the BBC's Andrew Marr program.

Pressure came too from members of the government's junior coalition partner, the Liberal Democrats, who have had a less cosy relationship with Mr Murdoch.

Deputy LibDem leader Simon Hughes said he would be prepared to back Labour's call for the deal to be postponed and urged other LibDems to do the same - setting the stage for a major test of the coalition's unity.


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