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Inside Story Americas
Will the hacking scandal spread to the US?
We discuss the consequences of a British parliamentary report labelling Murdoch unfit to run an international company.
Last Modified: 05 May 2012 12:18

It has not been a good week for Rupert Murdoch. First a British parliamentary committee concluded he was 'unfit' to run an international company, then a US senator stepped up efforts to find out if Murdoch's companies have broken US laws. So, will Murdoch's troubles cross the Atlantic?

"I think the board supports Murdoch. They are nervous but they are doing damage control and I don't see any sign whatsoever that the board is ready to pitch Murdoch over the side.... He is an absolute kingmaker, his media control so much of the public attention in a way that doesn't have a parallel in the US."

- Paul Farhi, the Washington Post's media correspondent

Rupert Murdoch presides over a massive media empire. But above all, he is said to be most passionate about his newspapers. And it is the conduct of those newspapers that is now threatening his hold over all that he has built.

The scandal at Murdoch's British tabloid, the News of the World, has seen senior editorial figures arrested over revelations that police were bribed and that hundreds had their phones hacked including a murdered school girl and victims of the 7/7 bombings in London.

This week Britain's House of Commons Culture Committee delivered a damning verdict on Murdoch's stewardship of his British newspapers concluding he exhibited 'wilful blindness' to what was going on.

Now a senior US senator has written to a second British inquiry convened as a result of the scandal and chaired by a senior judge. Senator Jay Rockefeller has asked if any evidence has come to light of US laws being broken.

If so, Murdoch's troubles will only just be beginning. His British newspapers are just a small part of the News Corp international empire which has its headquarters in the US and includes iconic names like Fox and the Wall Street Journal.

"The shareholders have always accepted a kind of dynastic role here for the kind of genius he has been, he did do a lot of good things, especially in the nineties. but over the last decade he has really kind of stumbled and investors have to question whether he is an asset or a liability at this point."

- Michael Pryce-Jones, a senior policy analyst, Change to Win

Murdoch has been careful to deny any knowledge of phone-hacking that went on at his news organisations. But last week he admitted that the stain from the scandal has tarnished him as well.

"Some newspapers are closer to my heart than others. But I also have to say that I failed. I think that, historically, this whole business of News of the World is a serious blot on my reputation," Murdoch said.

Is the US going to be the next battleground beween Rupert Murdoch and his opponents? Were phones hacked in the US? And what effect could the damning verdict of the British parliamentary committee have on Murdoch's 'empire', the shareholders and the public opinion?

Joining Inside Story Americas, with presenter Shihab Rattansi, to discuss this are: Jess Todtfeld, a media consultant and a former Fox News producer; Paul Farhi, The Washington Post's media correspondent; and Jeremy Holden, the research director for Media Matters.

"The findings of the report are devastating throughout News Corp. The idea that an investigation concluded that Rupert Murdoch was unfit to lead a global media company that finding is not limited to the holdings in the UK but it extends throughout the company.... News Corp's number one asset is the public trust and to the extend that the company is now becoming synonymous with corruption and hacking and bad journalism, it's a problem that can't be solved by just waiting to get over this one speedbumb."

Jeremy Holden, the research director for Media Matters


NEWS CORP:

  • Rupert Murdoch created News Corp in 1979
  • News Corp is the second largest media conglomerate in the world
  • News Corp's holdings include Fox, Harpercollins and the New York Post
  • News Corp owns 27 TV stations and the Fox broadcasting company
  • The Murdoch family owns about 12 per cent of News Corp shares, 40 per cent voting rights
  • News Corp owns 150 newspapers in Australia
Source:
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