Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Late afternoon update: Phone hacking scandal gets a little more serious for News Int'l as advertiser boycott begins

Nothing quite gets the attention of a media company quite like an effective advertiser boycott. And if company tweets are to be believed, that is what News International, Rupert Murdoch's U.K. media division is facing due to the phone hacking scandal. Also, having a dedicated Wikipedia page on your scandal is not a good sign, either.

Mashable gathered together the various tweets from companies such car makers Ford, Renault and Mitsubishi, all making clear that that are not now, nor will be in the future, spending ad dollars with the tabloid involved in the scandal, News of the World.

It is usually assumed that media types are fully up to speed on the scandal, but that might not be the case. So here are two of the introductory paragraphs from the new Wikipedia page on the scandal:

The scandal began in 2006, when the Metropolitan Police laid charges against Clive Goodman, the News of the World's royal editor, and Glenn Mulcaire, a private investigator, alleging that they intercepted voicemail messages left for members of the royal household. Both men were jailed in 2007. Allegations against the News of the World in relation to illegal voicemail interceptions have continued in subsequent years, implicating other journalists and staff at the paper; numerous public figures, including politicians and celebrities, were found to have been targeted by the interceptions.

The Metropolitan Police began a new investigation into phone hacking allegations in February 2011, at which time more than twenty civil cases against the News of the World were also active. Attorneys for the victims allege that as many as 7,000 people had their phones hacked by the News of the World, and have estimated that resulting litigation may cost the paper's parent company, News International, £40 million.[1] In July 2011 new allegations emerged that the cell phone of a kidnapped schoolgirl had been hacked into by an investigator working for the newspaper, and messages left by her family listened to and then deleted.
Late this afternoon The Guardian reported that George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and a member of the ruling Tories, had been contacted by the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) in regard to the scandal. His name and home phone number, he was told, had been found in the notes of Glenn Mulcaire and Clive Goodman, two people at the center of the controversy.

"The MPS had no further evidence to suggest George's voicemail had been hacked or attempted to be hacked," a spokesman for Osborne said.

Meanwhile, and this is one of those stories where the word "meanwhile" can be used a lot, Rupert Murdoch has gone out of his way to say that News International's chief executive, Rebekah Brooks, would be be retained and put in charge of the company's effort to save itself.

If that sounds like the kind of words George Steinbrenner would have spoken in regards to his manager Billy Martin, about a week before canning him, well so be it.

One thing that keeps getting asked is whether News Corp.'s shady behavior would in any way effect their plans to take over BSkyB, the British satellite television company. The answer is always the same: no, slimy behavior in no way precludes a company from being in television. They might have added that it might even be a prerequisite for ownership.

Even later update: The Guardian is now reporting that as the then editor of the News of the World Rebekah Brooks was given evidence that her paper was working on behalf of two murder suspects who wanted to know what a detective was investigating.

The Guardian: Brooks was summoned to a meeting at Scotland Yard where she was told that one of her most senior journalists, Alex Marunchak, had apparently agreed to use photographers and vans leased to the paper to run surveillance on behalf of Jonathan Rees and Sid Fillery, two private investigators who were suspected of murdering their former partner, Daniel Morgan. The Yard saw this as a possible attempt to pervert the course of justice.

That last line is perfect example of understatement.

It turns out that members of the Metropolitan Police were being paid directly by News International.