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Rupert Murdoch and the Corruption of the British Media


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Welcome antidote to News' limited and self-serving spin

Matthew Ricketson

January 28, 2009 BOOK REVIEW

Murdoch's Flagship: Twenty-five years of The Australian newspaper

by Denis Cryle

Melbourne University Press

LAST year, not one but three senior media industry figures — ABC managing director Mark Scott, former Age editor Michael Gawenda and veteran television journalist Ray Martin — suggested Rupert Murdoch represented the "last, best hope for newspapers".

But last week Deutsche Bank predicted News Corporation's earnings would drop 22 per cent in 2009, as the global financial crisis and structural change in media industries threaten to shake Murdoch's media empire.

Advertisement: Story continues below This apparent contradiction illustrates how quickly things are changing in the media; and begs the need for some perspective.

In this context, Denis Cryle's rigorous, fair-minded study of the first quarter-century of Murdoch's The Australian is especially timely.

So accustomed are we to the image of Murdoch as pre-eminent media businessman, that it has been easy to forget just how tenuous were the early years of The Australian. There is value in being reminded of how Murdoch began using his newspapers to influence governments and protect his business interests. When Murdoch established The Australian in 1964 he was a relatively inexperienced proprietor of a small media company.

He had energy and ambition but no grand plan; initially, he wanted to open a newspaper aimed at the Canberra market but Fairfax's purchase of The Canberra Times in 1964 prompted Murdoch to aim nationally.

Creating a national newspaper in 1964 required complicated arrangements to transport matrices, or "flongs", of the newspaper from Canberra to Sydney and Melbourne that severely restricted journalists' deadlines. Sometimes the arrangements failed when fog grounded aircraft.

That the newspaper was published at all testified to Murdoch's determination, but it was a mistake to locate The Australian in Canberra and within three years it was moved to Sydney, where it struggled with the tension between being Sydney-centric or a truly national newspaper.

Cryle, a respected media historian, provides a necessary corrective to the self-mythologising within Murdoch's publications about his seemingly inevitable rise. He charts the many years The Australian ran at a loss; it was only in 1985 that the newspaper first turned a profit.

He also shows the continuing antagonism between the national daily broadsheet and the predominantly tabloid newspapers Murdoch owned in Australia and, later, overseas, over resources and its journalism.

For much of its first decade, The Australian was journalistically inventive, socially progressive and politically left of centre.

Murdoch used the newspaper to campaign vigorously for Gough Whitlam in 1972 and even more vigorously against him in 1975.

Since then, The Australian and its proprietor have been right of centre on most issues.

The Australian's coverage of the Whitlam government's final year was highly controversial, with allegations — rejected by the company — that journalists' copy was rewritten and headlines slanted to reflect poorly on Labor.

The journalists went on strike, some left the newspaper and the bitterness surrounding the event took years to dissolve.

Cryle has unearthed an interview that stalwart Australian editorial executive Les Hollings gave to the National Library for posthumous release.

Hollings recounted a conversation with the former governor-general, Sir John Kerr, where Kerr acknowledged that the newspaper's editorials had stiffened his resolve to take the unprecedented action of dismissing the Whitlam government.

Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/business/welcome-antidote-to-news-limited-and-selfserving-spin-20090127-7r0g.html#ixzz1RzXDZlvk

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Like I've said elsewhere, the media wars has a history. Gough is quite revealing and scathing re Murdoch in his short ''the truth of the matter'' in response to Kerr's* (a real (word not acceptable per forum rules )) . He was plotting Goughs demise with Murdoch just before meeting with The Australian Prime Minister (many of us still refer to him endearingly as Mr President. He was a real statesman.) where Murdoch makes no mention of it.

Kerr's THICK (almost as thick as him) autobiography* (after years of students defacing the statue to Kerr at Murdoch (Walter) University it was removed.) makes NO mention of Murdoch.

edit typo

edit Gough Whitlam, Oz PM early 70's

Sir John Kerr, Governor General (the queens voice) early 70's

Rupert Murdoch, well?

Walter Murdoch, Murdoch university, built mid 70's, for long one of the most progressive Universties in Australia.

bibl

Matters for Judgement - John Kerr, © Aprolon Limited, 1978

The Truth of the Matter - Gough Whitlam, Pelican Press, 1979

(can't get copies?check link)

edit typo

Edited by John Dolva
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9/11 connection to Rupert Murdoch’s Phone Hacking scandal…

jonathan-cunningham

The pair chatted behind closed doors as a former New York cop made the 9/11 hacking claim. He alleged
he was contacted by News of the World journalists who said they would pay him to retrieve the private phone records of the dead
.

Now working as a private ­investigator, the ex-officer claimed reporters wanted the victim’s phone numbers and details of the calls they had made and received in the days leading up to the atrocity.

A source said: “This investigator is used by a lot of journalists in America and he recently told me that
he was asked to hack into the 9/11 victims’ private phone data
. He said that the journalists asked him to access records showing the calls that had been made to and from the mobile phones belonging to the victims and their ­relatives.

“His presumption was that they wanted the information so they could hack into the ­relevant voicemails, just like it has been shown they have done in the UK. The PI said he had to turn the job down. He knew how insensitive such research would be, and how bad it would look.”

Is there anything at all that Rupert Murdoch can do to outrage the ‘patriotic’ public? Fox News has already
in a U.S. court, with little to no coverage of the incident and now we find out that another organization, also owned by Murdoch, has been having it’s reporters illegally access voice mailboxes of victims of tragic crimes to get better headlines. He’s being
, but this will likely be completely ignored in the U.S.
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Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation has just announced that it is dropping its planned bid to take full ownership of BSkyB.

News Corp pulls out of BSkyB bidB

SkyB bid dropped by Rupert Murdoch's media group after pressure from the public and parliament

By James Robinson

guardian.co.uk,

Wednesday 13 July 2011 14.43 BST

Rupert Murdoch's media group News Corporation bowed to pressure from the public and parliament on Wednesday and withdrew its bid to take full control of pay-TV company BSkyB.

All three main political parties were poised to call on News Corp to abandon its offer in a vote in the House of Commons later on Wednesday.

The move leaves News Corp's key strategy for UK corporate growth in tatters. The proposed £8bn deal has been in train for more than a year, with the first offer tabled in June 2010.

It is the one of the biggest setbacks the 80-year-old media mogul has ever suffered and follows 10 days of revelations about the true scale of phone hacking at the News of the World, the paper Murdoch shut down last week.

The decision to abandon the deal is also a major blow to James Murdoch, who is third in command at the company and has responsibility for News Corp's UK businesses, including its Sky stake and News International.

It is likely to lead to criticism from investors over the way the company has handled the phone-hacking affair. James Murdoch initially took charge of the scandal but his father has twice flown in to the UK to oversee matters, most recently at the weekend.

News Corp's deputy chairman and chief operating officer, Chase Carey, said it had become clear that the Sky takeover "is too difficult to progress in this climate".

Carey, who is also News Corp's president, said: "We believed that the proposed acquisition of BSkyB by News Corporation would benefit both companies but it has become clear that it is too difficult to progress in this climate.

"News Corporation remains a committed long-term shareholder in BSkyB. We are proud of the success it has achieved and our contribution to it."

News Corp will have to pay BSkyB a break fee of around £38.5m after walking away from the deal.

BSkyB's share price immediately began to fall. It was down by 23.5p, or 3.4%, to 669p at about 2.30pm on Wednesday, shortly after the announcement that the deal was off, far below the 700p level at which News Corp originally tabled a bid.

More than £3bn has been wiped from the value of BSkyB shares since the Guardian revealed on Monday 4 July that News of the World journalists had hacked into a mobile phone belonging to murdered teenager Milly Dowler.

The decision to walk away from the deal was taken earlier on Wednesday before prime minister's questions, which was followed by an announcement by David Cameron about the details of two separate inquiries, one into phone hacking and the other into media standards.

Carey was at News International's Wapping offices on the fringes of the City of London briefly, where the decision is believed to have been finalised.

Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister, said withdrawing the bid was the "decent and sensible" thing do to.

The Liberal Democrat leader briefly threatened to cause a coalition split when he declared Murdoch should abandon the Sky offer earlier this week, before Cameron decided he would also back a Labour motion to call for it to be dropped.

The shadow culture secretary, Ivan Lewis, said: "It's a victory for the public of this country, it's a victory for parliament and it's a victory for the tremendous leadership that Ed Miliband has shown

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do papers use a standard re billion?

Is billion 1 000 000 million or the european milliard, 1 000 million? (ditto trillion etc...)

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Phone hacking: pressure in United States to investigate News Corporation

Exclusive: A powerful Senate committee chairman has said that phone hacking raises "serious questions" about whether Rupert Murdoch's News Corp "has broken United States law".

Senator Jay Rockefeller is "concerned that the admitted phone hacking may have extended to 9/11 victims"

The Telegraph

By Toby Harnden, in Washington

10:15PM BST 12 Jul 2011

The statement by Senator Jay Rockefeller, a White House ally and Democratic chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, dramatically raises the stakes for Mr Murdoch by signaling potential legal repercussions in America.

"The reported hacking by News Corporation newspapers against a range of individuals - including children - is offensive and a serious breach of journalistic ethics," he said in a statement issued following inquiries by The Daily Telegraph.

"This raises serious questions about whether the company has broken US law, and I encourage the appropriate agencies to investigate to ensure that Americans have not had their privacy violated.

"I am concerned that the admitted phone hacking in London by the News Corp. may have extended to 9/11 victims or other Americans. If they did, the consequences will be severe."

US ethics earlier on Tuesday called on the Senate and House of Representatives to investigate the parent company of News International and hold “thorough public hearings” on whether the voicemails of Americans had been hacked.

One group has even written to the Security and Exchanges Commission (SEC) and the FBI calling for investigations into possible breaches of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). Under the FCPA, it is a crime for any American-linked company to bribe foreign officials to obtain or keep business.

Kevin Zeese, a lawyer acting for the group ProtectOurElections.org, said: “Rupert Murdoch moved to the US and became an American citizen in 1985 in order to take advantage of our laws.”

Thus far, Congress is maintaining a watching brief on the issue and waiting for the tide of revelations in Britain to subside.

“We’re keeping an eye on the situation, but are not planning on looking into it at this time,” said Jodi Seth, press secretary of Senator John Kerry, chairman of the Senate sub-committee on communications.

“For now, all that is certain is that there was hacking in Britain, which is outside of our jurisdiction.”

Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), said that congressional investigations were essential because it was evident there was a culture of corruption within News Corp.

“It’s hard to imagine that the same things have not been happening in the United States.”

The tipping point, she added, would be if it became apparent that the phones of Americans had been hacked.

“Republicans are very tied to Murdoch but not at the expense of constituencies of Americans such as terror victims and soldiers,” she said.

She also noted that Les Hinton, the Dow Jones chief executive, and Robert Thomson, the Wall Street Journal editor, were former senior figures in News International.

A former US government official said that the SEC, the federal regulatory agency that oversees the securities industry and stock exchanges, was very likely to look into whether News Corp had violated the FCPA.

The alleged bribing of police officers protecting the Royal family and a claim by the Daily Mirror that News of the World reporters had also tried to pay a New York police officer to access the phone records of victims of the September 11 attacks could have repercussions on News Corp in the US.

At a minimum, the company could be at risk for violating laws on accurate accounting or reporting if it could be proved there were bribes paid, according to legal experts. News Corp shares trade on the Nasdaq and it files its financial reports with the SEC.

“It’s difficult for enforcement agencies not to look into cases that are so public because a big part of their role is deterrence,” said Alexandra Wrage, president of the firm Trace, which helps companies comply with anti-bribery and anti-corruption laws.

Most of Mr Murdoch’s News Corp empire comprises Fox News, which has widespread reach particularly among conservatives, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Post and 20th Century Fox, the film studio.

It also has 27 television stations that cover 40 per cent of the country and have to be licensed by the Federal Communications Commission. The licences can be challenged when they come up for renewal. Criminal convictions or making misrepresentations to any government agency could lead to licences being revoked

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Former Wall St Journal owners: 'We wouldn't have sold if we had known'

Bancroft family members, who controlled Dow Jones & Company, say they would have resisted Murdoch bid in 2007

By Richard Tofel, ProPublica

guardian.co.uk,

Wednesday 13 July 2011 20.31 BST

A number of key members of the family that controlled the Wall Street Journal say they would not have agreed to sell the prestigious daily to Rupert Murdoch if they had been aware of News International's conduct in the phone-hacking scandal at the time of the deal.

"If I had known what I know now, I would have pushed harder against" the Murdoch bid, said Christopher Bancroft, a member of the family that controlled Dow Jones & Company, publishers of the Wall Street Journal.

Bancroft said the breadth of allegations now on the public record "would have been more problematic for me. I probably would have held out.'' He had sole voting control of a trust that represented 13% of Dow Jones shares in 2007 and served on the Dow Jones board.

Lisa Steele, another family member on the board, said "it would have been harder, if not impossible'' to have accepted Murdoch's bid had the facts been known. "It's complicated," she added, and "there were so many factors" in weighing a sale. But she said: "The ethics are clear to me – what's been revealed, from what I've read in the Journal, is terrible. It may even be criminal."

Elisabeth Goth Chelberg, a Bancroft family member not on the board who had long advocated change at Dow Jones, expressed similar sentiments. Asked if she would have favoured a sale to Murdoch in 2007 knowing what she now does, she said: "My answer is no."

The comments in interviews with the non-profit news organisation ProPublica came as the crisis engulfing Murdoch's News Corporation threatened to spread to the US. Two senators called for an investigation into whether the company broke US laws over the phone-hacking scandal.

Asked for his reaction to a report in the Guardian that Les Hinton, Murdoch's appointee as Dow Jones CEO and Journal publisher, may have testified untruthfully to a parliamentary committee, Christopher Bancroft replied that if the report proved accurate, Hinton "probably ought to be moved aside, but that's not my business any more''.

News Corporation's deal to buy the Journal was sealed in August 2007, six months after the royal editor of the News of the World, Clive Goodman, was jailed for using a private detective to access voicemails left for members of the royal household. News International insisted that hacking was a problem confined to a single "rogue reporter" at the paper. It was not until July 2009 that the Guardian revealed the practice was more widespread and that Murdoch had secretly paid out more than £1m to settle cases brought by other hacking victims.

The Wall Street Journal is the top-selling daily newspaper in the United States and a brand with global prominence. Founded in 1889, it long dominated American business publishing, becoming the country's first national newspaper. It routinely ranked in surveys as America's most trusted print publication.

The Bancroft family owned Dow Jones from 1902 and controlled it as a publicly traded company from 1963. Murdoch's bid was attractive. He offered $60 a share, a 67% premium, $2.25bn above the market price the day his offer was announced, at a time when newspaper share prices had been flagging for more than two years. Moreover, 14 months after the deal closed, in early 2009, News Corp had to write down the value of its $5.6bn purchase by $2.8bn.

The sale was contentious. Family members questioned Murdoch's journalistic practices and insisted on appointment of an independent panel to help safeguard the paper's ethics. There was negative press in the US about Murdoch at the time of the deal in 2007, although nothing to compare with the recent revelations.

Michael Elefante, a partner at the Boston law firm Hemenway & Barnes, longtime counsel to the family, trustee of numerous trusts and also then a member of the Dow Jones board, did not return messages seeking comment. The fourth family representative on the Dow Jones Board, Leslie Hill, consistently opposed the Murdoch bid, and resigned from the board in protest just before the deal was completed. (Hill has been a donor to ProPublica.)

Not all members of the Bancroft family believe the revelations would have changed the outcome. Bill Cox III, long allied with Chelberg within the family in seeking alternatives to management by Dow Jones, said in an interview that he "probably would have thought twice about it but probably would have sold".

He was "happy about the price we got" for Dow Jones. "I'm pretty happy being out of the newspaper business altogether." Asked if he would have accepted a lower price from another bidder given the phone hacking, he said: "I think $60 was the right price."

Cox did say he had been following the story closely in the Australian media during a trip there and that he was very concerned about what he had learned recently about the Journal's new owners.

"Reading all this makes me sick to my stomach," he said. In a subsequent email, he went even further: Rupert Murdoch, he wrote, "thinks he is completely above the law as he always has." Cox added: "We did a deal with the devil and it really saddens me [that] the editorial of this quasi public trust that has been on the vanguard of world journalism for years is not in good hands. That I am really struggling with."The Bancroft family continues to keep an eye on the Journal and Dow Jones. Asked for his reaction to a report in the Guardian that Les Hinton, Murdoch's appointee as Dow Jones CEO and Journal publisher, may have testified untruthfully to a parliamentary committee, Christopher Bancroft replied that if the report proves accurate, Hinton "probably ought be moved aside, but that's not my business anymore.''

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Former Wall St Journal owners: 'We wouldn't have sold if we had known'

Bancroft family members, who controlled Dow Jones & Company, say they would have resisted Murdoch bid in 2007

By Richard Tofel, ProPublica

guardian.co.uk,

Wednesday 13 July 2011 20.31 BST

A number of key members of the family that controlled the Wall Street Journal say they would not have agreed to sell the prestigious daily to Rupert Murdoch if they had been aware of News International's conduct in the phone-hacking scandal at the time of the deal.

"If I had known what I know now, I would have pushed harder against" the Murdoch bid, said Christopher Bancroft, a member of the family that controlled Dow Jones & Company, publishers of the Wall Street Journal.

Bancroft said the breadth of allegations now on the public record "would have been more problematic for me. I probably would have held out.'' He had sole voting control of a trust that represented 13% of Dow Jones shares in 2007 and served on the Dow Jones board.

Lisa Steele, another family member on the board, said "it would have been harder, if not impossible'' to have accepted Murdoch's bid had the facts been known. "It's complicated," she added, and "there were so many factors" in weighing a sale. But she said: "The ethics are clear to me – what's been revealed, from what I've read in the Journal, is terrible. It may even be criminal."

Elisabeth Goth Chelberg, a Bancroft family member not on the board who had long advocated change at Dow Jones, expressed similar sentiments. Asked if she would have favoured a sale to Murdoch in 2007 knowing what she now does, she said: "My answer is no."

The comments in interviews with the non-profit news organisation ProPublica came as the crisis engulfing Murdoch's News Corporation threatened to spread to the US. Two senators called for an investigation into whether the company broke US laws over the phone-hacking scandal.

Asked for his reaction to a report in the Guardian that Les Hinton, Murdoch's appointee as Dow Jones CEO and Journal publisher, may have testified untruthfully to a parliamentary committee, Christopher Bancroft replied that if the report proved accurate, Hinton "probably ought to be moved aside, but that's not my business any more''.

News Corporation's deal to buy the Journal was sealed in August 2007, six months after the royal editor of the News of the World, Clive Goodman, was jailed for using a private detective to access voicemails left for members of the royal household. News International insisted that hacking was a problem confined to a single "rogue reporter" at the paper. It was not until July 2009 that the Guardian revealed the practice was more widespread and that Murdoch had secretly paid out more than £1m to settle cases brought by other hacking victims.

The Wall Street Journal is the top-selling daily newspaper in the United States and a brand with global prominence. Founded in 1889, it long dominated American business publishing, becoming the country's first national newspaper. It routinely ranked in surveys as America's most trusted print publication.

The Bancroft family owned Dow Jones from 1902 and controlled it as a publicly traded company from 1963. Murdoch's bid was attractive. He offered $60 a share, a 67% premium, $2.25bn above the market price the day his offer was announced, at a time when newspaper share prices had been flagging for more than two years. Moreover, 14 months after the deal closed, in early 2009, News Corp had to write down the value of its $5.6bn purchase by $2.8bn.

The sale was contentious. Family members questioned Murdoch's journalistic practices and insisted on appointment of an independent panel to help safeguard the paper's ethics. There was negative press in the US about Murdoch at the time of the deal in 2007, although nothing to compare with the recent revelations.

Michael Elefante, a partner at the Boston law firm Hemenway & Barnes, longtime counsel to the family, trustee of numerous trusts and also then a member of the Dow Jones board, did not return messages seeking comment. The fourth family representative on the Dow Jones Board, Leslie Hill, consistently opposed the Murdoch bid, and resigned from the board in protest just before the deal was completed. (Hill has been a donor to ProPublica.)

Not all members of the Bancroft family believe the revelations would have changed the outcome. Bill Cox III, long allied with Chelberg within the family in seeking alternatives to management by Dow Jones, said in an interview that he "probably would have thought twice about it but probably would have sold".

He was "happy about the price we got" for Dow Jones. "I'm pretty happy being out of the newspaper business altogether." Asked if he would have accepted a lower price from another bidder given the phone hacking, he said: "I think $60 was the right price."

Cox did say he had been following the story closely in the Australian media during a trip there and that he was very concerned about what he had learned recently about the Journal's new owners.

"Reading all this makes me sick to my stomach," he said. In a subsequent email, he went even further: Rupert Murdoch, he wrote, "thinks he is completely above the law as he always has." Cox added: "We did a deal with the devil and it really saddens me [that] the editorial of this quasi public trust that has been on the vanguard of world journalism for years is not in good hands. That I am really struggling with."The Bancroft family continues to keep an eye on the Journal and Dow Jones. Asked for his reaction to a report in the Guardian that Les Hinton, Murdoch's appointee as Dow Jones CEO and Journal publisher, may have testified untruthfully to a parliamentary committee, Christopher Bancroft replied that if the report proves accurate, Hinton "probably ought be moved aside, but that's not my business anymore.''

Of course everyone knows Mary Bancroft was Allen Dulles' agent and mistress in Swiss during WWII and was a close personal friend of Michael Paine's mother Ruth Forbes Paine Young, who was traveling with Bancroft when she met the Swiss national who would become her husband.

BK

JFKcountercoup.blogspot.com

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Steve Richards: Now we know who runs the country

We need to know a lot more about the activities of bankers, business leaders, civil servants, police, and the media

The Independent

Thursday, 14 July 2011

The dramatic and yet inevitable withdrawal of Rupert Murdoch's bid for BSkyB serves as a vivid symbol of giddy decline, a collapse from swaggering omnipotence to breathless fragility in less than a fortnight. Suddenly there is a mountain of inquiries and investigations into the activities of the media, the police and politicians. Until recently only a few were bravely and passionately interested in the implications of News International and the hacking allegations. Now one media empire is besieged and others must be wondering whether they too will attract unwelcome attention.

Perhaps more staggering revelations are to come, but the essential contours of the scandal are clear. Power in Britain is distributed widely and erratically. Yet on the whole we report and scrutinise decisions, events and public personalities on the assumption that most power is concentrated in the hands of politicians in general and ministers in particular. Around the clock, politicians are held to account, even though most of them wield virtually no power at all. If anything happens anywhere, the instinct of the media and the gladiatorial parliamentary culture is to hold the Government to account almost alone. Weak-kneed elected politicians feel compelled to respond.

This dynamic reached a neurotically extreme point during Tony Blair's premiership when he felt obliged to issue a statement expressing concern about a fictional character in Coronation Street. Whatever is wrong with our political system, politicians are kept on their toes, accountable to the media, parliamentary committees and, of course, the electorate that can kick them out.

This form of robust accountability is largely healthy. To reverse the proposition and argue that elected figures should not be held to account would be deranged. But the consequence of an excessive focus on mainly insecure, scared politicians has led to a distorting lack of accountability in relation to non-elected institutions that wield power with anonymous, and often unjustified, self-confidence. Few voters had heard of the senior bankers who were leading them to the edge of the precipice until it was almost too late. And yet the likes of Sir Fred Goodwin, who steered Royal Bank of Scotland towards catastrophe, had far more power than most elected ministers who were regularly attacked on the front pages and summoned to explain their timid, powerless behaviour at 8.10 am on the Today programme.

Similarly, only now is more intense scrutiny being applied to the activities of the Metropolitan Police and the quality of some of its senior staff. The accountability of the police is highly sensitive and complex, but some senior figures in the Metropolitan Police have sheltered under convoluted lines of scrutiny. Both the Mayor of London and the Home Office have theoretical powers, while police retain operational independence. In fairness, the head of the Metropolitan Police is a public figure and extensively scrutinised, but it was alarming to watch the Home Affairs Committee interview a former assistant commissioner, Andy Hayman, and a current holder of that rank, John Yates. How did such cocky mediocrities rise to senior posts, ones that gave them responsibilities for handling the threat of terrorism? No elected minister would get so far up the Cabinet in the way that unimpressive duo rose up the hierarchy of the police. The media and parliamentary scrutiny would have exposed their different flaws long ago. Yates wields more power than most ministers, and Hayman used to.

Some media organisations, but most specifically Rupert Murdoch's, have become the most extreme example of this trend towards unaccountable power. Murdoch rarely gives interviews. We have not heard from Rebekah Brooks since the latest revelations. According to the police officers interviewed by the Home Affairs Select Committee, News International failed to co-operate with their original inquiry, an inadequate excuse for giving up the investigation, but nonetheless the most damning of allegations. Here was a company that evidently thought it was powerful enough to get away with it, able to block police inquiries and to pay off victims of crime.

One of the most revealing episodes in this damning sequence relates to the recent payment by News International to victims of hacking, including Gordon Taylor from the Professional Footballers' Association and the actress Sienna Miller. The payouts were public knowledge and yet few did very much in response. In some respects this tolerance was more shocking than the appalling revelations about Milly Dowler's phone. It took an emotionally charged trigger to challenge the might of an empire that owns around 40 per cent of newspapers and until yesterday afternoon sought to become an even bigger broadcaster. Until the terrible twist in relation to Milly Dowler, no senior frontbencher dared to make a move, and it took immense courage from the Labour MPs Tom Watson and Chris Bryant to lead their previously lonely campaign.

A non-elected, largely unaccountable company acted loftily, while relatively obscure ministers with much less power are sometimes forced to resign for minor misdemeanours or no misdemeanour at all, quite often at the screaming insistence of newspapers owned by News International.

Cameron was in authoritative form in the Commons yesterday afternoon, conveying a sense of grip, even if no one is, in reality, gripping very much at all. It is a mistake to view this crisis through the prism of the immediate political fortunes of Cameron or Ed Miliband. While it is true that Miliband read the scale of the saga with astute perception and acted on it with flair, I doubt if voters view the fast-moving events in terms of the party leaders, but more with an exasperated, impotent horror.

The longer-term political prize is much bigger than one determined by which leader performs well in response to each volcanic eruption. I do not have great hope that the inquiry announced yesterday will deliver the prize. Its remit is wide and unavoidably abstract. To take one example of the difficulties when we move from the vague to the particular, Cameron stated yesterday that he supported "independent" regulation of the newspapers rather than self-regulation. When asked to explain the difference, he could not do so. I have spoken at many meetings where the relationship between the media and politics is the theme. The meetings go around in circles and always promise more than they deliver. This may be the fate of the inquiry.

But deeper currents move fast. Belatedly, a strange sort of enforced accountability is taking place as parliament reasserts its right to stand up to non-elected institutions that function in the dark. Some commentators suggest that this is a sinister development, possibly leading to excessive political interference. Such fears are unfounded. How can it be sinister when those we elect challenge lawbreaking by a non-elected organisation? There is instead the prospect of a healthy re-balancing brought about partly by some brilliant and persistent investigative journalism.

The many investigations will bring a form of catharsis, but the practical remedies are available for application now. If the media or the police break the law, they should not be allowed to get away with the crimes. Ownership must be limited, so that no single organisation holds excessive sway. The media and other institutions must scrutinise more robustly those in power beyond Whitehall or Parliament. We need to know a lot more about the activities of bankers, powerful business leaders, senior civil servants, police and, of course, what is happening behind the closed doors of media empires. This is a story about who runs Britain, and as light is shone we discover horrors. The light must not fade again.

s.richards@independent.co.uk; twitter.com/steverichards14

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News Corp. Newspapers May Face U.S. Inquiry

The New York Times

By BRIAN STELTER

July 14, 2011

Public criticism of the News Corporation’s conduct in the British hacking scandal has crossed the ocean as half a dozen members of Congress this week urged the United States government to investigate possible misconduct, including violations of a law that guards against foreign corruption.

In a letter on Wednesday, Representative Peter T. King, Republican of New York, pressed the F.B.I. to investigate whether journalists working for News Corporation newspapers tried to obtain phone records of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, as one British newspaper claimed, citing anonymous sources.

Mr. King was the first Republican to call for an investigation into the company’s activities. The News Corporation’s chief executive, Rupert Murdoch, is a longtime supporter of conservative causes and Republican politicians.

Several of the other lawmakers who spoke out this week have been publicly critical of the News Corporation in the past. The first to issue a statement, Senator John D. Rockefeller IV, Democrat of West Virginia, said Tuesday that the United States government should hold investigations to “ensure that Americans have not had their privacy violated.”

He was joined on Wednesday by senators like Robert Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey, who asked the Justice Department to investigate the claims involving 9/11 victims. Mr. Menendez said in his letter that the “large scope” of the hacking in Britain made it “imperative to investigate whether victims in the United States have been affected as well.”

New Jersey’s other senator, Frank R. Lautenberg, suggested Wednesday that both the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission should examine the case and consider starting a formal investigation. Mr. Lautenberg referred to news media reports that journalists “paid London police officers for information, including private telephone information, about the British royal family and other individuals for use in newspaper articles.”

Because the News Corporation is based in the United States, such payments may have violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which forbids payments to foreign officials. Citing the act’s accounting rules, he added, “If indeed bribes were made and were not properly recorded, this too may be a violation of law.”

Several of the lawmakers echoed what Mr. Lautenberg asserted: that “further investigation may reveal that current reports only scratch the surface of the problem at News Corporation.”

Asked about Mr. Lautenberg’s letter, Mary Schapiro, the chairwoman of the S.E.C., said, “We will look at it very carefully, as we do all Congressional correspondence.” A Justice Department spokeswoman said the letters to that agency were being reviewed.

Several civic and public interest groups, including some that have been longtime opponents of the News Corporation and Mr. Murdoch, have set up petitions and proposed Congressional hearings into the company’s conduct. The executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, Melanie Sloan, said Wednesday, “Just as the British Parliament has held hearings and heard the testimony of witnesses, Congress has the ability to subpoena News Corporation employees and require them to explain themselves.”

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Steve Richards: Now we know who runs the country

We need to know a lot more about the activities of bankers, business leaders, civil servants, police, and the media

The Independent

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Similarly, only now is more intense scrutiny being applied to the activities of the Metropolitan Police and the quality of some of its senior staff. The accountability of the police is highly sensitive and complex, but some senior figures in the Metropolitan Police have sheltered under convoluted lines of scrutiny. Both the Mayor of London and the Home Office have theoretical powers, while police retain operational independence. In fairness, the head of the Metropolitan Police is a public figure and extensively scrutinised, but it was alarming to watch the Home Affairs Committee interview a former assistant commissioner, Andy Hayman, and a current holder of that rank, John Yates. How did such cocky mediocrities rise to senior posts, ones that gave them responsibilities for handling the threat of terrorism? No elected minister would get so far up the Cabinet in the way that unimpressive duo rose up the hierarchy of the police. The media and parliamentary scrutiny would have exposed their different flaws long ago. Yates wields more power than most ministers, and Hayman used to.

See this video of Nick Davies on the police who has led the investigation:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/video/2011/jul/12/phone-hacking-nick-davies-select-committee

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do papers use a standard re billion?

Is billion 1 000 000 million or the european milliard, 1 000 million? (ditto trillion etc...)

I think most newspapers, and even the government itself, in the UK, use the 1,000 Million when referring to "billion".

Seems to be applying more to scientific journals too, these days. People tend to shy away from how truly massive a "real" billion is :unsure:

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Arrested News of the World executive was employed as Met adviser

Neil Wallis, who has been questioned over phone hacking, advised commissioner on communications, Scotland Yard says

By Vikram Dodd, crime correspondent

guardian.co.uk,

Thursday 14 July 2011 17.21 BST

Scotland Yard has admitted it employed Neil Wallis, a former executive at the News of the World, as an adviser to the commissioner until September 2010.

Wallis was employed to advise Sir Paul Stephenson and John Yates on a part-time basis from October 2009 to September 2010. During this time the Yard was saying there was no need to reopen the phone-hacking investigation – a decision made by Yates despite allegations in the Guardian that the first police investigation had been inadequate.

Wallis is a former News of the World executive editor. He was arrested on Thursday morning as part of the police's renewed phone-hacking inquiry.

Neil Wallis Wallis joined the News of the World in 2003 as deputy to then editor Andy Coulson. In mid-2007 he became executive editor, eventually leaving the News International title in 2009. Police say he supplied "strategic communication advice". The Met said his company was chosen because it offered to do the work for the lowest price. He was paid £24,000 by Scotland Yard to work as a two-day-a-month consultant.

Relations between senior Met officers and News of the World senior executives have been under scrutiny. In September 2006 Stephenson, as deputy commissioner, accompanied by the Yard's head PR man, Dick Fedorcio, dined with Wallis. This was a month after officers had arrested the paper's royal correspondent, Clive Goodman, and at a time when detectives were still attempting to investigate whether other journalists or executives were involved in the interception of voicemail messages. In theory Wallis was a potential suspect in the inquiry.

Scotland Yard said: "Chamy Media, owned by Neil Wallis, former executive editor of the News of the World, was appointed to provide strategic communication advice and support to the MPS, including advice on speechwriting and PR activity, while the Met's deputy director of public affairs was on extended sick leave recovering from a serious illness.

"In line with Metropolitan Police Service/Metropolitan Police Authority procurement procedures, three relevant companies were invited to provide costings for this service on the basis of two days per month. Chamy Media were appointed as they were significantly cheaper than the others. The contract ran from October 2009 until September 2010, when it was terminated by mutual consent.

"The commissioner has made the chair of the police authority aware of this contract."

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