As more news outlets become embroiled in the phone-hacking scandal that’s hit Rupert Murdoch’s media empire, it’s emerged that evidence given to MPs by his son, News Corporation executive James Murdoch, is being questioned.
Murdoch Jr told the UK’s House of Commons Media Committee (PDF) earlier this week that he “had not been ‘aware’ of an email suggesting the practice went wider than a ‘rogue’ News of the World reporter,” the BBC reports today.
Murdoch Sr shut down the Sunday tabloid News of the World – first published in 1843 – earlier this month. It’s last issue appeared on July 10.
The popular red-top had been mired in scandal over phone hacking, first revealed when its royalty editor, Clive Goodman, was jailed for the practice in 2007, along with private investigator Glenn Mulcaire, who had been working for the tabloid. The paper’s then editor, Andy Coulson, resigned, but was subsequently taken on as media adviser to the UK’s current prime minister, David Cameron, when he was still in opposition as leader of the Conservative Party – an appointment Cameron has since said he regrets.
More allegations have since emerged, culminating in the appearance before the Commons committee on Tuesday of both Rupert Murdoch and his son James, currently chairman and CEO of News Corporation, Europe and Asia, and former News International CEO Rebekah Brooks, herself a former editor of the News of the World.
The News of the world’s last editor, Colin Myler, and legal manager Tom Crone have now cast doubt on James Murdoch’s testimony over the email, which he says he “stands by.”
Meanwhile, more newspapers have been swept up in the biggest scandal ever to hit the British media, and Britain’s Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said it was a chance to clean up the “murky” relationships among police, press and politicians.
Police have asked the Information Commissioner for files that reveal the use of private investigators by rival papers, according to the agency AFP.
The files relate to a 2006 inquiry, which reveals that the Daily Mail “made 952 requests to private detectives for confidential details,” says the AFP report. Other requests were made by the Daily Mirror, the Mail on Sunday and the People – all popular tabloids.
The BBC revealed yesterday that files from an even earlier inquiry, Operation Motorman, had been requested by police.
“They contain 4,000 requests from 300 journalists and 31 publications for confidential information from a private investigator, which in many cases had been obtained illegally,” says the corporation.
Police have arrested and questioned several people over the phone-hacking affair, including Coulson, who has been released on bail.
As opposition politicians questioned David Cameron’s judgement in deciding to hire Coulson as his media chief, the Prime Minister told the Commons on Wednesday that “with twenty–twenty hindsight” he would not have hired the former editor, who has denied any knowledge of phone hacking during his editorship.
The number of police officers investigating the phone-hacking allegations has now been boosted from 46 to 60. The Metropolitan Police said there had been a “significant increase in the workload” over the previous two weeks.
As well as closing one of his most successful tabloids this month, Murdoch Sr also withdrew his bid for News International to take over the broadcaster BSkyB, a bid that itself had been engulfed in controversy amid claims that the tycoon would get to own a disproportionate share of media in the UK.