08 July 2011

Hacking scandal hits Rupert Murdoch's UK media empire

As ministers, MPs and media managers scurried to deal with Britain's phone-hacking scandal, advertisers and a leading charity organisation distanced themselves from the Rupert Murdoch-owned tabloid at the centre of the controversy, 'News of the World'.

Public revulsion at the scandal increased today, the sixth anniversary of the July 7 London bombings, when it was revealed that the mobile phones of the victims were also targeted for hacking by a private investigator commissioned by the tabloid for information to be used in stories.

'News of the World' is Britain's largest selling Sunday tabloid.

A growing number of companies have decided to suspend their advertising to the tabloid, including Ford Vauxhall, Mitsubishi, the Co-op, Lloyds, Virgin Holidays and Npower.

The Royal British Legion, a charity organisation that provides help and welfare to the serving and ex-Service community and their families, severed its campaign partnership links with the tabloid after it was revealed that phone hacking victims included kin of soldiers who had died in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Other companies, including all of the paper's top 10 advertisers, are reported to be "reviewing" the situation or awaiting the outcome of the police investigation.

The forthcoming Sunday edition of the tabloid is expected to be thin due to the suspension of advertising by leading companies. Many of the tabloid's advertisers have been bombarded by messages through the social media.

There have also been calls for readers to boycott the News of the World, and even its sister publications, such as the Sun, the Times and the Sunday Times. However, media experts believe that the tabloid's owners will be able to weather the losses, with the possibility that much of the lost revenue may simply be diverted into sister publications such as The Sun.

After promising a public inquiry in the House of Commons yesterday, Prime Minister David Cameron today consulted MPs about the nature of the public inquiry. Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg and Labour leader Ed Miliband favour an inquiry led by a judge, with powers to call evidence and examine witnesses under oath.

London mayor Boris Johnson, who is reported to be one of the victims of phone hacking, told the BBC: "I certainly think there should be a judge-led inquiry and I think it should be immediate. I think there should be no holds barred. Get the editors, get the proprietors in and let's hear exactly what has been going on."