Murdoch in UK amid BSkyB deal threat

2011-07-11 09:49

kalahari.com

London - Media baron Rupert Murdoch flew into London to take personal charge of the phone-hacking scandal that felled his News of the World tabloid as calls mounted for the government to block his BSkyB bid.

Murdoch's News Corp media empire is set to take full control of satellite broadcaster BSkyB, but Labour leader Ed Miliband led fresh calls for the proposed deal to be delayed until an ongoing police investigation is completed.

Murdoch backed under-fire News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks as the pair left his home following crisis talks on Sunday. When asked what his priority was, the tycoon gestured toward Brooks and said: "this one".

Reading a copy of the last edition of Britain's biggest-selling weekly, Murdoch was earlier whisked into the headquarters of publisher News International, which produced News of the World, in a chauffeur driven car.

The 80-year-old flew in from the US amid a growing crisis in his empire after a slew of new hacking allegations emerged this week which sparked national outrage and prompted the shock decision to axe the paper.

Pressure

The News of the World hit the newsstands for the last time on Sunday, ending 168 years of scoops and scandal with the headline "Thank You and Goodbye" and an apology for having "lost our way".

But the closure of the paper looked unlikely to end the hacking row, and as Murdoch arrived in London there was fresh pressure for a postponement to the BSkyB takeover.

Opposition leader Miliband said the public would not accept that a group which engaged in "terrible practices" be allowed to take over BSkyB while a police investigation was still ongoing.

He threatened to force a vote in parliament on suspending consideration of the proposed takeover until the criminal probe into hacking is complete.

The deal must be delayed following the "disgusting revelations" about the "terrible practices" at the News of the World, he said.

The idea that News Corp "should be allowed to take over BSkyB, to get that 100% stake, without the criminal investigation having been completed... frankly that just won't wash with the public", he told BBC television.

News Corp's bid to buy the 61% of BSkyB that it did not already own originally looked set to go through in the coming days, but the government has now suggested that it could be delayed for several months amid the furore.

Uncertain future

Late on Saturday, Myler led staff out of the News of World's offices in Wapping, east London, after an emotional day preparing the final edition.

"I want to pay tribute to this wonderful team of people here, who, after a really difficult day, have produced in a brilliantly professional way a wonderful newspaper," Myler told reporters outside.

More than 200 staff now face an uncertain future after Murdoch's shock and while Myler's comments sparked cheers, some people were in tears.

The final edition charted title's finest moments under the banner "World's Greatest Newspaper - 1843 - 2011", from investigations by the "Fake Sheikh" to a controversial campaign against paedophiles.

Stocks of the paper were running low at newspaper kiosks on Sunday, despite the final print run having been increased to five million copies to cope with demand, as Britons rushed to buy a souvenir copy.

The "Screws", as the News of the World is affectionately known, made its name with sensational scoops about sex, crime and celebrities.

But it has been dogged by allegations of phone hacking for years and claims this week that a murdered girl and the families of dead soldiers were targeted turned the row into a national scandal.

Dramatic events

The dramatic events of the past week have intensified pressure on Cameron, particularly the arrest on Friday of his ex-media chief Andy Coulson, who edited the News of the World from 2003 to 2007 before working for the prime minister.

The 43-year-old was detained on suspicion of involvement in phone hacking and illegal police payments and has been released on bail until October.

Cameron employed Coulson after he quit the News of the World in 2007, following the jailing of one of the paper's journalists and a private investigator over hacking.

Coulson has always denied wrongdoing, but he was forced to resign as Cameron's director of communications in January this year because of ongoing hacking revelations.

Brooks, the head of News International and a former editor of the News of the World, has also faced calls to quit.
Read more on:    rupert murdoch  |  uk  |  uk hacking scandal
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