Latest on the News International hacking scandal #liveblog 7

20:30 – 9/11 families call for US probe of Murdoch

US website Politico is reporting that angry family members of victims of the 9/11 terror attacks, as well as some US lawmakers, are calling for a US investigation into allegations that journalists at the News of the World tabloid attempted to hack the phones of their lost love ones.

“Someone should look into it to see if their rights were violated – the family members I’ve talked to are appalled, they’re disgruntled, they have to relive the pain all over again,” Jim Riches, a former deputy chief in the New York Fire Department whose 29-year-old fireman son was killed in the attacks.

“I think they crossed the line. They’re trying to get messages from loved ones in the last moments of their lives. It’s horrible, and they should be held accountable. It’s despicable and unethical,” Riches told Politico.

Earlier today it was reported that a US senator was calling for an inquiry.

“Jay Rockefeller, head of the powerful Senate commerce committee, on Tuesday said the US should investigate whether News Corp papers had broken US laws following reports that victims of the September 11 attacks may have had their phones hacked by detectives working for the News of the World.

“The reported hacking by News Corporation newspapers against a range of individuals – including children – is offensive and a serious breach of journalistic ethics,” said Mr Rockefeller, a West Virginia senator. “This raises serious questions about whether the company has broken [any] US law, and I encourage the appropriate agencies to investigate to ensure that Americans have not had their privacy violated,” the FT reports.

18:10 – Labour MP Ben Bradshaw says that government must disclose any meetings with News Corp executives.

The former Labour Culture Secretary says this information will come out, he says better for government to reveal details now.

Also accuses successor Jeremy Hunt of “bending over backwards” to help News Corp’s bid for BSkyB.

18:05 - Chair of the culture committee Conservative MP John Whittingdale says during the BSkyB debate says it “may take years” to find out fully what took place at News International.

He says that the police and government inquiry must learn the truth.

18:00- Labour MP Sir Gerald Kaufman says that Andy Coulson’s previous claim to the culture select committee that police were paid “only within the law” by News international was an “unbelievable lie”.

In the 2003 video Rebakah Brooks admitted paying police for information, before Andy Coulson silences her. This was in front of a select committee in March, 2003. “We have paid the police for information in the past,” Brooks says. Coulson adds “within” the law.

17:00 – The Sun on Sunday could launch as soon as August 7 with the first issue possibly free, according to an Evening Standard report.

No official word on when The Sun on Sunday, the title that is set to replace the News of the World, might launch. Next weekend is seen as unlikely and the smart money is on August 7 – the first weekend of the football season. One rumour is the debut issue could be free. Meanwhile, rivals are rushing to woo seven million NOTW readers looking for a new paper,” the Standard reports.

16:00 – Mail to print 3m and Desmond to print 2m Sunday Stars this weekend

John Reynolds has the story detailing how the Mail on Sunday is to print over three million copies this weekend, while the Daily Star on Sunday is set to roll out 2.2 million, as newspaper powerhouses slug it out to capture lost News of the World readers. The Richard Desmond-owned Sunday tabloid, the Daily Star on Sunday, is upping its print run from 600,000 to 2.2 million copies and is launching a spin-off OK! title this weekend. Read the story on Media Week.

Media Week

15:20 – Media commentators go into hyperbole overdrive and say silly things about end of News Corp/BSkyB deal

There is no doubt about it the fall of the News Corp/BSkyB deal is a big moment in media, but we also need to keep it in perspective, it not any of the following:

a) The “‘sun now setting on the Murdoch empire”, as Lib Dem deputy leader Simon Hughes has said. As far as I know Fox, 20th Century Fox, the Wall Street Journal, Sky Italia, Star TV and all the rest are doing very nicely.

b) It is not as the Guardian writer George Monbiot tweeted: “Our Berlin Wall moment”. He did later admit this was over the top. Yes just a little. Not leaving in a police state and all that.

c) It is not as Roy Greenslade says “like the Arab spring. Rupert Murdoch has become Hosni Mubarak”. If it is I better give the AK a bit of a clean.

d) It is not down to Ed Miliband as Ivan Lewis MP tweeted: “The will of the people and parliament has triumphed. Ed Milibands brave and bold leadership has helped to bring about the change we need.”

14:45 – Downing Street ‘welcomes’ Murdoch’s decision to withdraw its BSkyB bid and says now News International should focus on clearing up its problems.

Ed Miliband say News Corp’s decision to drop its BSkyB bid is victory for ordinary people.

“A victory for people up and down this country who have been appalled by the phone hacking scandal.

“It is these people who won this victory. They told Mr Murdoch: ‘This far and no further.’”

Tom Watson speaking on Sky News, says: “When you had the three parties united in saying with draw this bid, what else could they do?”

14:40- Can Ed Miliband claim the BSkyB scalp? It is reported that News Corp saw the bid as “too politicised”.

Miliband’s motion, supported by all sides, was to be debated this afternoon. Not any more. It is more likely that credit will go to Tom Watson. He has tirelessly led the hacking campaign, which killed the News Corp BSkyB deal.

Sky News’ @MarkKleinman tweets “News Corp source tells me BSkyB situation had become “too politicised” but will remain long-term shareholder”.

14:35 – Shares in BSkyB drop sharply on the News Corp bid withdrawal news

Shares down 25p (-3.6%) to 667p. BSkyB shares closed at 692p last night.

14:28 – News Corp issues statement re BSkyB bid

News Corporation (“News Corp”) announces that it no longer intends to make an offer for the entire issued and to be issued share capital of British Sky Broadcasting Group PLC (“BSkyB”) not already owned by it *.

Chase Carey, Deputy Chairman, President and Chief Operating Officer, News Corporation, commented: “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.”

14:15 – News Corp is reported to be withdrawing its bid for BSkyB

This follows the earlier rumour (13:25) that a big announcement could be on the way from News Corp. So far only being reported by Sky News. More soon.

The move is a huge shock. Murdoch has bowed to the inevitable. He has decided to play a longer game. He also appears to have chosen newspapers over TV for now.

Of course, News Corp still owns 39% of BSkyB. Shares in BSkyB down -14.00 (-2.02%) to 678p.

13:45 - Cameron is asked whether Rupert Murdoch should be compelled to appear before the public inquiry.

The prime minister says it will be up to the inquiry to decide who is called but he expects editors and proprietors to give evidence under oath.

So we could see Murdoch giving hacking evidence. Having heard all the monkeys it would be the turn of the organ grinder. Or the organ grinder-owner.

13:25 – Speculation that  a major announcement is on the way from News Corp

Guardian’s @dansabbagh tweets: “Lock-down from News Corp makes me think they are weighing up whether to make a big announcement shortly….”.

13:15 Cameron says government cannot stop Murdoch buying BSkyB but he says parliament can tell News Corporation it thinks this is wrong.

Will Murdoch pay any heed to vote in commons today?

13:05 – Tom Watson asks if if intelligence services will be subject to the inquiry.

Watson alleges that rogue members of UK’s intelligence services had links with News International. Cameron confirms they will.

13:00 – Prime Minister’s full statement on hacking scandal and public inquiry

12: 45 – Cameron sys that Lord Justice Leveson will chair inquiry.

It is pointed out that Leveson led the prosecution of serial killer Rose West…

Says it will have power to to summon reporters, politicians and media executives. He stresses that the inquiry will be able to summon press proprietors as witnesses.

Says judge will be assisted by a panel from across the board.

Says it will look into ethics of police, relationship of police and press and discussions between politicians and police.

It will look at why misconduct warnings were not heeded. Lord Leveson was formerly most senior presiding judge in England and Wales, currently chairman of sentencing council.

Says it will recommend new effective ways to regulate the press and future relatiosn between media and politicians.

It will report within 12 months.

Says the second part of inquiry will look at the News of the World and other papers. This will look into original police investigation and relationship between the police.

12:40 – Cameron says what happened was “disgraceful”, says journalists broke the law.

12:25 – News International tells BBC its legal manager has left the company. Tom Crone worked primarily at NOW and on The Sun

The Guardian reported earlier this week that Crone was expected to leave News International “amid questions over how much he knew about widespread phone hacking. Crone was unavailable for comment , although his assistant said he was expected back in the office later this week. News International declined to confirm or deny reports about his position”.

Crone was as the Guardian headline puts it “the-go to man on legal issues” and the key advisor to Couslon and Brooks. He worked at NI for 26 years. Described by one insider as “the best media lawyer I have ever worked with”. He gave evidence to Commons.

Tim Gatt tweets that “Crone told Hme Affairs Cttee 2yrs ago that his own inquiry ‘at no stage[...]did any evidence arise’ that hacking went beyond. Goodman/Mulcaire

12:22 – Labour’s Tom Watson asks PM to investigate further whether9/11 victims were hacked by “criminals” at News International.

Watson asks if Cameron will contact US authorities regarding any 9/11 hack and share any information.

Cameron said he met with police last night to see how investigation going.

The Daily Mirror reported earlier this week that it was claimed 9/11 victims may have had their mobiles tapped by News of the World reporters. This is said to have happened after journalists approached a private investigator in the US to try to access the phone data of some of the victims of 9/11.

12:20 – Cameron answers another question regarding Coulson, says the decision he made to employ his former chief of staff was based on accepting his assurances. If he lied he will be prosecuted.

Also said there were some who said at the time that employing a tabloid editor was not a good idea.

12:14 – Miliband says Cameron should apologise for “catastrophic” error of judgement in hiring Coulson.

12:00 – Cameron says his chief of staff didn’t pass on information on Coulson from the Guardian.

Says that if Coulson lied about assurances, he should be prosecuted – but must presume innocence. That is a change of tact on Cameron’s part. He has not said before Coulson should face prosecution.

He also hits back at Ed Miliband over Tom Baldwin who is accused of hacking while at The Times.

12:00- PMQ’s under-way in the house of commons – Ed Miliband says it is an “insult” to Milly Dowler’s family that Rebekah Brooks is still in her job.

Cameron “They [News International] should stop worrying about mergers and sort out the mess they have created”.

11:30 – News International switches Fabulous magazine from NotW to Saturday Sun

Good news for at least some News of the World staff as Media week reports that theNews International has confirmed that the News of the World’s fashion and celebrity magazine Fabulous is to switch to the Saturday edition of The Sun.

Its editor had tweeted at the weekend that title “will live on”. It was thought that this could be in the form of a new Sun on Sunday paper and that could still be the case.

Fabulous: magazine now to be included with the Saturday ediition of The Sun

11:20 – Prime minister David Cameron will vote in News Corp BSkyB vote today, but only ‘if diary allows’.

Cameron apparently will not take part in the debate, but may vote as Labour’s motion calling on News Corp to withdraw its bid goes before the house.

10:30 – News Corp explored idea of selling UK newspapers – idea could be revisited

The Wall Street Journal reports that one of the strategic options explored to extricate the company from the hacking scandal was the idea of selling News International lock stock and barrel. However, the paper says that no buyer was identified. It does say that News Corp could yet revisit this idea.

“One idea contemplated in recent weeks is an option Mr. Murdoch has long shot down: selling his other British newspapers. News Corp. has informally explored whether there were any potential buyers for its U.K. newspaper unit, News International, according to people familiar with the matter. The unit, which includes the Sun, the Times of London, the Sunday Times and—until this week’s closing—News of the World, was once one of Mr. Murdoch’s flagship divisions and one of his favorites.

“Given the poor economics of the newspaper business, there didn’t appear to be any buyers, according to these people. It is possible that News Corp could revisit the idea of selling or spinning off News International in the next six months,” according to people familiar with the situation, the WSJ reports.

10:15 – Hacking scandal a wake up call for politicians says Labour MP Tom Watson

The BBC reports that Labour MP Tom Watson says the events of the last week have been a “huge wake-up call” for politicians. It’s “brilliant” to see the three main party leaders coming to an agreement to back the Commons motion on BSkyB, he tells the BBC News Channel.

09:30 – News Corp launches investigating into Australian operation to verify there has been no hacking

The chairman and CEO of News Limited, News Corp’s Australian arm, John Hartigan, made the announcement in a message to staff on Wednesday. Here is his letter:

Dear Colleague,

As disturbing events continue to unfold in London I believe it is important to keep you up to date with our position in Australia.

Some media outlets, certain commentators and some politicians have attempted to connect the behaviour in the UK with News Limited’s conduct in Australia.  This is offensive and wrong.

So far this week we have seen:

-                a major television news bulletin report that News Limited executives were suspects in the phone hacking scandal – they apologised and corrected this the following night;

-                a federal senator call on the Government to investigate whether News Limited was engaging in phone hacking even as he admitted he had no evidence of any wrongdoing by News in Australia;

-                the ABC report that the former head of the National Crime Authority wanted the Government to establish a new regulatory body “to ensure that Mr Murdoch’s Australian media operation was behaving responsibly”. In fact, he said no such thing; he has proposed a new press council to govern all media;

-                accusations that we don’t disclose our code of conduct and that most of our journalists are unaware of it and that it isn’t available online – this is simply false.

However erroneous the allegations, I believe it is important to deal with these perceptions constructively.

Our code of editorial conduct is available to all journalists; indeed all staff can access it. It is on our intranets and available in hard copy. The code is given to journalists who are required to read it and abide by it as a condition of their employment.

Yesterday I asked divisional managers to publish the editorial code on each of our masthead websites to neutralise even the most ludicrous assertions that we are somehow afraid to disclose it.

Yesterday, HWT released an updated and expanded version of its Editorial Code of Conduct and editor in chief Phil Gardner conducted briefings to staff. HWT’s new code has been 3 months in preparation and its release is unrelated to events overseas. The HWT code is the most current and comprehensive we have and is likely to become the model for a new national code for News.

In recent days I have had two lengthy conversations with Julian Disney, head of the Australian Press Council. Julian has brought fresh ideas, energy and conviction to the Council. He recently expanded the Council by appointing a senior person to devise a new set of National Standards. I welcome this and News will work with the Press Council and other media outlets to strengthen the Council’s ethical codes and guidelines and improve its complaints handling process.

Every worldwide employee of News Corp recently received a copy of the updated Standards of Business Conduct. These standards which are already on the News Corp website are being posted on all of our intranets.

We will be conducting a thorough review of all editorial expenditure over the past 3 years to confirm that payments to contributors and other third parties were for legitimate services. Policies, codes and guidelines are important. But what matters is conduct.

I have absolutely no reason to suspect any wrongdoing at News Limited. However, I believe it is essential that we can all have absolute confidence that ethical work practices are a fundamental requirement of employment at News Limited.

I intend to keep you informed of relevant developments as appropriate and welcome any feedback.

John Hartigan
Chairman and Chief Executive


09:00 – US senator calls for News Corp probe.

The FT report this morning that News Corporations’ woes could spread to the US as a US senator calls for an inquiry.

“Jay Rockefeller, head of the powerful Senate commerce committee, on Tuesday said the US should investigate whether News Corp papers had broken US laws following reports that victims of the September 11 attacks may have had their phones hacked by detectives working for the News of the World.

“The reported hacking by News Corporation newspapers against a range of individuals – including children – is offensive and a serious breach of journalistic ethics,” said Mr Rockefeller, a West Virginia senator. “This raises serious questions about whether the company has broken [any] US law, and I encourage the appropriate agencies to investigate to ensure that Americans have not had their privacy violated,” the FT reports.

08:40 – Mirror and People plan major push for NotW readers

John Reynolds has the story on  Media Week on how Trinity Mirror is plotting a marketing and distribution bonanza this weekend in an effort to lure News of the World readers, as unofficial figures reveal the Daily Star on Sunday’s print increase last weekend left hundreds of thousands copies unsold. The Sunday Mirror and the People are to double their total distribution to three million, in an effort to recruit former News of the World (NotW) readers this weekend. Read the full story.

08:15 – News Corp share plunge wipes $5.3 bn off value

The widening hacking scandal is costing News Corporation dearly as its share price is hit hard for the second day running.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that News Corp shares fell by about 10% in Australian trade over the past two days, wiping $5.3bn from the company’s value.

Yesterday’s slump made News Corp the third worst-performing stock among the S&P/ASX 50, backpedalling 4.59 per cent, or 73¢, to $15.19. It was the company’s weakest close since November 27, 2009, when the stock ended the local trading day at $15.17, the SMH reports.

08:00 Brown is wrong. Sun does not pull its punches today as News International has come out.

The which fighting against allegations that the Sun illegally obtained the medical records of Gordon Brown’s Sun. The paper’s front cover follows a statement issued last night saying the paper was given the medical details by the family of another cystic fibrosis sufferer.

While Brown might have been wrong it doesn’t make the Sun’s triumphalism any better. It was also wrong to run the story in the first place. And considering how little attention it has paid the hacking scandal so far this front page today is way over the top and completely inappropriate.

http://twitter.com/timGatt

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