Fox News owner may face grilling in front of British parliament
British members of parliament investigating the phone-hacking scandal at a newspaper owned by Rupert Murdoch pulled back from the investigation after being threatened with investigations of their private lives by the newspaper, a former parliamentarian says.
According to the UK’s Guardian, Adam Price, a former lawmaker from the Welsh national party Plaid Cymru, said that a Conservative Party member warned lawmakers that the News of the World, a tabloid owned by Rupert Murdoch, would “go after us” if they forced the tabloid’s chief executive to testify in front of parliament.
Lawmakers wanted Rebekah Brooks, the CEO of NoW‘s parent company, to testify about what the company knew about the phone-hacking scandal that has embroiled the tabloid for the past five years. Brooks refused to appear, and parliamentarians did not use their power to compel Brooks to appear.
“We decided not to, I think to some extent, because of what I was told at the time by a senior Conservative member of the committee, who I know was in direct contact with News International execs, that if we went for her, called her back, subpoenaed her, they would go for us – which meant effectively that they would delve into our personal lives in order to punish them,” Price said, as quoted at WalesOnline.
In 2005, a story about Prince William in NoW included personal details that led the prince to believe his phone was being hacked. A police investigation began, and in 2007, NoW reporter Clive Goodman was given a four-month prison sentence for invasion of privacy.
But a series of articles in The Guardian in 2009 blew open the scandal anew with allegations that NoW‘s phone hacking was far more widespread than initially believed. The Guardian reported that British royalty was far from the only target of the hacking, with many prominent Britons being targeted, including the current mayor of London, Boris Johnson.
In 2010 the paper reported on a list of more than 100 names that may potentially have been targeted for hacking. The UK’s prosecution service also appeared to have discovered some 3,000 telephone numbers in the possession of suspected or convicted NoW reporters.
There have been a number of irregularities involving the investigations into the phone-hacking scandal, some of which suggest influence by Murdoch’s company on the British government. Andy Coulson, the NoW editor who resigned over the affair, is now chief press adviser to the Conservative prime minister, David Cameron. And it also emerged that the head of the police investigation into the scandal resigned from Scotland Yard and took a job as a columnist at NoW.
ALL EYES ON MURDOCH
With the scandal growing in scope, British politicians are increasingly turning their gaze to NoW owner Rupert Murdoch, whose News Corp. also owns Fox News.
This week, Tom Watson, a member of the opposition Labour Party, said he wanted Murdoch to testify in the phone-hacking scandal. He said he doubted Murdoch would be privy to many details, but wanted an explanation of why Murdoch promoted Brooks to CEO of NoW even after Brooks admitted illegal payments to police forces.
“I doubt Rupert Murdoch knows about these incidents, but he is responsible for appointing to positions of great power people who should know about them,” Watson said. “For that reason, he too should explain his actions to the committee.”
Following a series of allegations this month that suggested phone-hacking at NoW may have continued even into this year, the British parliament reopened its investigation into the matter. It has been forwarded to parliament’s Standards and Privileges Committee, which will reportedly use its power to subpoena.
“It’s important now that the new inquiry stands firm where we didn’t,” Price said. “Politicians aren’t above the law, but neither are journalists, including Rupert Murdoch’s bovver boys with [ballpoint pens].”