An Attempt at Unpacking the News Corp Scandal

I must confess to having only paid peripheral attention at first, but it is clear that there is a major story here that requires attention.

What in the world is going on with News Corp and the phone hacking allegations?  I must confess to having only paid peripheral attention at first, but it is clear that there is a major story here that requires attention.

Consider just the events of the last week or so:

  • News Corp decided to close its highly profitable News of the World tabloid (which had been in circulation for 168 years) in wake of allegations of massive hacking of the phones of politicians and celebrities.
  • Andy Coulson, a former News of the World executive is arrested.  Coulson had recently resigned from a job as an aide to Prime Minister David Cameron.  He was Cameron’s communications director.
  • The head of New Corp’ Dow Jones news service, Les Hinton, resigns his post.
  • The editor of News of the World, Rebekah Brooks, resigned her post and was arrested this past weekend.
  • Sir Paul Stephenson, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner (aka, the head of Scotland Yard, or, as described by the BBC as “Britain’s most senior police officer”)  resigned over the weekend.  He had hired a former News of the World executive as an adviser (Neil Wallis, who has been arrested).  Questions about a spa trip paid for by Wallis are also on the table.
  • The Scotland Yard official in charge of anti-terrorism, John Yates, is to be suspended.

So, we have here a scandal that touches mass media, major political actors, and law enforcement.  And, it would seem that we are just at the tip of the proverbial iceberg. The matter is now under investigation by the House of Commons.

What exactly is this scandal about?  At its based, it is about at the hacking of the phones of at least 4,000 persons (celebrities, politicians, and so forth) in search of scoops.   And, not just celebs, but:

Murdered teenager Milly Dowler and the parents of murdered Soham schoolgirls Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman were allegedly targeted. Relatives of dead UK soldiers and relatives of 7/7 victims may also have had their phones hacked.

And then, the police connection:

There also allegations that a police officer offered to sell NoW a contacts book containing details of the royals and their staff.

Source for above:  the BBC.

There are also allegations of hacking aimed at former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, and not just phone hacking, but attempts to access financial and medical records.

All of this, as the bullet points above touch on, has been made even more complicated by the hiring of News of the World executives at high levels of British government and law enforcement.  Further, the scandal has been brewing for years and there have been allegations of insufficient police attention to the matter.

This is developing, and in a big way.

The BBC has much, much more including:

Also, the London Telegraph‘s page dedicated to the story is here.

And, of course, given the reach of News Corp, the question becomes whether the issue will become relevant in the US as well.  New York Magazine addresses that issues here:  Murdoch Scandal Heats Up in the United States.

FILED UNDER: Europe, Media, Policing, Terrorism, US Politics, World Politics, , , , , , , ,
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. ponce says:

    I caught an hour of Parliament debating this yesterday.

    There was no debate, actually.

    They all hate Murdoch and his minions now, every single member.

  2. Gustopher says:

    There’s really not much to unpack.

    When someone hacked into Sarah Palin’s email, they got sentenced to a year and a day in jail, and several years of probation.

    This is effectively the same thing (voice mail rather than email), done 4,000 times, with a conspiracy to keep doing it. Oh, and it is international. Plus there is bribery.

    The only real questions are:
    – how far up the chain did it go?
    – if senior management did not know, should they have?
    – were American citizens targeted? (That seems like a yes, if the stories of them hacking into the voicemail of 9/11 victims and families pans out)
    – did they do the same thing in the US?

    I’ll be happy if the entire board of NewsCorp is sentenced to 4000 years and 4000 days in jail, but I don’t see it happening. There is different justice for rich people.