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Murdoch Throws his Journalists Under a Bus: the Unintended Consequence of the Phone Hacking Scandal

I tend to avoid cross posting material from my work at the Daily Beast, but this is an important unintended consequence of Murdoch’s reaction to the Phone Hacking scandal which has sent a chilling effect through Fleet Street

News Corp. chief Rupert Murdoch holds up a copy of the newly launched The Sun on Sunday newspaper last February in London. (Carl Court/AFP/Getty)

Murdoch Journalists Thrown Under the Bus in Phone-Hacking Scandal

“What Rupert Murdoch has done is unprecedented in the free world,” says the veteran journalist Nick Cohen, author of a recent award-winning book about censorship, You Can’t Read This Book. “Managers have been tasked to go over every expense claim and emails for signs of wrongdoing,” he told The Daily Beast. In the process, Murdoch has “basically given up his journalists and their sources.”

Over a hundred people have been arrested since the phone hacking scandal engulfed Murdoch’s UK paper in the summer of 2011. Fifty five of them journalists. And the reason is not as simple as you would think:

During the height of the phone-hacking crisis that hit Murdoch’s London subsidiary in 2011, parent company News Corp. faced an even greater threat-an investigation in by the U.S. Department of Justice into alleged breaches of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which bans payments to foreign officials. To reduce the potential hefty corporate fines and indictments of senior executives in New York, Murdoch created a beefed-up Management and Standards Committee (MSC), with access to a recovered database of more than 300 million emails from its London newspapers and a remit to cooperate with the police.

Since the phone-hacking scandal that shuttered the News of the World broke, there have been more than 100 related arrests. Fifty-five of these have been of journalists, and the majority not for suspicion of phone hacking, as in the six new arrests Wednesday, but on suspicion of corrupt payments to public officials, most of it on evidence provided by the MSC.

“Seriously,” Cohen points out, “more journalists have been arrested in Britain this year than in Iran.”

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So there we have it. Many journalist have said to me over the last year and more of covering the hacking scandal and writing my book The Fall of the House of Murdoch, that Rupert ‘saved’ Fleet Street but taking on the restrictive trade practices of the print unions, and investing heavily in plant and publications. But it seems – even though Murdoch built his Fox Network on the profits generated from gaining a monopoly position in the British Press – that he would eventually chose the more profitable US pay TV concerns over his erstwhile allies.

Exposed by Murdoch to protect his U.S. interests, pursued by police eager to make up for the excesses of the past, British journalists are caught in the middle or, as Nick Cohen puts it, “trapped between corporate and state power.”


  1. Given that I have a negative view of Murdoch it won’t be surprising to note that I’m not surprised.

    The manifold stresses on journalism are just taking yet another hit. What comes out the other side – and when – remains as unanswered a question as ever.

    Investigative journalism is – if not dead – on life support with little brain activity. The “retweeting” that Huffington Post used to be chided for is now the mainstay of large news organizations. Confidentiality and other traditional artifacts of journalism are beleaguered.

    What does the press become?

  2. BlueStateRedhead

    Correct me if I my memories from 2011 are wrong, but I thought that NI, the overall owner of the tabloids had an obligation to provide legal defense to its employees for crimes charged while employed. This was the reason Coulson, although no longer in their employ when arrested, took them to court to ask for defense costs–and again IIRC won on appeal.

    Goodman also took them to some employment tribunal, out of which came the damning email that Murdoch fils did not read because he does read professional emails on Sunday….he told the Parliament.

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