Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 20 April 2014

No end in sight for Murdoch's woes

With every passing day News International sinks deeper into the mire of fresh allegations of phone hacking and illicit information gathering emerging.

The latest allegation is that sensitive family financial and medical records of former Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, were illegally obtained by newspapers belonging to the News International stable. Mr Brown is said to have been targeted for more than 10 years. All of this is a corporate nightmare for Rupert Murdoch, who, no doubt, hoped that his astounding decision to close the News of the World would bring an end to this sorry saga. But now the Sun and the Sunday Times newspapers are also embroiled in allegations of wrongful behaviour. The net effect is to throw into doubt Mr Murdoch's bid to buy out BSkyB, the lucrative television broadcaster. The Government, under pressure from the Opposition and its own Lib Dem members, has referred the deal to the Competition Commission, which may buy it some political breathing space.

But whether Mr Murdoch can resurrect the deal is quite a different matter. The allegations levelled against some of his employees are so serious - they are the subject of both police investigations and public inquiries - that his company may find it difficult to remove the taint on its character. The commission's job is to look at whether the purchase of BSkyB would give Mr Murdoch too much control of the media in the UK but the scandal will set an unsavoury context for its deliberations.

Even the current Prime Minister, David Cameron, is having difficulty avoiding being caught up in the scandal given his past hiring of former News of the World editor Andy Coulson.

Mr Cameron disgracefully dodged further flak in the Commons yesterday. Like Mr Murdoch, he too must be hoping that the stream of revelations ends shortly. But the rest of the media can be just as voracious and vicious as Mr Murdoch's newshounds and are unlikely to let go of such a juicy story anytime soon.

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