8 Jul 2011

British tabloid to close amid hacking scandal

4:35 pm on 8 July 2011

Britain's biggest selling Sunday newspaper is being shut down amid an escalating phone hacking scandal.

The News of the World will print its last edition this weekend after it was accused of hacking into the phones of a teenage murder victim, the families of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, and relatives of victims of the 2005 London bombings.

Scotland Yard says up to 4000 people may have had their voicemails accessed by News of the World. It is also investigating claims that the tabloid paid policemen for information.

Downing Street says it had no role or involvement in the decision to close the paper.

The News of the World has been in circulation for 168 years and was

purchased by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation in 1969.

The tabloid is the biggest selling paper in Britain with 2.6 million copies per week and is famed for celebrity scoops.

News International chairman James Murdoch says proceeds from its last edition would go to good causes. No advertisements will run and any ad space will be donated to charities.

The BBC reports News International has refused to comment on rumours that The Sun could now become a seven-day-a-week operation.

Statement by Murdoch

In a statement to staff, James Murdoch said the good things the News of the World did ''have been sullied by behaviour that was wrong - indeed, if recent allegations are true, it was inhuman and has no place in our company''.

''The News of the World is in the business of holding others to account. But it failed when it came to itself.

''In 2006, the police focused their investigations on two men. Both went to jail,'' he said.

''But the News of the World and News International failed to get to the bottom of repeated wrongdoing that occurred without conscience or legitimate purpose.

''Wrongdoers turned a good newsroom bad and this was not fully understood or adequately pursued.

''As a result, the News of the World and News International wrongly maintained that these issues were confined to one reporter,'' said Mr Murdoch.

''We now have voluntarily given evidence to the police that I believe will prove that this was untrue and those who acted wrongly will have to face the consequences. This was not the only fault.

''The paper made statements to Parliament without being in the full possession of the facts. This was wrong.

''The company paid out-of-court settlements approved by me. I now know that I did not have a complete picture when I did so. This was wrong and is a matter of serious regret.

''So, just as I acknowledge we have made mistakes, I hope you and everyone inside and outside the company will acknowledge that we are doing our utmost to fix them, atone for them, and make sure they never happen again.

''Having consulted senior colleagues, I have decided that we must take further decisive action with respect to the paper. This Sunday will be the last issue of the News of the World.''

Mr Murdoch reiterated that the company was fully co-operating with the two police investigations.

TV deal opposition

The disclosures have hardened opposition to a bid by News Corporation for the pay television network BSkyB.

News Corp has preliminary clearance to bid for the 61% of BSkyB it does not own, but the proposed deal has been controversial with some concerned about the media power that it would gain.

The British government will now delay a final decision on BSkyB until September. The deal is estimated at being worth about £12 billion.