2011 – A Year of Many Things: A recap of the big events of the year

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The Phone Hacking that killed the News

Australia-born, US-citizen Rupert Murdoch can view 2011 as a horrible year for his company. The power and influence of his media properties in the United Kingdom collapsed overnight on July 4 when rival newspaper The Guardian broke the news that the now-defunct paper, News of the World, hacked the phones of a teenage girl named Milly Dowler.

Dowler went missing in early 2002 and was later found dead a few months later. Her parents continued to send texts and voicemail messages, but the paper accessed those voicemail messages. Allegations, though not proven, have claimed that the journalists also deleted the voicemail messages – giving impressions that she was alive.

The frenzy in the UK and all over the world was enormous. They were shocked and disgusted by the immoral act. Soon, more and more revelations came with reports that the newspaper’s journalists hacked phones of relatives of British soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan; and even relatives and victims of the 2005 London Bombings.

You must be the first mafia boss in history who didn’t think he was running a criminal enterprise
Tom Watson, MP

And politicians, who long feared the power of Murdoch (who owns a large portion of the UK market, including owning the best-selling Tabloid The Sun), started growing a backbone. They publicly condemned Murdoch, and even the Prime Minister was brought into the scandal after hiring a former News of the World editor, Andy Coulson, as his communications director. The scandal also claimed the Metropolitan Police, who did not reopen the investigation after more evidence emerged in 2009. The two most senior officers, Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson and Assistant Commissioner John Yates, resigned from their posts in the aftermath.

The final blow was when a large exodus of advertisers started pulling their ads out of the paper. On July 7, News of the World was to publish its last edition.

So how did it all began? The entire saga started back in 2005 when the paper’s Royal correspondent, Clive Goodman, was arrested after getting information that only close aides to the Royal family knew. He and the private investigator hired, Glenn Mulcaire, were jailed and would soon be used as the “rouge reporter” for the celebrity phone hacking reports. Until July 4, no one seemed to care. There were lawsuits from many celebrities, but News Corporation simply offered a settlement and the case was settled.

The revelations have sparked the Leveson Inquiry into media ethics, in addition to a criminal investigation. The police have now filed charges on several former editors and journalists – including Coulson and the (now former) Chief Executive of News International and former editor of the paper Rebekah Brooks. Plus, News Corporation’s attempt to buy out the rest of satellite broadcaster BSkyB was withdrawn due to public disapproval. As well, the Murdochs have appeared in front of a Parliamentary Committee – twice for James Murdoch, his son and current Chief Executive of News Corporation Europe and Asia division.

The fallout has not been limited in the UK. It is affecting its entire global operation. The FBI is reported to be investigating if News Corporation broke any US laws and to make sure that no US phones were hacked, while the Australian Government is conducting its own media inquiry. Shareholders are also unhappy, with many criticising how the company handled the crisis.

Murdoch and News Corporation are hopefully praying for a better 2012.

– TH

Images: Howard Lake/Flickr and World Economic Forum/Flickr (Creative Commons)

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