Rupert Murdoch may be too big and too powerful to take down, but it may not be the case for some of the newspapers he owns. His News Corporation announced that it will close down the News of the World after publishing it for the last time this Sunday.
After revelations that families of British soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan may have been victim to phone hacking by the 160-year-old News of The World, the weekly tabloid newspaper has been boycotted by charities and advertisers. Some shops had said that they would refuse to stock it for its next issue on Sunday.
“The News of the World is in the business of holding others to account,” the deputy chief operating officer of News Corporation told staff, according to Reuters news agency. “But it failed when it came to itself.”
The Royal British Legion, a charity that represents bereaved military families, has dropped News of the World as its campaign partner. The Legion has suspended all relations with the newspaper pending a resolution of the allegations, it said on its website earlier. The organisation has also said its advertising budget with the paper and its sister daily, the Sun, is under review.
“We can’t with any conscience campaign alongside News of the World on behalf of Armed Forces families while it stands accused of preying on these same families in the lowest depths of their misery,” said a charity spokesman. “The hacking allegations have shocked us to the core.”
“Clearly, it would make a mockery of that campaign to go hand-in-hand with News of the World,” the spokesman added. “We think we’ll do better without them.”
The tabloid is facing public fury over a growing scandal that initially involved the private voicemails of politicians and celebrities.
But over the last week, the phone hacking scandal has reached a new intensity as it was alleged that the relatives of the victims of the July 2005 London bombings also had their phones intercepted.
Some voicemail messages from the phone of missing teenage girl Milly Dowler are reported to have been erased, giving hope to her parents at the time that she was alive. The girl was later found murdered.
And phones belonging to the families of schoolgirls Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, who were also kidnapped and murdered, are also thought to have been hacked.
British Prime Minister David Cameron has promised to set up a public inquiry into the scandal.
Opposition MPs are calling for Rebekah Brooks, the News of the World’s former editor and the head of Murdoch’s UK operations to resign.
Britain’s third-largest supermarket chain Sainsbury’s, Lloyds Banking Group and Ford Motor Co. are among companies that have suspended advertising with NOTW.
According to Bloomberg News, shares in News Corp, NOTW’s mother company, fell 3.6 percent in Sydney to A$16.55. It also declined 3.6 percent in New York yesterday.
British Sky Broadcasting, the company that Murdoch is bidding £7.8 billion (8.65 billion euros) to take over, fell 2.6 percent by 12:25pm on Thursday in London after declining 2.1 percent the previous day.
More than 136,000 people have registered their objection to the takeover bid on the citizens advocacy group Avaaz’s website. In a previous effort, they submitted 40,000 objections that they say delayed the process.
“Murdoch’s media tramples standards and ignores ethics, and the whole country is horrified,” Avaaz said on its website. “But the government is pushing to give him full control of our largest commercial broadcaster. It’s an outrage and threatens the very pillars of our democracy.”
By Ali Sheikholeslami