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News Of The World sacrificed for Sky deal?

July 7, 2011

By Nick Snow

The world’s most read English language newspaper has been dramatically closed as News Corp tries desperately to maintain credibility and shore up its bid for BSkyB. This Sunday’s paper will be the last and all copy sale proceeds will be given to charity.

Almost every hour of each day this week more damaging revelations have been made over the long running mobile phone voice mail hacking scandal. It has emerged that the voice mail of murder victims and the families of terrorist attack victims and soldiers killed in combat in Afghanistan have likely been hacked.

Many of the UK’s biggest brands have announced they would boycott the paper with their advertising – but much more seriously for News Corp is the jeopardy the scandal brings on the bid for the 60 per cent of Sky it doesn’t own. Parliament yesterday all but sanctioned at least one Judicial Inquiry into the hacking scandal and the London police’s reluctance to investigate for several years. It has emerged in the last few days that emails linked to Andy Coulson – the former NoW editor who was later forced to resign over the scandal as Prime Minister David Cameron’s communications director – show that the paper routinely paid corrupt officers for information.

James Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks needed security guards when they addressed newspaper staff – most of which have been changed since the scandal. Rebekah Brooks – still backed by the Murdochs – remains CEO of News International despite having been Editor at the time of some of the worst instances of phone hacking.

Speculation is that News Corp will launch its stable mate paper The Sun as a seven day paper. It is even suggested Rupert Murdoch was glad of the excuse to make this cost cutting move. He will also be hoping it makes it easier for the government to continue the process of approving his Sky takeover. Under pressure to pause the approval the Department of Culture Media and Sport says it can’t retrospectively change the terms of the tests or the conditions it has negotiated – principally for News Corp to float off, but continue to fund, Sky News.

However, Secretary of State Jeremy Hunt does seem content to put the brakes on using the excuse of the overwhelming (100,000 responses) response to the latest consultation process – previously seen as a formality – to delay his final decision until at least September. There is also still a small chance – greater if forecast arrests are made imminently at News – that Ofcom will step in on the basis News Corp are not ‘fit and proper persons’ to control such a major broadcaster as Sky.

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