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OpEdNews Op Eds    H1'ed 7/9/11

Dow Jones-Wall Street Journal Head Drawn Into Murdoch UK Phone Jacking Scandal

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Les Hinton is the chief executive of Dow Jones and the publisher of the Wall Street Journal, the most prestigious and valued media holdings of Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation media empire. Hinton is implicated as a key player in at least the cover up of illegal break-ins involving hundreds of voice mail accounts belonging to news worthy British citizens high and low. Hinton was chairman of News International, the parent company of Murdoch's London tabloids and newspapers (including the Times of London), at the time of the illegal activities and police investigations. (Image)

What Happened Under Hinton's Reign?

The UK phone jacking scandal started in 2007 when news broke that the News of the World, London's leading tabloid, had been breaking into to voice mail accounts of prominent British citizens:

"In 2006, reporters at the paper used private investigators to illegally gain access to hundreds of mobile phone voicemail accounts held by a variety of people of interest to the newspaper. In 2007 the paper's royal correspondent, Clive Goodman, pleaded guilty to illegal interception of personal communication and was jailed for four months; the paper's editor, Andy Coulson, had resigned two weeks earlier. In 2009/2010, further revelations emerged on the extent of the phone hacking, and how it was common knowledge within the News of the World and its News International parent. According to a former reporter at the paper, "Everyone knew. The office cat knew," about the illegal activities used to scoop stories." Wikipedia

It died down due to lackluster investigation by the London Metropolitan Police. But when it was revealed that the electronic spying was focused on crime victims and orphans, the British public had quite enough.

James Murdoch, son of Mr. Murdoch, pulled the plug on the News of World, earlier this week after claims it paid private investigators to illegally intercept the voice mail messages of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler, bereaved military families and relatives of London bombing victims. It is also accused of paying thousands of pounds illegally to corrupt police officers. Irish Times, July 9

The Sky is Falling

Now, Murdoch's highly lucrative deal to take over 60% of broadcasting giant BSkyB is threatened by this scandal. Prime Minister David Cameron's Culture Minister was expected to approve the acquisition. Quickly, that option may become a political impossibility given Cameron's personal involvement with News Corporation executives, in particular, Rebekah Brooks.

The much reviled Brooks is the former head of the News of the World, shut down just this week as a result of the scandal. Brooks and Cameron appear to be very close. They take regular horseback rides together in the woods near Brooks' country estate and Cameron attended a Christmas party at the Brooks estate, something he was criticized for in the London press.

Hints About Hinton

Les Hinton was and is once again a key player in the investigation.

The Guardian summed up the problems facing Murdoch's prize possession, the WSJ:

"As News Corporation battles to prevent the damage caused by the phone-hacking scandal spilling over into its all-important US holdings, attention is falling on Les Hinton, one of Rupert Murdoch's closest executives in New York, who was deeply involved in the handling of the affair.

Since 2007, Hinton has been chief executive of Dow Jones, publisher of the Wall Street Journal and one of the most prestigious of Murdoch's possessions. The bastion of US business coverage is seen as the crown jewel of Murdoch's media empire."  Ed Pilkington, The Guardian, July 8

Hinton faces major challenges right now. The Guardian reports that he may have misrepresented News Corporation's internal investigations to the British Parliament.

"Hinton replied by standing up for Andy Coulson, the News of the World editor who had resigned over the Goodman affair while denying any knowledge of it: "I believe absolutely that Andy did not have knowledge of what was going on."  Coulson was arrested on Friday in connection with the phone-hacking investigation." Guardian, July 8.

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