Clouds gather over Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation

The Sun and the Sunday Times, two other popular newspapers which are part of Murdoch’s News Corporation, have been accused of using illegal ways to obtain private data. Meanwhile, shares in Murdoch’s empire are tumbling.

­On Tuesday, the Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown accused the tabloid The Sun and also The Sunday Times newspaper of having links to the “criminal underworld” and illegally obtaining personal data on him and his family.

Brown accuses News International, the publisher owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, of getting his bank details, voicemail and information from medical records about his five-year-old son Fraser, who suffers from cystic fibrosis.

The allegations that journalists from News International went after Brown were published by the Guardian on Monday.

According to the Guardian, the journalists have been obtaining secret information during the last ten years, including periods when Brown was prime minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer. In 2006, the Sun released the article about Brown’s seriously ill son.

News International journalists have also been accused of attempting to bribe police officers for information including the personal contact details for members of the royal family.

Also on Tuesday, some of the News Corp shareholders led by Amalgamated Bank and several municipal and union pension funds, which all hold less than one per cent of the company’s shares, have filed complaints over News Corporation in a Delaware court.  

The allegations have deepened the scandal that brought down Britain’s best-selling newspaper the News of the World, which is also owned by Murdoch’s News International media group.

The decision to close the newspaper was taken on July 7. The last issue, published at the weekend, has become the top-selling issue of the tabloid. The News of the World has been accused of hacking scores of Brits’ phone messages and calls.

Senior UK police officers have been questioned on Tuesday over allegations that they obstructed the original investigation into the conduct of journalists at the News of the World.

Richard Addis, editor-in-chief of The Day online news service says that solving the case of Murdoch’s papers is now a matter of national security.

“I think this does become a question of national security because of the idea that the police are selling private phone numbers and private contact details of people like the royal family and the prime minister.”

­Value of the dirty exclusive

­Meanwhile, News Corporation has already lost almost $7 billion in market capitalization in the last five trading days.  The company has lost 14 per cent on Wall Street over the past week.

In attempts to save his company, which is rapidly devaluing, Rupert Murdoch has announced a $5 billion stock repurchase plan on Tuesday.  

The company plans to acquire $5 billion of its own shares over the next 12 months. It said the repurchase program would begin after August 15.

Rupert Murdoch has been called to appear before the Commons culture, media and sport committee to face questions about allegations of phone hacking at his newspapers.

Murdoch’s son James and Rebekah Brooks, who runs News Corp’s British newspaper arm will also be asked to attend.

Ed Miliband, a British Labour Party politician, is to hold talks with British Prime Minister David Cameron and British Liberal Democrat politician Nick Clegg on the phone hacking scandal on Tuesday evening.

­Richard Addis says this scandal will definitely have an effect on the whole Murdoch empire.

“There are rumors, no more than rumors, that he [Murdoch] might sell all his British newspapers. People are expecting the scandal to go up through Rebecca Brooks, who is the chief executive of News International, to James Murdoch. And James Murdoch himself, many people say, should now step down and take a break. He may be able to return to News Corporation one day. They are advising him to go away. Whether his father can escape without serious damage is also doubtful. I don’t think he is going to retire or leave the helm of the company.”

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