United Kingdom: Murdoch faces down MPs
20 July 2011
“Murdoch’s humble pie,” headlines the Guardian, after the press baron appeared before MPs to answer questions concerning the phone-hacking scandal which has engulfed his media empire. The London daily reports that, “Rupert Murdoch defiantly insisted on Tuesday he was not responsible for what he called ‘sickening and horrible invasions’ of privacy committed by his company, claiming he had been betrayed by disgraceful unidentified colleagues and had known nothing of the cover-up of phone hacking.” After a fortnight which has seen a slew of resignations from News International executives, chiefs of London’s Metropolitan police and the suicide of a former Murdoch journalist, the media mogul declared that the hearing was "the most humble day of my career". He nevertheless reminded MPs that Sunday tabloid, the News of the World, shut down in the wake of the phone-hacking revelations, only constituted 1% of his News Corps empire.
“Humble pie” headlines dominate the front pages of the British press. The Independent, however, chooses to highlight how the scandal is undermining British PM David Cameron, who had previously employed as his PR Andy Coulson, a former News of the World editor directly implicated in the affair. “Hacking crisis edges closer to Cameron,” the London daily leads, after it also emerged that Neil Wallis, the former News of the World deputy editor arrested last week, worked for Cameron’s Conservative Party before the 2010 election. “In a second blow to the Prime Minister,” the Independent continues, “it was revealed that his chief of staff, Ed Llewellyn, had appealed to Scotland Yard not to mention hacking during a Downing Street briefing last September, four months before Mr Coulson quit his No 10 post.” With suggestions made that the PM had been briefed about the journalists’ involvement in the phone-hacking affair before employing them, his judgement is increasingly being questioned. The Independent notes that, “Loyalists believe the Prime Minister looks increasingly isolated and are concerned that cabinet members, including the Chancellor George Osborne and the Tory chairman Baroness Warsi, have failed to rally behind him”.
But for the Daily Mail, the “Real scandal that MPs ignore,” as its headline runs, is not this ongoing saga, nor the farcical scenes at the enquiry as a man threw a shaving foam pie at Rupert Murdoch, only to be punched by Murdoch’s wife Wendi Deng. “While Westminster fiddled over the phone-hacking frenzy, the European economy was burning last night,” the tabloid moans. “To add insult to injury, it emerged yesterday that those largely responsible for bringing Britain’s economy to its knees – bankers and finance workers – have scooped bonuses totalling £14billion this year.” Workers from the financial sector account for 4 per cent of the UK workforce, but obtain some 40 per cent of the bonuses paid. “The size of the massive windfall will outrage millions of hard-working Britons who face a daily battle to stay financially afloat during the economic downturn,” the Daily Mail writes, noting that some of the largest bonuses were paid out in banks partly owned by the state, and therefore by the taxpayer.