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Rupert Murdoch: His empire under attack, a media potentate stumbles

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What News Corp. potentates did not count on was Milly Dowler.

The 13-year-old British girl murdered in 2002 had her voice mail hacked and messages erased by Murdoch's media operatives within his British newspaper arm News International. After a July 5 Guardian exposé revealed that News of the World (NotW), one of Murdoch's bestselling British tabloids, tampered with Milly's cellphone messages (leaving her family thinking she was alive), she posthumously became Murdoch's Mohamed Bouazizi – the young Tunisian vegetable vendor whose self-immolation in December sparked the Arab Spring.

The scandal's penetration seems to have no end. It has smeared British Prime Minister David Cameron for hiring a key Murdoch editor (Andy Coulson, since fired); brought revelations of some 3,870 phone-hacking victims; damaged public trust with widespread evidence of police payoffs; caused a national inquiry into press, police, and politicians; and it has now leaped the Atlantic to an FBI inquiry into the possible tampering of the cellphone voice mails of 9/11 victims.

The scandal is seen as New Inter­na­tional's effort to find and sell stories on the tragedy of ordinary people. It's brought a British rejection of the Murdoch name for the first time since his partisan media became the engine for Margaret Thatcher's program to rejuvenate England in the 1980s. Since July 5, News Corp. has lost some $6 billion in value.

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