LONDON (Reuters) - Prime Minister David Cameron promised sweeping new rules for Britain’s press on Friday and a full inquiry into failures by police and politicians as his own former spokesman was arrested over a newspaper phone-hacking scandal.
Cameron acted after Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp abruptly shut the News of the World, Britain’s biggest-selling Sunday newspaper, in response to a growing scandal over alleged phone hacking of celebrities, Britain’s royal family, a murdered teenage girl and dead British soldiers.
The closure, announced on Thursday, comes as the company is trying to win government approval to buy the rest of British Sky Broadcasting Group, throwing the potential $14 billion deal into question.
Below is list of some of the key players in the saga:
Chairman and Chief Executive of News Corp, the world’s largest news conglomerate, which he founded.
News Corp’s operations span television, film, newspapers and advertising. Businesses include U.S. cable network Fox, and the Wall Street Journal newspaper, as well as some of Britain’s best-selling papers: The Sun, News of the World and The Times.
Australian-born Murdoch was ranked by Forbes magazine as the 13th most powerful person in the world in 2010 and the 117th richest, with a net worth of over $6 billion.
He became a U.S. citizen in 1985 so that he could buy American television stations.
A man who easily commands audiences with world leaders, Murdoch’s newspapers in particular are believed to wield enormous political influence. In 1992, the Sun declared “It’s the Sun Wot Won It” after it campaigned vigorously against Labour leader Neil Kinnock in an election that delivered an unexpected Conservative victory.
Murdoch bought the News of the World in 1969 and built it into tabloid with a reputation for going to great lengths to get the story. It sells 2.6 million copies a week in the UK.
Rupert’s second son and presumed front-runner to take over the News Corp empire. James was appointed deputy chief operating officer of News Corp in March and oversees the newspaper division in the UK.
James, who announced the closure of the News of the World, defended News International head Rebekah Brooks on Thursday after a growing chorus called for her resignation. He said he was satisfied that she knew nothing of the crimes allegedly committed when she was editor.
Chief executive of News International, the British newspaper arm of News Corp. Born Rebekah Wade, the 43-year-old has worked for the Murdoch empire since the age of 20, joining the News of the World as a secretary before moving to the Sun.
In 2000, she was appointed editor of the News of the World, making her, at the time, the youngest ever editor of a British national newspaper.
She moved on to edit the Sun in 2003, becoming its first female editor, and spent six years at the helm before her appointment as chief executive of News International.
Brooks rarely gives interviews. In 2003, she told a parliamentary committee her newspaper had paid police for information, although News International later said this was not company practice.
Brooks, formerly married to a star of the television soap opera “Eastenders,” is considered one of Murdoch’s most trusted executives and is politically well-connected. She and her second husband, a former racehorse trainer, are reported to be regular guests at Prime Minister David Cameron’s Oxfordshire home.
On Tuesday, she said she was “sickened” by allegations that the News of the World had hacked into the voicemail messages of missing schoolgirl Milly Dowler, later found murdered, in 2002. The Guardian newspaper said an investigator for the paper had also deleted some messages to make room for more, misleading police and the girl’s family into thinking she was alive.
“I hope that you all realize it is inconceivable that I knew or, worse, sanctioned these appalling allegations,” she wrote in a memo to staff, adding that she would not resign.
Prime Minister David Cameron promised sweeping new rules for Britain’s press on Friday and a full inquiry into failures by police and politicians as his own former spokesman was arrested over a newspaper phone-hacking scandal.
Cameron fended off suggestions at an emergency news conference that he had lacked judgment in hiring Andy Coulson, an ex-editor of Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World who he confirmed was under police investigation.
Cameron said earlier that if allegations were true that a private investigator hacked into the phone of missing teenager Milly Dowler, “this is a truly dreadful act.”
Coulson, the British prime minister’s former communications chief, was arrested by detectives investigating allegations of phone hacking at the News of the World, police said on Friday.
He resigned as the paper’s editor in 2007 after one of his reporters and a private investigator were convicted of hacking into phones of members of the royal family, although Coulson insisted he knew nothing about the phone hacking.
He resigned as Cameron’s communications director earlier this year after fresh allegations surfaced that connected journalists at the paper to a spate of other attempts to hack the voicemail of politicians and celebrities. He said media coverage of the scandal made it impossible to do his job.
Rupert Murdoch installed Hinton as chief executive of Dow Jones in December 2007 after he swooped in to buy the publisher of the Wall Street Journal for $5.6 billion. Hinton, a longtime News Corp executive, served as head of News International for 12 years during the time of the alleged phone hacking.
The current editor of News of the World who informed his staff of 200 that News Corp would close the 168-year-old newspaper. Myler took charge of the paper in 2007. He was appointed editor of News Corp’s New York Post after resigning from the Sunday Mirror when the paper ran an interview that interfered with a soccer scandal trial.
Hunt is the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport. He has final say over whether News Corp should be allowed to buy out BSkyB after Business Secretary Vince Cable was stripped of the decision-making power late last year.
Cable lost the right to adjudicate on media deals after he was taped “declaring war” on Rupert Murdoch.
Hunt last week rejected complaints the News Corp buyout of BSkyB would give Murdoch too much power and influence, effectively clearing the way for the multi-billion-dollar deal.
However, he announced a final consultation period until July 8 to consider further undertakings designed to guarantee the editorial independence of Sky News. A final decision now seems unlikely for months.
Editing by Alastair Macdonald, Ted Kerr and Michael Roddy