LONDON (Reuters) - A phone-hacking scandal has rocked Rupert Murdoch’s business empire, British politicians and police, and forced News Corp to abandon a bid to buy the whole of broadcaster BSkyB.
How did this begin?
* A reporter and a private investigator who worked for the Murdoch-owned News of the World tabloid were convicted of phone-hacking in 2007.
* News International, Murdoch’s British newspaper arm, had said the hacking was limited to a single rogue reporter but more victims of hacking were revealed in 2009, suggesting the practice was widespread.
Why did it suddenly blow up?
* The crisis was catapulted to a new level earlier this month when the Guardian newspaper reported that the alleged victims included the families of British troops killed in combat and murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler.
* Growing public anger and advertiser pullouts prompted Murdoch to close the paper in an attempt to contain the crisis.
* But both opposition and government politicians united in calling for News Corp to drop its bid to buy the 61 percent of satellite broadcaster BSkyB it does not own.
* News Corp tried to buy itself some breathing space with British regulators but as the clamor continued, it abandoned the bid for BSkyB on July 13.
* Rebekah Brooks, News International’s chief executive who was editor of the News of the World when some of the phone-hacking occurred, resigned last week. Brooks was arrested on Sunday over allegations of phone-hacking and police bribery.
* Les Hinton, a former head of News International who was heading Murdoch’s Dow Jones & Company in New York, also resigned over the scandal.
* Murdoch apologized in person to Milly Dowler’s family and his company took out full-page advertisements in British newspapers saying, “We are sorry.”
* The victims of alleged phone-hacking, some of whom have accepted compensation from News International, include celebrities, politicians, the families of dead troops and people caught up in terrorist attacks and murders.
* Rupert Murdoch, founder and chief executive of global news and entertainment giant News Corp, owns Britain’s Sun, Times and Sunday Times newspapers and has wielded enormous political power in the country for decades. Murdoch flew into London on July 10 to take charge of the crisis. He initially backed Brooks but later accepted her resignation.
* Brooks was editor of the tabloid when it was alleged some of the most serious hacking cases took place, including Milly Dowler’s voicemail. “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.
* James Murdoch, Rupert’s son and heir apparent, heads the group’s Asian and European operations. He has been criticized for failing to grasp the enormity of the situation.
* Andy Coulson, who followed Brooks as editor of the News of the World, resigned after the 2007 convictions and was later appointed by then opposition leader David Cameron as his communications chief in 2007. Coulson was arrested on July 8 on suspicion of phone-hacking and corruption, and released on bail.
* Former News of the World journalist Sam Hoare was found dead on Monday but police said they were not treating it as suspicious. Hoare had told the New York Times that phone-hacking by the News of the World was more extensive than the paper had acknowledged.
* Prime Minister David Cameron had close links to News Corp through his friendship with Brooks and Coulson.
* Cameron has become vocal in his criticism of News Corp, and joined the opposition in calling on the company to withdraw its bid for BSkyB. He has called for an inquiry into the affair and said the cozy relationship between British politicians and the media, including the Murdoch empire, needed to end.
* Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown has said Murdoch’s papers tried to access his voicemail, bank details, legal file and family medical records. News International denied wrongdoing by its papers. Like his predecessors Tony Blair and Margaret Thatcher, Brown courted Murdoch’s attentions before and during his time in office.
Ed Miliband, leader of the opposition Labour Party, had also courted Murdoch but has used the crisis to attack Cameron and call for changes to newspaper regulation, boosting his political fortunes.
* The scandal has raised questions about ties between reporters and police officers, some of whom are alleged to have provided confidential telephone numbers and other information to journalists.
* John Yates, an assistant commissioner with London’s Metropolitan Police, has been criticized for not reopening the investigation into phone-hacking in 2009. He resigned on Monday.
* Andy Hayman, the detective in charge of an earlier phase of the phone-hacking inquiry, was hired by Murdoch’s Times newspaper as a columnist in July 2008. He acknowledged having private dinners with people from News International during the hacking inquiry but said there was nothing untoward about them.
* Britain’s top police chief Paul Stephenson resigned on Sunday over a furor triggered by his hiring of former News of the World deputy editor Neil Wallis as a consultant and for accepting 20 nights free of charge at a luxury spa which Wallis represented.
* Britain’s media regulator Ofcom was tasked with considering whether News Corp was a “fit and proper” owner of BSkyB.
* The Competition Commission had the option to block the takeover over concerns about media plurality.
What happens next?
* Rupert and James Murdoch and Brooks will be grilled by parliament’s Culture, Media and Sport Committee on Tuesday. Stephenson will appear before a home affairs select committee on the same day.
* Cameron has announced the setting up of an inquiry headed by a judge to cover all aspects of the phone-hacking scandal.
* Cameron has curtailed an already much abbreviated tour of Africa to attend an emergency debate in parliament on Wednesday. Parliament delayed its summer recess for the debate.
Editing by Ralph Gowling
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