The Telegraph in London and the LA Times reported today that as a result of the mushrooming “phone hack scandal” in Great Britain, the Murdoch family is shutting down the 168 year old News of the World, the largest Sunday Daily in Great Britain. The Telegraph reports that NOTW's former Editor, Rebekah Brooks, will not be fired from her current position as Chief Executive of News International. The Telegraph also mentioned there were reports that Brooks was escorted from NOTW's offices "for her own protection." Presumably, they mean "protection" from the 200+ staff who lost jobs as a result of the closure. Wow, talk about a walk of shame!
In case you haven't read or heard, NOTW faced hot water after illegally hacking voicemail boxes of over 4,000 celebrities and politicians. Some former staffers claim higher-ups in the chain (including Murdock himself) knew of and accepted the practice.
NOTW reported it's own demise in apocalyptic terms: “WORLD'S END News of the World closed down over hacking scandal.” Now, everyone is wondering if the scandal will be the end of Murdoch's World. That should give you some indication about just how big this scandal is, and how egregious the circumstances are. The NOTW phone hacking began in 2006 when New of the World's royal editor, Clive Goodman and a private investigator, Glenn Mulcaire were charged by the Metropolitan Police, who allegged the two intercepted phone messages intended for members of the royal household. Wikipedia states that the two men were jailed in 2007. The Telegraph is reporting as of 9:00PM BST that authorities intend to arrest Andy Coulson the former press spokesman for British Prime Minister David Cameron, and before that NOTW's editor from 2003 to 2007.
The Wikipedia article “News of the World phone hacking affair" goes on to state that the Metropolitan Police started a new investigation in February 2011 and that there were more than 20 active civil cases against NOTW at that time. Victims attorneys have alleged that there were as many as 7000 phone hacking victims.
The scandal is expected to jeopardize Murdoch's bid to acquire BskyB (British Sky Broadcasting Group). The Huffington Post reported on June 30, 2011 that the British Government had given a qualified okay to Murdoch's Buyout of BskyB.
Wikipedia states that BskyB “is the largest pay TV Broadcaster in United Kingdom.”
So, we have a scandal that killed a 168 year old juggernaut English language paper, threatens to derail Murdoch's merger plans with BskyB, involves the interception of the phone messages of potentially thousands of victims, reaches the office of the Prime Minister and arguably dwarfs the Watergate Scandal from the early 1970's. If only there was something to add to all of that...something here in the United States.
Meet Jane Akre. Jane Akre according to Wikipedia's article on her “is best known for the whistleblower lawsuit by herself and her husband, Steve Wilson, against Fox Broadcasting Company station WTVT in Tampa, Florida." Wikipedia's article on Jane Akre also says that Jane and her husband Steve “are featured in the 2003 documentary film The Corporation about the same lawsuit.” This same article also states that Jane Akre is the current editor-in-chief of the national news desk at InjuryBoard.com. Jane Akre has written an account of the lawsuit that is published on The Center for Media and Democracy's PR Watch at http://www.prwatch.org/prwissues/2000Q4/lawsuit.html . According to Akre, Fox's legal strategy was to claim that she and her husband had turned their “backs on the story and were using the whistleblower as a tactic”, that they “missed deadlines” and that they had told managers they were “going to get Monsantos”. She says the Fox legal team also claimed the two journalists “became convinced that rBGH milk causes cancer” and they “became advocates instead of objective reporters of the controversy.” Akre states:
“None of that was true. Our story did bring forth information that had been suppressed for far too long: that a spin-off hormone in the altered milk has been linked to tumor proliferation; that consumers did not have the benefit of labeling at the grocery store shelf because Monsanto had sued two small dairies to block it; and that the FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine, which reviewed the drug, did not do long-term human toxicity tests. The cancer questions to this day remain unanswered. The human effects are, in essence, being tested on consumers in the marketplace. “
She also gives a bone chilling account of how “the Fox network” attempted to intimidate them with their enormous size:
"Prior to our dismissal, Dave Boylan had flaunted the company's wealth in an attempt to make us back down. 'We paid three billion for these stations,' he told us on one occasion. 'We'll tell you what the news is. The news is what we say it is!'" Akre also states that the jury awarded her $425,000 but because of what she perceives as being an erroneous instruction from the judge to the jury her husband Steve Wilson received no jury award.. Fox has appealed the verdict."
The United States Code Title 47, Section 308, cited as 47 USC § 308 sets forth the “Requirements for License”. Specifically, § 308(b) in the relevant part, provides:
All applications for station licenses, or modifications or renewals thereof, shall set forth such facts as the Commission by regulation may prescribe as to the citizenship, character, and financial, technical, and other qualifications of the applicant to operate the station; the ownership and location of the proposed station and of the stations, if any, with which it is proposed to communicate; the frequencies and the power desired to be used; the hours of the day or other periods of time during which it is proposed to operate the station; the purposes for which the station is to be used; and such other information as it may require. (Emphasis added)
In other words § 308(b) both empowers and obligates the FCC to make a determination regarding the "character" of Rupert Murdoch and all his subsidiaries as it applies to his "qualification" to operate television stations within the United States. If the FCC doesn't hold hearings and revoke the Murdoch family's right to own and operate television stations and networks, Bernie Madoff should apply for a license.