No matter what tactic Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp adopts to protect itself and the Murdochs from the News of The World phone-hacking scandal, it just keeps getting worse.

Overnight London papers reported that Scotland Yard had found evidence of more people whose phones had been hacked, and that this knowledge was gleaned from some of the evidence and other material they had been holding for four or five years.

And on ABC PM last night, an Australian woman in London, Mary-Ellen Field, detailed how her life and business career had been wrecked by the hacking and the poor behaviour of Australian supermodel Elle Macpherson, who she was advising.

It was a chilling interview and the News Ltd papers in Australia seem to have overlooked it in their rush to cover a flawed criticism of the NBN and the death stare on Tony Abbott. Perhaps, in the interest of reporting a good human-interest story, they will get their people in London to talk to Field, that’s if she wants to talk to a News Corp hack.

The PM interview, at least the transcript on the PM website, is worth reading and listening to. Here’s what PM quoted Field as saying about Macpherson after phone conversations between the two started appearing in the News of The World.

“Well she fired me on the telephone on the 9th of January 2006; wouldn’t explain it and just said that I knew what I’d done. She wouldn’t explain it; I went and told my CEO immediately; he was really shocked because she had told him also that I had leaked information and unfortunately, well with celebrities, companies tend to, especially someone beautiful like that, because she’d asked to have an office in my building.

“She also took her business away from my firm and so I was fired for losing the business. You know I was 57 at the time, that’s not a particularly nice thing to happen when I had worked extremely hard to get where I was. None of my other clients made these accusations but sadly I was removed.

“But then odd things started to happen, which you know, were inexplicable. In the beginning of March she called me and said — I haven’t mentioned the fact that we were so concerned about the leaking of information that in October 2005 I said to her why don’t we get the house checked and see if there’s any bugs or anything, because you know, both of us knew as little about phone hacking as most people; and we thought it was like the movies and there’d be some sort of hidden microphone or something.

“So we got a very reputable security company to come and check and they couldn’t find anything. And then in March 2006 she called me and I now know that that’s when she was approached by the police and the police had told her that they believed that her voice messages had been hacked into by this detective that was employed by The News of the World.

MARK COLVIN: “Did she offer you your job back?”

MARY-ELLEN FIELD: “No. No, no, no. And she didn’t tell me why she’d asked and then in August 2006 these two chaps, the detective and the reporter from the News of the World were arrested, so I immediately called her but no response, I emailed her and no response.

“I emailed my former employer but again no response and then I wrote to the police. I rang the police first; Scotland Yard and they wouldn’t refer me to anyone, so I wrote to the then commissioner, commissioner Blair and no response.”

Now if it had been anyone else being fired by Macpherson (without any connection to News Corp), the News Ltd tabloids (and no doubt The Australian) would have climbed all over the story with full, sanctimonious gravity. But this is home grown inside the empire, and guess what, News Ltd papers and their editors and reporters are not interested. They can’t even bring themselves to trot out the new News’ defence that it was a “small cabal” if bad eggs at the News of The World. I still wonder if any News Ltd hacks have tried hacking the phones of prominent people in this country.

I suppose the only way to get the Murdochs and the News Corp media outlets interested in either reporting the story, getting the scandal wrapped up, is to authorise hacking of the mobiles of the various Murdochs, the editors of the various papers here and around the world, and some of the high-profile defenders of the News Corp style of journalism. Give ’em a taste of their own medicine. But that’s breaking the law and why get in the gutter with the News of the World.

Meanwhile, dad’s plans to buy daughter Elizabeth’s Shine TV production company and make her very wealthy with News Corp money, are getting close to fruition for the family.

The Financial Times reported more detail overnight, including the big sticking point, how to ensure Shine’s independence to make sure it’s not shut out of supplying programs to non-News Corp companies. Dad is reportedly paying $A1.1 billion for Shine, once this problem can be ironed out.

“But a direct link to BSkyB would not be advantageous to Shine, as it could lose its status as an independent producer, meaning public-service broadcasters such as the BBC and ITV would not be able to count its programs as contributing to the quotas of “indie” shows they are required to show in return for their licences.

“The status of Shine within News Corp is one of the main questions still to be resolved by negotiations, according to one person familiar with the discussions.”

Ms Murdoch owns 53% of Shine, according to the FT and BSkyB owns 13%. That makes Ms Murdoch a semi-billionaire (well she is a fully-fledged one based on the shared stake in News Corp with her siblings) in her own right and ahead of Lachlan and James, who are merely wealthy.

Remember the Shine buy will be a related-party transaction, and at more than $A1 billion, an expensive one. The majority of money to pay for it will come from non-Murdoch News Corp shareholders (even if shares are involved) and 53% will be transferred to a member of his family. Because News Corp is so large, shareholder approval isn’t needed.

Remember also how News Ltd papers climbed all over the Fairfax Media purchase of Rural Press because it involved members of the Fairfax family. There will be no similar scrutiny of any Shine purchase.

No cost benefit analysis will be published. Remember that next time you read The Australian clamouring for a cost benefit analysis on the NBN, and it won’t be put to shareholder vote, as the NBN has been put to the vote by the ALP in two elections. News Ltd papers here won’t remark on the fact that it is a related-party transaction and therefore a bit costly to non-Murdoch shareholders. It will be a case of “just report the facts, sir”.

To get the deal done, dad no doubt will find a way of yet again circumventing the rules on the independence of Shine to fit his version of reality in the UK media market.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
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