As submissions are lodged to the Australian government’s media inquiry, it’s worth keeping tabs on the scandal that proved to be the impetus for our own media soul searching — the UK phone hacking story that just won’t go away.
In the past 24 hours the parliamentary select committee investigating phone hacking at the News of the World published a new tranche of internal News International documents — the legal opinion prepared by Michael Silverleaf QC, the group’s counsel, for the News of the World‘s legal officer Tom Crone.
As The Guardian reported: “They represent a treasure trove of new material and give fresh insight into how the News of the World, its editors and legal managers and ultimate boss, James Murdoch, handled serious phone-hacking allegations back in 2008.”
Some of the main revelations thus far include:
- News International was advised by legal counsel as far back as 2008 that there was “overwhelming evidence” that a “number of senior journalists” at the News of the World were involved in phone hacking.
- Michael Silverleaf told the publisher there was “a powerful case” that a “culture of illegal information access” existed on the paper and this would be “extremely damaging” to the “company’s public reputation” if this got out in a court case.
- NOtW lawyer Tom Crone described the evidence as “fatal to our case” in a memo to ex-editor Colin Myler ahead of a meeting with James Murdoch to discuss whether to settle Taylor’s claim. He said the company’s position was “perilous”.
James Murdoch, who continues to deny that he was made aware that the practice of hacking went beyond a single “rogue reporter”, will appear before the committee for the second time next week. He has denied seeing the Silverleaf advice until a few weeks ago. As we discuss media standards here, including issues ranging from everything to Senator Brown’s suggested “fit and proper” test, to Ninemsn’s suggestion that online media should be held to different standards from print media, let’s not forget to keep tracking the News Corp case study of What Not to Do.