Phone hacking, take two. Just when everyone in the Murdoch empire thought the UK phone-hacking scandal was behind them, out pops new claims of hacking, this time at The Sun, the clan’s core UK paper.
The latest news emerged at a legal conference in the UK to manage the third lot of phone-hacking claims against the now defunct News of the World. The claims all involve people who claim their voicemails were intercepted by reporter Dan Evans when he moved from the Sunday Mirror to the News of the World. The High Court in London heard that the claimants want to argue that hacking happened outside the established timescale of January 1, 2005, to August 8, 2006; that journalists other than Evans were involved; and that the hacking also extended to The Sun.
In March of last year, the Media Standards Trust found that 591 people had settled phone-hacking claims with News UK over the activities at the News of the World. News UK, formerly News International, has been dealing with civil legal claims related to phone-hacking since 2008 at a total cost well in excess of 300 million pounds (over A$600 million). Rival publisher Trinity Mirror is facing at least 158 civil claims for damages over phone-hacking at its Daily Mirror, Sunday Mirror and Sunday People. Trinity Mirror is trying to get some of the early settlements set aside because the final costs were much higher than estimated.
If phone hacking is found to involve The Sun, this will mire the Murdoch clan in damaging UK litigation at a time when Rupert Murdoch has regained much of his power with UK politicians, especially the Conservative government of David Cameron. News said the claims are “unsubstantiated” and that, if they proceed, it will “defend them vigorously”. — Glenn Dyer
A failed experiment. Middle East-owned cable news service Al Jazeera is abandoning its two-and-a-half-year attempt to crack the US cable news market. The news services (which had an audience of just 7000 in the key 18-to-49 age demographic, according to the most recent cable news ratings) will stop broadcasting on April 30. Losses are unknown, but are believed to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars for the network’s owners, the Qatari government. In a statement to staff overnight, CEO Al Anstey said the “decision by Al Jazeera America’s board is driven by the fact that our business model is simply not sustainable in light of the economic challenges in the U.S. media marketplace”.
Al Jazeera America was created in the 2013 US$500 million purchase of the Al Gore-created Current TV. It started out supplying around 30 million US homes (around a third of the market). Staff will be paid until the end of April. the network was last year whacked by allegations of discrimination and harassment and the loss of a number of senior executives. The most telling claims involved allegations of anti-Semitic, anti-American and anti-woman bias. This resulted in the then-CEO Ehab Al Shihabi being replaced by Anstey. — Glenn Dyer
On yer bike. “Anyone claiming that America’s economy is in decline is peddling fiction,” said US President Barack Obama in his final State of the Union speech yesterday. But the ABC’s caption on the speech was more of the two-wheeled variety …
Front page of the day. An explosive few days for NSW Labor courtesy of the Daily Telegraph …