August 18, 2022

Murdoch Facing Parliament’s Ire in Hacking Case

But though he joined in the chorus of outrage, Prime Minister David Cameron, whose Conservative Party benefits from Mr. Murdoch’s support, stopped short of calling for an immediate investigation into behavior by the Murdoch-owned News of the World and other tabloids. Such an inquiry would have to wait, he said, until the police had concluded their own criminal investigation.

From all sides of the House of Commons the disgust came thick and fast, as the legislators recited the most recent allegations against The News of the World: that its executives had paid police officers, lied to Parliament and hired investigators to intercept voice mail messages left on the cellphones of murdered children and terrorism victims. Legislators also attacked the news media in general for employing many of the same tactics.

The scandal posed new hurdles for Mr. Murdoch’s proposed $12 billion takeover of the pay-television company British Sky Broadcasting, as many legislators criticized the deal, and Britain’s media regulatory agency, Ofcom, said it was “closely monitoring the situation.”

“We have let one man have far too great a sway over our national life,” said Chris Bryant, a Labour member of Parliament. In addition to The News of the World, Mr. Murdoch’s media holdings include The Times of London; The Sun; and a large stake in BSkyB, as it is called, as well as several other international newspapers and television networks.

Meanwhile, John Whittingdale, the Conservative chairman of the House of Commons culture and media committee, rehearsed in tones of high indignation how executives from The News of the World and its parent company, News International, had thwarted legislators’ efforts to get to the bottom of the phone hacking affair by stonewalling, refusing to testify and even lying outright during parliamentary hearings.

Zac Goldsmith, another Conservative legislator, said that Mr. Murdoch was guilty of “systemic abuse of almost unprecedented power” and had run roughshod over Parliament.

“There is nothing noble in what these newspapers have been doing,” he said. “Rupert Murdoch is clearly a very, very talented businessman — he’s possibly even a genius — but his organization has grown too powerful and has abused that power. It has systematically corrupted the police and in my view has gelded this Parliament, to our shame.”

A number of legislators, including Nicholas Soames, a Conservative, said Wednesday that in light of the recent developments, the government should intervene to delay or even stop Mr. Murdoch’s plan to acquire all the shares of BSkyB.

“I urge the government to look at whether we should pause things given what has come to light,” said Anna Soubry, a Conservative member of Parliament.

Before this week, the deal had passed virtually every government hurdle. But Ofcom, the media regulator, said in a statement that it was watching developments in the case, “and in particular the investigations by the relevant authorities into the alleged unlawful activities.”

Many legislators also focused their outrage on Rebekah Brooks, a former News of the World editor who is now News International’s chief executive and a protégé of Mr. Murdoch. She is a close friend of Mr. Cameron’s — the two have country houses near each other and have often socialized — and has been a strong champion of his premiership.

Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, said flatly that Ms. Brooks should resign.

But Ms. Brooks said she would stay put, and on Wednesday her boss, Mr. Murdoch, took the unusual step of issuing a statement on the matter.

Calling the recent allegations involving phone hacking and paying off the police “deplorable and unacceptable,” Mr. Murdoch pledged that the company would “fully and proactively cooperate with the police in all investigations.” He added: “That is exactly what News International has been doing and will continue to do under Rebekah Brooks’s leadership.”

Alan Cowell and Eric Pfanner contributed reporting from Paris.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: July 6, 2011

A caption with an earlier version of this article misstated the day the photo was taken as Thursday.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: July 6, 2011

An earlier version of this article omitted the given name and title of Ed Miliband, the Labour Party leader.

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