News Corp.’s Phone Hacking Scandal and the Public Interest

The last edition of News of the World on July 10, 2011

I am now writing a weekly blog post on media in the digital age for KCET’s The Public Note and will also be contributing posts on local policy at 1st and Spring in addition to occasional posts for LAist.

The ongoing “phone hacking” scandal in the UK may seem like a distant and isolated issue considering how limited the reporting has been in the U.S. press but it’s possible that the media is shying away because it hits too close to home.

What’s come to light in the past month in Britain may be indicative of unethical — if not unlawful — behavior that’s become pervasive across all Western media in the digital age.

At the center of attention is News Corporation, owned by Rupert Murdoch. News Corp. executives will meet with board members in Los Angeles this week for the first time since the scandal, which had been brewing for years, finally broke.

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Murdoch Bids $5 Billion for Dow Jones

Scary and unsolicited — are newspapers suddenly worth something again? (more to follow)…

Dow Jones owns the Wall Street Journal, among other things, and Murdoch’s News Corp. bends the rules of media ownership with it’s massive stable of multiple media in practically every English speaking market worldwide. Just who does that include? It’s all on this list.

The Bancroft family (which controls Dow Jones), along with practically the entire staff of the Wall Street Journal, currently oppose News Corp.’s offer, while others — like analyst Mort Zuckerman — are calling Murdoch “brilliant.”

Shares of Dow Jones jumped over 50% to just shy of Murdoch’s offering price of $60/share in Tuesday trading. Other publicly traded newspaper company’s saw prices surge as well.

But the offer raises numerous red flags, writes Mark @ News Corpse including News Corp.’s plans to launch a Fox Business Channel to compete with the likes of CNBC.

It may seem insulting to WSJ writers to be threatened with ownership by the likes of the mogul who has turned the likes of the New York Post into practically a supermarket tabloid. But more important and influential could be the residual effect of Murdoch’s lofty valuation of Dow Jones on the struggling (by Wall Street standards) newspaper industry.