UK Phone Hacking Controversy May Cost Murdoch
The international media scandal involving the phone hacking of a teenage murder victim by a UK tabloid is already causing advertisers to jump ship.
Earlier this week it was revealed that News of the World, a major British tabloid, has been hacking into the private voicemail of people on whom it reports. In the UK it appears the practice was widely known about with celebrities and members of the Royal Family being the most common targets.
Many in the media believe that politicians kept mum on the practice out of fear that they would be retaliated against. There seems to have been a widespread albeit unspoken fear that their own communications would be hacked and their dirty laundry aired in retribution.
This time however the News of the World seems to have gone too far. On Monday, The Guardian, the largest mainstream newspaper in England reported that the News of the World applied its unlawful and heinously invasive practices in reporting on tragic events involving even ordinary people, such as the victims of the famous Underground bombings and their families, and Milly Dowler, a 13 year old girl who was kidnapped and murdered in 2002.
Rupert Murdoch’s giant media conglomerate is at the center of this firestorm as it owns 40% of the media outlets in England including the News of the World tabloid. Attacks on Murdoch’s media outlets have become common-place in the US as its most controversial American cable news network, Fox News, has developed a reputation of being almost unapologetically right-wing and at times reporting stories only loosely based on fact. The Murdoch-owned British counterpart to Fox News, Sky TV, is said to be only vaguely reporting on the story.
Advertisers have quickly begun to pull advertising from the News of the World’s pages. Given the dependence of most periodicals on advertising sales, this will surely hit News of the World where it hurts. The first advertiser to withdraw all its currently scheduled campaigns was Ford, the American automaker. Another automaker pulling its ads, Mitsubishi Motors, has gone a step further. It is promising to donate all funds which would have gone towards the ads instead to Childline, a 24 hour crisis hotline for children and teens.
T-Mobile, Orange, the world’s eigth largest mobile phone company, and nPower, a UK energy company, all moved swiftly to pull ads. Dozens of other companies known to advertise in the tabloid appear to be playing a bit of a “wait and see” game and have thus far declined to comment on whether they will be changing their advertising strategy in light of this scandal.
In addition to what is likely to become a drastic decline in advertising revenue, many Twitter users are calling for a boycott of News of the World and Murdoch’s other UK publications, The Sun and The Times.
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