Will the scandal that has engulfed Rupert Murdoch’s British media holdings spread to the U.S. and, in particular, Fox News?
At the start of May, Senator Jay Rockefeller, the chairman of the Senate committee on commerce, science and transportation, wrote to Lord Justice Leveson, who has been heading a British judicial investigation into media ethics in the wake of the phone hacking scandal that broke out last summer following the revelation that reporters from News of the World had hacked into the voice mail of murdered the 13-year-old Milly Dowler, prior to her body being found. Rockefeller is inquiring if, in the course of his investigations, Lord Leveson has uncovered any evidence suggesting that “unethical and sometimes illegal business practices occurred in the United States or involved US citizens.” More from the senator’s letter:
“Evidence that is already in the public record clearly shows that for many years, News International had a widespread, institutional disregard for these laws.”
“I would be very concerned if evidence emerged suggesting that News Corporation officials in New York were also aware of these illegal payments and did not act to stop them.”
The catalyst for Rockefeller’s letter was the final report from British parliament’s culture, media and sport select committee, which stated that Murdoch was “not fit” to run a major international media company.
As the Guardian notes, Rockefeller’s letter marks the first time that a member of the U.S. Senate has taken a more focused interest in the hacking scandal. The Senate could hold public hearings about the hacking scandal and subpoena witnesses and documents from News Corp.
There is yet no discussion of such but much is at stake. The commerce committee oversees the Federal Communications Commission, which has the final say about issuing broadcast licenses including the 27 issued to what the Guardian calls the “jewel in Murdoch’s crown, Fox News.
News Corp. also faces a possible inquiry related to the charges of corruption levied at the company in the U.K. On the same day as Rockefeller’s letter was sent, New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg called for a “robust inquiry” about whether New York-based News Corp. could be charged under anti-bribery and corruption laws, in the wake of reports about voice-mail and email hacking and also of corruption, including bribes to police. News Corp. could be charged under the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which makes it illegal for American citizens and companies to pay bribes to government officials abroad.
Indeed, two weeks ago, lawyer Mark Lewis, who has represented a number of hacking victims in the U.K. including the family of Milly Dowler, started investigations into four allegations of phone hacking that had occurred in the U.S.
Photo by James Mitchell
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