Simon Jenkins, writes on Comment is Free that the News of the World may have made Rupert Murdoch money but it proved to be more trouble than it was worth:The former Times editor,
Since the recent revelations of phone hacking the same British establishment has turned on Murdoch and his empire with a gleeful and often hysterical vengeance. One might think that no other media group ever intruded or transgressed any press code of ethics. But Murdoch's response has been drastic. He is closing down the News of the World for good, trying like Lady Macbeth to eradicate the "damned spot" that seems to sully all his current ambition. The game on which he embarked 42 years ago may have made him piles of money, but it has proved more trouble than it is worth.
The loss of any newspaper is sad for any who value press diversity. But the "news of the screws" will surely not be missed. Under the Carrs [its ancestral owners] it had a careless radicalism, usually taking the form of not minding whom its intrusions on private life offended. Today its contact with the world of public debate, with politics or economics, has become minimal. It seemed to rely on Max Clifford and others to feed it material, including eavesdroppers, and it feasted as much on the misfortunes of the unknown – vicars and minor actors – as on celebrities. It has been near impossible to find anything of substance in its total preoccupation with sex.
A group of Times journalists are planning to try to get recognition for the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) at their workplace in the wake of the sudden axing of the News of the World, the Guardian has learned. The NUJ has long been denied recognition at News International titles where journalists are instead directed to join the News International Staff Association (Nisa).
The Guardian's international correspondents have been looking at the overseas reaction to the closure of the News of the World.
Helen Pidd in Berlin says German papers largely focus on the political implications:
The News of the World scandal makes the front page of four German newspapers this morning. Even the three-million selling tabloid Bild makes a little space on page one alongside its topless model. "Englands größte Sonntags-Zeitung wird eingestellt" runs the headline, which translates as "England's biggest Sunday newspaper is being shut down". The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Germany's paper of record, interprets the "Abhörskandal" (bugging scandal) as a problem for David Cameron. The centre-left Süddeutsche Zeitung says the long-running saga has now become "politically dangerous". The fall-out could "expose the dishonest and corrupt alliance" between "many British politicians and parts of the British media", thinks Stefan Kornelius.
Die Welt, a Conservative daily, runs a comment piece saying that it is not enough just for the NoW to be closed down. Under the headline "Murdoch-Gate", Ulrich Clauss says a proper inquiry is imperative: "This is not simply about the crimes of individuals. It's about the reputation of a political operation where the boundaries between money, state and government threaten to become blurred. The common good, especially the protection of citizens against the excessive pursuit of profit from private companies, is on the agenda."
Giles Tremlett, in Madrid, writes:
The News of the World's closure made it onto the front page of Spain's major national dailies this morning. El País's front page photograph featured Rupert Murdoch and his wife in Idaho above a piece about his attempts to kill off the scandal by sacrificing the NoW. La Vanguardia remarked on the closure of "the biggest selling Sunday newspaper in English" and, in an inside piece headlined "Blood and reptiles in Fleet Street", explained that Britain had "the toughest and most merciless news market in the world".
John Hooper in Rome, writes:
In Italy, where the power of media barons has a special resonance, the closure of the News of the World was front page news in all the main dailies. Corriere della Sera carried a commentary by the author and journalist Beppe Servergnini, a former London correspondent, in which he stressed the enduring influence and popularity of the tabloid press in Britain. The end of the NoW, he wrote "does not represent the end of an era. It merely means that someone went too far."
The Guardian has video of James Murdoch defending Rebekah Brooks' "very good" ethics. Comments below the line please!
The culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has made a statement confirming what everyone anticipated - that the decision on the BSkyB deal will be delayed because of the volume of submissions received relating to it. As has been noted previously, it saves him having to give it the green light, assuming that is the decision he will take, in the midst of a media storm surrounding News Corporation. Hunt said:
The consultation on undertakings in lieu offered by News Corporation in relation to their proposed merger with BSkyB closes at midday today. The secretary of state has always been clear that he will take as long as is needed to reach a decision. The secretary of state will consider carefully all the responses submitted and take advice from Ofcom and the Office of Fair Trading before reaching his decision. Given the volume of responses, we anticipate that this will take some time. He will consider all relevant factors including whether the announcement regarding the News of the World's closure has any impact on the question of media plurality.
Here is the full statement regarding the arrest of Andy Coulson:
The MPS [Metropolitan police service] has this morning [8 July 2011] arrested a member of the public in connection with allegations of corruption and phone hacking.
At 10.30am officers from the MPS' Operation Weeting together with officers from Op Elveden arrested a man on suspicion of conspiring to intercept communications, contrary to Section1(1) Criminal Law Act 1977 and on suspicion of corruption allegations contrary to Section 1 of the Prevention of Corruption Act 1906.
The man, aged 43yrs, was arrested by appointment at a South London police station. He is currently in custody.
The Operation Weeting team is conducting the new investigation into phone hacking.
Operation Elveden is the investigation into allegations of inappropriate payments to police. This investigation is being supervised by the IPCC.
It would be inappropriate to discuss any further details regarding these cases at this time.
BREAKING: Andy Coulson has been arrested, it has been confirmed.
My colleague Peter Walker, at West End Central police station, tells me a very friendly chief inspector Osborn has just been chatting to the gathered journalists on the steps of the station and told them Coulson is not inside, nor does he know when, or even if, he will appear.
Here's a quick summary of some of the key points from Cameron's speech:
• The prime minister announced two inquiries. The first will be led by a judge and will investigate why the why the original police investigation failed and what was was going on at the NoW and other papers. The judge will be able to call witnesses on oath. A second inquiry, to commence this summer, should be undertaken by a panel of experts to look at the "culture, ethics and practices of the British press".
• He refused to apologise for the appointment of Coulson and said he was not warned about Coulson's links with a private investigator accused of murder before his appointment, or at least he did not remember being warned.
• Cameron said he would have accepted Rebekah Brooks' resignation if offered it.
• He said the Press Complaints Commission had failed and should be replaced by a new body, independent of the press and politicians.
• Cameron insisted that the culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt, had to follow legal guidelines in assessing the BSkyB deal.
• In response to a question about James Murdoch's admission that he approved payments that were wrong, the prime minister said police should question anyone "no matter how high or low".
BSkyB shares continue to fall. Now down 38.5p at 772.5p - a fall of 4.8%, writes Julia Kollwe, from the Guardian's city desk.
Panmure Gordon analyst Alex DeGroote said this morning:
By exiting the NoW, News International attempts to draw a line in the sand, at least in terms of likely regulatory interference in the NewsCorp/BSkyB deal. However, the probability of a successful deal is now much reduced. Previously, we would have estimated a 90% plus chance of a deal getting approval, and completing in the near term. Now the probability can be no higher than 50%, and the time-line is likely to be drawn out.
BSkyB shares went into freefall as Cameron was speaking... down 15.5p at 796.5p, or 1.9%, my colleague Julia Kollewe tells me.
A Bloomberg reporter asks whether James Murdoch should be questioned over his statement that he approved payments that he shouldn't have and what would it would take for Murdoch to be deemed not to be a fit and proper person.
Whether he is a fit and proper person is not a question for the PM, says Cameron.
The police must feel they can go where they need....and question everyone to get to the bottom of this.
Cameron concludes his speeach
Michael Crick from Newsnight asks if Cameron hauled Coulson into his office when the Guardian first broke the phone hacking story in 2009.
I did have conversations with him throughout but it didn't lead me to change my perception that he did not know about phone hacking, says Cameron
Cameron is asked whether he has been in contact with Coulson and if he is friends with him.
"He became a friend and is a friend". The prime minister says he has has been in contact with Coulson but "not in recent weeks".
The Guardian's political editor, Patrick Wintour, asks if the PM is saying he had no warning that Coulson had links with a private detective accused of murder (The Telegraph's Peter Oborne and Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger both said he was warned).
I wasn't given any specific information about Andy Coulson ...I don't recall being given any information.
The PM says he is checking and will check whether any of his staff were warned.
Times reporter Roland Watson asks Cameron what specific questions he asked of Coulson.
The prime minister rejects the opportunity to go into detail.
The prime minister said he sought "specific" and "general" assurances. (The PM said earlier he carried out background checks).
Coulson told him he didn't know the hacking had taken place. Cameron says there is still a police investigation ongoing, adding:
"I certainly don't know who at News International knew what about what."
Adam Boulton, from Sky News, asks Cameron whether closing the NoW was the right decision, about his relationship with the press, and whether BSkyB executives pass the fit and proper persons test.
Cameron says it is not for him to say whether the paper should have been closed.
It is natural for the PM to speak to the press and cultivate relationships, says Cameron, but there was a "fundamental failure" to tackle media regulation.
"It is not appropriate for the prime minister to say 'I'd quite like that person to own a newspaper but not that person'," says Cameron on the fit and proper person test. There are organisations qualified and equipped to make those decisions.
Nick Robinson, from BBC News, says the PM's judgement is at issue. Why did you believe a man who had resigned from the NoW over phone hacking?
Cameron said no-one gave him "specific information" about Coulson. This is a reference to the comments of the Telegraph's Peter Oborne and Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger who said Cameron was warned about Coulson's links to a private detective accused of murder.
The PM takes a swipe at Alistair Campbell referring to "dodgy dossiers" by past directors of communications.
Questions now. Chris Ship from ITV News asks the prime minister to apologise for the appointment of Coulson.
No apology is forthcoming.
"The second chance didn't work," says Cameron. It's not meaningful to go over it. People will judge whether they think it's right to give someone a second chance.
The key thing is it's right to judge an individual by the work they did for me.
"Politicians and press have spent time courting" rather than confronting the issues, says Cameron.
It is on my watch that the music has stopped, says the prime minister.
Cameron says he decided to give Coulson a second chance.
The decision to hire him was mine and mine alone and I take full responsibility for it.
He says it has been reported that Rebekah Brooks offered her resignation over this "and I would have taken it".
"The Press Complaints Commission has failed...it lacks public confidence," says Cameron.
The replacement body should be independent of the press and politicians so it is free to hold politicians to account.
The future of press regulation would be better approached on a cross-party basis.
It is no good pointing the finger at this individual journalist or that individual newspaper.
Politicians "including me" have not adequately "gripped" this matter, says Cameron. He refers to the last government's failure to act but says the opposition, then the Conservatives, did not do enough either.
Party leaders were so keen to win the support of papers we turned a blind eye to the need to sort this.
Firstly, we need action to get to the bottom of what has happened, says Cameron. The original police investigation was "inadequate". The police are now being investigated with "full independent insight".
But people want to know how this happened. A judge needs to be in charge of an independent inquiry to find out:
1. why the original police investigation failed.
2. what was going on at the NoW
3. what was going on at other papers.
Witnesses will be questioned under oath and "no stone will be left unturned".
A second inquiry, to commence this summer, should be undertaken by a panel of experts to look at the "culture, ethics and practices of the British press".
The prime minister is speaking.
The whole country has been shocked by the revelations of the phone hacking scandal.
I cannot think what was going through the mind of the people who did this.
The hacking of Milly Dowler's phone was "despicable".
But this is not just about the journalists at one paper.
Still waiting for the prime minister to arrive at the podium for his press conference at Downing Street.
Another colleague, Shiv Malk, has obtained confirmation that David Cameron's former director of communications is not at any central London police station.
The Press Association says Coulson's appointment with detectives is due for later today.
The shares of Trinity Mirror and the Daily Mail & General Trust have risen this morning - 10% and 3% respectively - on speculation they will benefit from the News of the World's closure, the Press Association reports. BSkyB dipped 4p to 810p.
David Cameron is due to begin his press conference any moment.
On his Guardian blog, Roy Greenslade has rounded up what today's papers say about the phone hacking scandal and the decision to close the News of the World. Here's his summary of the editorials and comment pieces:
The Decline of the English Titillator has been swift, unsentimental and – even with all the cancers its newsroom acquired while under the Murdoch tutelage – cruel.
Stephen Glover in The Independent was in no doubt that News International's chief executive Rebekah Brooks will have to go and argued that "James and even Rupert Murdoch may not be safe." He believes the closure is "a desperate ploy by a dysfunctional company."
The Indy's editorial also castigated the management team that remains in place. It contended: "The life of a notorious newspaper might have been extinguished yesterday, but the stench of cover-up and criminality hangs as thick as ever in the Murdoch court."
Andrew Gilligan in the Daily Telegraph reminded us that some of the "morally dubious" methods used so by the NoW do have their place in journalism - but only for good reasons:
We sometimes pay for information. We sometimes use subterfuge. But the difference is that unlike the News of the World, where hacking seems to have been almost a reflex, most newspapers employ subterfuge, payment and the like rarely, carefully and on stories of real public interest. In a country as secretive as Britain, there is sometimes no other way to obtain information of vital public importance.
In The Times (paywall), William Rees-Mogg wrote:
The first rule of newspaper ethics, as with the ethics of political life, is not to lose touch with the moral codes of the audience: common sense, goodwill, help to neighbours, decent conduct in general.
In financial terms, the News of the World was of far less importance to the future of the [News Corp] group than BSkyB. The NoW was a rather elderly cash cow for the business; the BSkyB purchase could greatly strengthen the ability of the Murdoch business to finance further ventures on a global scale in the face of determined competition. The NoW was something above a financial indulgence but it would have become an indulgence too far to allow the failings of judgment in one newspaper to block far more promising developments.
The Times's leader (paywall) was headlined: "Unpopular journalism: After a colourful, prize-winning career the News of the World lost its bearings and the faith of its readers."
Like Lloyd in the FT, it set off by reminding us of the famous introduction to George Orwell's essay, Decline of the English Murder, which linked the NoW to the image of a family enjoying a Sunday roast dinner.
The last sentence was of particular interest, because it followed what I take to be News Int's propagandistic policy line:
A handful of people have trampled upon others in grief and despair. They have shamed themselves, destroyed a newspaper and damaged trust in the free press. It will be a long time before that trust is regained.
This is a sad echo of the original "rogue reporter" defence. This time around it is aimed at blaming everything on departed staff and sealing off criticism of both Brooks and James Murdoch.
The Daily Mail was having none of that. Its editorial, Hubris and a threat to press freedom finished with this sentence:
Our sympathies are with the NoW's innocent sub-editors and printers who can feel with some justification that they have been sacrificed in the ultimately unsustainable attempt to save the job of the company's chief executive.
After showing sympathy for the "foot soldiers lined up in front of a corporate firing squad... for a series of scandals from an era before many started working on the title" it said:
Few believe the decision was made out of any corporate moral compunction. Rather it was a straightforward business decision and 'a classic Murdoch sleight of hand'.
It should be noted that no-one else has seen Coulson arrive and it won't surprise you that there are many people waiting outside for a glimpse of him.
Miliband has just finished speaking. Here are some key quotes.
On politicians' relationship with the press:
For too long, political leaders have been too concerned about what people in the press would think and too fearful of speaking out about these issues. If one section of the media is allowed to grow so powerful that it becomes insulated from political criticism a nd scrutiny of its behaviour, the proper system of checks and balances breaks down and abuses of power are likely to follow. We must all bear responsibility for that. My party has not been immune from it. Nor has the current government and Prime Minister. All of this is difficult because of his personal relationships and the powerful forces here.
On David Cameron's relationship with Andy Coulson:
Putting it right for the prime minister means starting by the appalling error of judgement he made in hiring Andy Coulson. Apologising for bringing him in to the centre of the government machine. Coming clean about what conversations he had with Andy Coulson before and after his appointment about phone-hacking.
On the need for a judge-led inquiry:
We need a judge-led inquiry to shine a light on the culture and practices which need to change. This should be established immediately with terms of reference agreed before the summer. The inquiry should cover the culture and unlawful practices of some parts of the newspaper industry, the relationship between the police and media, and the nature of regulation.
On the BSkyB deal:
Most immediately, the decision on BskyB has significant implications for media ownership in Britain. The public must have confidence that the right decisions are being made.
That is why we have consistently said there should be a reference to the Competition Commission, the proper regulatory body. The government has chosen a different path which relies on assurances from executives at News Corporation. Given the doubts hanging over the assurances about phone hacking by News international executives, I cannot see, and the public will not understand, how this can provide the fair dealing that is necessary.
On the culpability of News International executives:
I welcome James Murdoch's admission of serious errors. But closing the News of the World, possibly to re-open as the Sunday Sun, is not the answer. Instead those who were in charge must take responsibility for what happened.
On Media regulation and the Press Complaints Commission:
The PCC was established to be a watchdog. But it has been exposed as a toothless poodle.
Wherever blame lies for this, the PCC cannot restore trust in self-regulation. It is time to put the PCC out of its misery. We need a new watchdog. There needs to be fundamental change. My instincts continue to be that a form of self-regulation would be the best way forward. That is a debate we should have. But it would need to be very different to work.
Let me make some initial suggestions, drawing on many of the debates about the inadequacies of the system. A new body should have: far greater independence of its Board members from those it regulates; proper investigative powers; and an ability to enforce corrections.
Ed Miliband is giving a speech at Reuters.
He says it "has been a tumultuous week for British journalism with allegations that have shocked the British public's sense of decency".
Good morning. Welcome to the Guardian's continued live coverage of the News of the World phone hacking scandal.
• David Cameron's former director of communications Andy Coulson has been told by police that he will be arrested this morning over suspicions that he knew about, or had direct involvement in, the hacking of mobile phones during his editorship of the News of the World. The Guardian understands that a second arrest is also to be made in the next few days of a former senior journalist at the paper. The Guardian knows the identity of the second suspect but is withholding the name to avoid prejudicing the police investigation.
• The prime minister will hold a press conference at 9.30am at which he will be under pressure over the government's handling of the phone hacking scandal and the BSkyB takeover deal, his hiring of Andy Coulson, who resigned in January, his friendship with Rebekah Brooks and his close links with the Murdochs.