Murdochs, News Corp Face Big Week Of Investigations

This is a big week for Rupert and James Murdoch. The father and son face more questions from a wide-ranging judicial investigation into press abuses at British units of News Corporation: tabloid phone hacking, computer hacking and a police bribery scandal. Monday marked yet another embarrassing day for News Corp and the Murdochs as Sky News acknowledged it had hacked into the email of the target of two stories, despite explicitly telling the inquiry in September it had not been involved in any hacking.

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In Britain, the allegations keep coming of illegal behavior by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation. Today, an investigation was announced into email hacking by Sky News. News Corp's British operations already stand accused of phone hacking, along with bribing police officers.

As NPR's David Folkenflik reports, the new investigation comes just before Murdoch is scheduled to testify on the sandal.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: The British media regulator called OfCom announced it would investigate two instances of email hacking by reporters for Sky News. Murdoch's News Corp has a controlling minority stake Sky News' parent company, BSkyB.

During his testimony earlier today, Sky News chief John Ryley was pressed by the presiding judge in that wide-ranging inquiry, Brian Leveson.

JUDGE BRIAN LEVESON: None of this is relevant, is it? Because what you were doing wasn't merely invading somebody's privacy, it was breaching the criminal law?

JOHN RYLEY: It was.

LEVESON: Well, where does the OfCom broadcasting code give any authority to a breach of the criminal law?

RYLEY: It doesn't.

FOLKENFLIK: Sky News told the inquiry last September that it had not been involved in any hacking. Ryley apologized today, saying the company was intending to respond only to questions of criminal mobile phone hacking.

The judicial investigation was set up by Prime Minister David Cameron last July, a week after the report that a Murdoch tabloid had hacked into the cell phone messages of a murdered schoolgirl in a famous case.

One part of the inquiry is into the culture, practices, and ethics of the media; another, into the relationship of the press with police officials and politicians.

A series of newspaper owners - those controlling the rival Telegraph, Evening Standard and Independent - are also testifying this week. But Murdoch and his son James will come in for special scrutiny. The younger Murdoch is to testify tomorrow and Rupert will appear Wednesday and possibly Thursday.

CHRIS BRYANT: Because Rupert Murdoch has had 40 percent of the newspapers and the lion's share of the ownership of BSkyB, he's used the one to protect the other.

FOLKENFLIK: Labor MP Chris Bryant has been a critic and a target of the Murdoch press and other tabloids.

BRYANT: He's used fear and favor with politicians to ensure that in exchange for the support of his newspapers, the politicians would provide legislative support for his cash cow, which was BSkyB, the broadcaster. And when people tried to question that, then sometimes his newspapers would be used to attack with remorseless vigor.

FOLKENFLIK: But, of course, power and influence flow in two directions. And it's not known yet what hidden exchanges Rupert Murdoch may reveal about the favors sought from him, from those who have held the nation's highest offices, such as the very prime minister who created this inquiry last summer.

David Folkenflik, NPR News.

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