MICHELE NORRIS, host:
There has been a major development in Britain's phone hacking scandal. It has engulfed a tabloid that's part of Rupert Murdoch's media empire. Murdoch's son, James, announced this afternoon that the News of the World will publish its final issue this Sunday, after 168 years in print.
NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik joins us now from London to help us walk through all this. David, shutting down the paper seems a radical move.
DAVID FOLKENFLIK: Well, a radical move in response to a series of astonishing developments. You know, the News of the World is the nation's most popular Sunday newspaper. But it's been closed after these allegations, one after another, starting a few years ago that journalists and investigators had hacked into the phones of celebrities and politicians. But in recent days, disclosures that they seem to have also hacked into the mobile voicemail messages of the victims of crimes and of, for example, the victims of the July 2005 London terror bombings.
You've seen advertisers peal away, stock price has gone down a bit. There have been also allegations that cops were paid off and those allegations seem to have meat to them. And all of this seeming to put Rupert Murdoch's desire to takeover a major broadcaster here in full called BskyB, it's put it really at risk. It was supposed to be approved tomorrow in a fairly pro forma event. It's now been put off indefinitely.
NORRIS: There's been quite a controversy surrounding this hacking scandal at the News of the World. Will this quell that controversy?
FOLKENFLIK: Well, I got to tell you. Over the course of the hours since the announcement came from James Murdoch, Rupert Murdoch's son, that the News of the World would have its final edition on Sunday, the reaction from politicians, from journalists, from advocates for those whose phones were hacked, ranges from skepticism to outright cynicism. I don't think it's doing a lot to quell the criticism at all.
NORRIS: How will this affect James Murdoch himself?
FOLKENFLIK: Well, it seems like he's really been touched by this scandal. He expressed not exactly a fulsome apology, but regret about what had played out. But, you know, it puts him in an embarrassing situation. A few years back, he pronounced that there'd been just a few bad apples involved; a couple of guys involved in earlier hacking incidents had gone to jail. But it turned out, according to the Guardian, which printed this story, that he had approved payment of over a million pounds to try to hush up some of these incidents.
And he assailed the Guardian for bringing this to light, saying that they're trying to stir up trouble for a competitor. Now he says, at the time, he just didn't have all the facts. That doesn't really reflect that well.
NORRIS: David, there have been growing calls for the resignation of Murdoch's top news executive in Britain. Yet, so far, she seems to be surviving. She's one of the most powerful women in London media circles.
FOLKENFLIK: Absolutely. Rebecca Brooks is the chief executive of News International, which is the unit that oversees the newspapers here; not only the tabloid, News of the World and the Sun, but also the more prestigious Sunday Times and The Times of London.
She was the editor-in-chief of the News of the World at the time that the News of the World appears to have hacked into the voicemail messages of a young, abducted girl who was killed. That hacking ended up interfering in a police investigation, it seems; and also, in giving her parents false hope that she might still be alive. So that's a real sticking point for a lot of people.
In addition, her former deputy, a favored person, a guy by the name of Andrew Colson appears to be, according to the Guardian, likely to be arrested tomorrow or very soon, and is now accused of perhaps perjuring himself in another trial.
NORRIS: David Folkenflik, thank you very much.
FOLKENFLIK: You bet.
NORRIS: That's NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik reported from London.
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