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Excerpt: "Sky News, a British satellite news broadcaster whose parent company is controlled by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, admitted Thursday that one of its reporters had hacked into e-mails on two occasions while pursuing news stories, the first time that Britain's hacking scandal has spilled into television news."

A day after Rupert Murdoch's son resigned from Sky News, the British broadcaster admitted to hacking. (photo: Telegragh)
A day after Rupert Murdoch's son resigned from Sky News, the British broadcaster admitted to hacking. (photo: Telegragh)



British Broadcaster With Murdoch Link Admits to Hacking

By Sarah Lyall and Ravi Somaiya, The New York Times

06 April 12

 

ky News, a British satellite news broadcaster whose parent company is part-owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, admitted Thursday that one of its reporters had hacked into e-mails on two occasions while pursuing news stories, the first time that Britain's hacking scandal has spilled into television news.

The acknowledgment came just two days after Mr. Murdoch's son James resigned as chairman of Sky's parent company, British Sky Broadcasting, or BSkyB. Company officials said there was no link between the resignation and the hacking revelations, which were made public only as a result of a recent inquiry by the newspaper The Guardian.

Sky said the hacking, while illegal, had been authorized by its executives for journalistic reasons — in pursuit of a story that benefited the public interest — and in one instance had helped a police investigation. And the company said that a continuing review of its e-mail records and accounts had so far turned up no evidence of impropriety in Sky's reporting practices.

"We stand by these actions as editorially justified and in the public interest," the head of Sky News, John Ryley, said in a statement. "We do not take such decisions lightly or frequently."

The admission came after months of overlapping police, parliamentary and judicial inquiries into phone hacking, e-mail hacking and paying bribes to public officials at two Murdoch-owned tabloids, The Sun and the now-defunct News of the World. In general, broadcasters abide by higher standards of news gathering in Britain than newspapers do. Sky News operates separately from the Murdochs' newspaper business and has asserted its independence by aggressively reporting on News Corporation's troubles.

Still, the disclosures of e-mail hacking come at an awkward time for BSkyB, which is 39.1 percent owned by News Corporation and which has suffered from its association with the Murdochs as the hacking scandal has unfolded.

"This is nothing like the hacking at The News of the World," said Roy Greenslade, a journalism professor at City University London. "But there's an embarrassment in that it's another News Corporation business, so people will be saying, ‘That's just typical of Murdoch.' "

Last summer, stung by sustained criticism in Parliament and across Britain, News Corporation withdrew one of Mr. Murdoch's cherished goals: its $12 billion bid to take over the portion of BSkyB that he did not own already. On Tuesday, in announcing James Murdoch's resignation from BSkyB, the company said the continuing phone hacking investigation was making him a lightning rod for dissatisfaction and proving distracting to the company.

A report from a House of Commons select committee investigating phone hacking is scheduled to be released within the next few weeks, and is expected to criticize the younger Mr. Murdoch for what some members believe was incomplete and misleading testimony during hearings last summer.

"I believe that my resignation will help to ensure that there is no false conflation with events at a separate organization," Mr. Murdoch, 39, wrote in a letter to the BSkyB board, referring to News International, the British newspaper arm of his father's media empire. He resigned as chief executive of News International five weeks ago.

Mr. Ryley of Sky said Thursday that one of the e-mail hacking cases occurred in 2008 and concerned John Darwin, a Briton who staged his death in a fake canoeing accident in 2002 but actually moved to Panama and, in collusion with his wife, collected £500,000 in life insurance.

Known in the tabloids as the "canoe man," Mr. Darwin returned to Britain and lived in a secret apartment in his old house until 2007, when he turned himself in to a police station, claiming at first to have no idea what he had been doing for the last five years.

The next year, a Sky News reporter pursuing the story sought permission to hack into e-mails he suspected had been used by the Darwins to communicate after Mr. Darwin's fake death, Mr. Ryley said in an online posting.

"After careful consideration, Sky News granted permission because we believed the story was justified in the public interest," Mr. Ryley said. "None of the material obtained was broadcast prior to the conviction and our coverage made clear that we had discovered and supplied e-mails to the police. There has been no attempt by Sky News to conceal these facts, which have been available on our Web site ever since."

In a statement, the police department in Cleveland, which handled the Darwin case, said that it had "conducted an initial review into these matters and can confirm that inquiries are ongoing into how these e-mails were obtained."

A second case involved e-mails relating to a suspected pedophile, a spokeswoman for Sky News said. On both occasions, she said, the managing editor of Sky News, Simon Cole, authorized the hacking.

The company likened the e-mail hacking to other instances in which journalists broke the law for the sake of journalism. In 2004, Sky News journalists bought an Uzi machine gun to highlight how easy it was to buy illegal weapons in Britain. The year before, a reporter penetrated airport security to show how porous it was.

BSkyB has suffered various upheavals in the last year. As a result of the allegations surrounding the Murdochs' newspaper business in Britain, the broadcaster is being investigated by Ofcom, the British broadcast regulator, over whether it is "fit and proper" to hold a television license.

Critics seized on Sky's disclosures as evidence of impropriety at the company.

"The chair of BSkyB has to say something on this and reassure viewers that this has not been going on more widely," Tom Watson, a Labour Party member of Parliament and a persistent Murdoch critic, told the BBC. "There are cases where the public is best served with journalists breaking the law, but it has to be done in extremis, and I am not sure whether it was in these two cases."

But Clare Enders, the head of Enders Analysis, a media research firm in London, said she thought that the biggest potential obstacle to BSkyB's retaining its broadcast license had been James Murdoch, and that his resignation had removed much of the problem.

"We all spend our days shell-shocked because it's been one thing after another," Ms. Enders said in an interview, referring to the seemingly endless stream of disclosures about wrongdoing at News International. Still, compared with past revelations by other British media outlets, she said she did not consider Sky's practices "that big a deal."

Rupert Murdoch, who is 81, has complained on Twitter recently that critics have been unfairly targeting News Corporation with false allegations.

He was particularly incensed, it seems, by reports in the BBC, PBS and The Australian Financial Review charging that a section of his television operation hacked the encryption codes of its pay-television rivals in Britain and Australia, encouraging piracy to undermine their businesses in the late 1990s.

"Seems every competitor and enemy piling on with lies and libels," he wrote on Twitter last week. "So bad, easy to hit back hard, which preparing."

 

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+10 # pernsey 2012-04-06 09:47
Murdoch complaining that critics are unfair...LOL!! What a joke, this guy will burn in hell for all the stuff hes done...how does it feel Rupert to be a victim of your own nonsense? Its only fair when Fox news does it to others, but not fair when it happens to you? This guy is right up there with Dick Cheney on the SCUM-O-METER!!!
 
 
+10 # AndreM5 2012-04-06 10:57
Big difference. Murdoch is not a "victim" of his own tactics, he is being trashed with the truth, not the sort of lies his empire is built upon.
 
 
+5 # TrueAmericanPatriot 2012-04-06 14:54
The "Iceberg" (Murdoch Scandal) has ripped a massive in the hull of the Titanic (Murdoch Media Empire). Ladies and gentlemen, TITAMIC has seen its LAST SUNRISE...RIGHT ON SCHEDULE! MAKE SURE THAT FAUX NEWS SINKS ALONG WITH IT!
 

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