If this didn't involve Rupert Murdoch, his sensationalism-obsessed headline writers likely would be having a field day with the aging media mogul's growing misfortunes.
Hack Attack Fallout!!!
But what initially began with allegations that Murdoch's British News of the World had illegally hacked scores of Brits' phone messages has widened from a sordid tabloid tale involving a murdered British teen to a burgeoning scandal with broad political, criminal, ethical and business ramifications for Murdoch's far-flung News Corp.
The $33 billion media empire's holdings include U.S.-based Fox TV, film studio 20th Century Fox, publishing giant HarperCollins, The Wall Street Journal and the New York Post.
Murdoch, 80, folded News of the World on Sunday in what trade journals such as Advertising Age said was an effort to placate British regulators and advertisers upset by the hacking incidents. The incidents include accessing phone messages of 13-year-old kipnap and murder victim Milly Dowler, and those of families of 9/11 victims and British soldiers killed in Afghanistan.
Prime Minister David Cameron's former communications chief, Andy Coulson, was arrested last week in connection with alleged payoffs to police when he was editor of News of the World.
Fresh allegations of attempted phone hacking against Britain's royal family (including Prince Charles), paying British police for tips and illegally accessing medical and financial records of former prime minister Gordon Brown and family members by Murdoch's The Sun and The Sunday Times newspapers have caused more damage. That includes the possible unraveling of News Corp.'s planned $12.4 billion acquisition of a 61% stake in British Sky Broadcasting, the United Kingdom's largest pay-TV broadcaster.
News Corp. currently owns a 39% stake in BSkyB and already was running into political opposition in Britain's Parliament over the News of the World scandal. A regulatory review could take six months and allow the scandal to fade, but Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has asked Murdoch to reconsider the bid.
Two News Corp. spokespersons didn't return calls Monday. The company said in a statement that it would investigate new allegations that its papers had hacked the medical records of Brown's son, Fraser. In 2006, The Sun revealed that 4-year-old Fraser Brown had cystic fibrosis.
Fraser's mother, Sarah, tweeted her reaction about the revelations Monday: "So sad to learn all I am about my family's privacy it is very personal and really hurtful if all true."
Londoners are accustomed to the sensational headlines of British tabloids, but many are shocked at reports that Fraser Brown's medical records had been hacked.
"It's absolutely appalling," says Tamsin Kemmiss, 52, a secondary school teacher. "The sublime arrogance of Murdoch being able to just fly in here, keep Rebekah Brooks at her post, shut down the paper. It's all just appalling."
Brooks, CEO of U.K. subsidiary News International, edited News of the World when some of the hacking occurred. She has denied knowledge of any wrongdoing, and Murdoch has stood by her.
Other Londoners aren't surprised at the developments, given the salaciousness of the British tabloids.
"They call it the gutter press for a reason," says Nicholas Thompsell, a senior partner at a London law firm. "It was bad, yes, but I think the media attention on it is out of line with its importance. People are starving, being murdered, and all we've read about for (two weeks) is this."
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