The News Corp.-owned tabloid News of the World will close for good after Sunday’s edition, James Murdoch — chairman of News International — announced Thursday, amid fresh allegations that Britain’s war dead, murder victims and a lawyer connected to Princess Diana were targeted in phone hackings.
"Having consulted senior colleagues, I have decided that we must take further decisive action with respect to the paper. This Sunday will be the last issue of the News of the World," the Toronto star quotes James Murdoch, son of Rupert Murdoch, as saying. "The News of the World is in the business of holding others to account. But it failed when it came to itself."
Additionally, Murdoch said, the 168-year-old News of the World, Britain's biggest-selling Sunday newspaper, will donate all revenue from the paper's last edition this Sunday to "good causes," the SMH reports.
The scandal surrounding reports that the News of the World hacked the telephone accounts of dead British soldiers hit close to home for News Corp. on Thursday, with suggestions that it could slow down the company's attempt to buy British satellite TV network BSkyB.
MSNBC reported Thursday that the arrests of up to five News of the World employees were expected within days. And calls for a public inquiry are mounting, the SMH reports.
And the scandal triggered an advertiser boycott after it was alleged that Murdoch journalists gained access to the mobile phone data of a missing 13-year-old girl who was subsequently found to have been murdered.
GlobalPost reports from Britain: Britain convulses over phone hacking scandal
Meanwhile, News Corp. shares continued a slide that started Wednesday amid allegations that the voicemails of murder victims, relatives of British soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan and people killed in the July 7 bombings, were hacked into in an effort to find stories.
Murdoch — in Sun Valley Idaho, attending a conference with his wife Wendy Deng — declined to comment further on the escalating scandal, saying that he would not be adding to a statement he issued Wednesday that the behavior of staff at the News of the World, had been "deplorable and unacceptable."
According to the SMH, James Murdoch also reportedly said Thursday:
"In addition, I have decided that all of the News of the World’s revenue this weekend will go to good causes.
"While we may never be able to make up for distress that has been caused, the right thing to do is for every penny of the circulation revenue we receive this weekend to go to organisations — many of whom are long-term friends and partners — that improve life in Britain and are devoted to treating others with dignity.
"We will run no commercial advertisements this weekend.
"Any advertising space in this last edition will be donated to causes and charities that wish to expose their good works to our millions of readers.
"These are strong measures. They are made humbly and out of respect. I am convinced they are the right thing to do.’’
The latest allegations add to a string of claims against the tabloid over three years, concerning voice-mail hacking of the phone records of dozens of politicians and celebrities.
The New York Times has a concise synopsis of the new problems at the tabloid: Allegations "that its executives had paid police officers, lied to Parliament, hired investigators to intercept voice mail messages left on the cell phones of murdered children and terrorism victims, and, in one instance, tampered with a murder investigation in which the suspects were linked to The News of the World."
Murdoch has publicly Rebekah Brooks, who runs the News International group that oversees News of the World and himself largely avoided direct scrutiny, as has his son, James.
But the media mogul's close relationship with British Prime Minister David Cameron has come under scrutiny, particularly relating to perceived favoritism of Murdoch's business in the U.K.
Meantime, All things Digital (owned by News Corp.) reports that the BSkyB deal may be in jeopardy, or at least take much longer to close.
"Earlier this month the transaction, which would see News Corp. acquire the 61 percent of BSkyB it doesn’t already own, looked like a done deal," the site reports.
Citing the Financial Times, ir reports that the deal won’t be approved until September at the earliest, citing an influx of public comments on the proposal. The British government, in response, says there isn’t an official timetable.