By TIM ARANGO
July 22, 2009
The editor of News of the World, a London tabloid, told a parliamentary committee on Tuesday that James Murdoch, the son of the media baron Rupert Murdoch, had approved a $1.1 million payment to settle phone-tapping allegations against the paper.
The case — in which the payment was made to Gordon Taylor, the head of the Professional Footballers’ Association — was settled at a 2008 meeting among James Murdoch; Colin Myler, the editor of News of the World; and Tom Crone, a company lawyer, Mr. Myler told a committee of the House of Commons, Bloomberg News reported.
“It was an agreed collective decision,” Mr. Myler told the committee, according to Bloomberg. “It’s how newspapers work.”
The testimony on Tuesday followed a report in The Guardian newspaper two weeks ago that suggested two tabloid newspapers owned by the News Corporation, the media conglomerate controlled by Rupert Murdoch, had engaged in the widespread use of private investigators to illegally hack into the cellphone messages of public officials and celebrities in Britain. News Corporation has denied the allegations.
Shortly after The Guardian article was published, Rupert Murdoch told Bloomberg News that he was unaware of any such payment. “If that had happened,” he said, “I would know about it.”
A News Corporation spokesman declined to comment on Tuesday.
The case involving Mr. Taylor emerged after the 2007 conviction of Clive Goodman, then the editor responsible for News of the World’s coverage of the royal family, on charges that he had hacked into the cellphones of three of its members. Mr. Goodman received a four-month prison sentence. Glenn Mulcaire, a private investigator hired by News of the World, received a six-month sentence. Andy Coulson, who was editor of the paper during the hacking, resigned.
When The Guardian article was published, it caused an uproar in Britain and shined a light on the practices often used by British tabloid journalists. For example, a 2006 report published by the British information commissioner concluded that newspapers commonly hired private investigators. After The Guardian article, Scotland Yard said it would not reopen the matter, adding that it conducted a thorough inquiry three years earlier.
Many editors in London say that newspapers have largely ended the practice. Since the Goodman case, News of the World has enforced a code of conduct that prohibits reporters from hiring private investigators.