Media mogul Rupert Murdoch moved quickly to shut down one of his oldest media holdings -- a 168 year-old, best-selling weekly British tabloid newspaper called News of the World -- amid charges that the paper's journalists hacked into the telephones of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans, murder victims and their families, and bribed police in exchange for information and tips. News of the World was Britain's best-selling Sunday newspaper. Its last issue will be this Sunday, and will not carry any commercial advertisements.
Murdoch dumped the paper at the same time his media empire, News Corp., is trying to win U.K. government approval to take over British Sky Broadcasting Group. News Corp bid US$12.5 billion for the British Sky Broadcasting, but the government has received more than 135,000 comments protesting the acquisition.
Among other things, News of the World is charged with hacking into the voicemail of Milly Dowler, a 13 year old British girl who was abducted in March, 2002 while on her way home from school. The paper recorded the desperate voicemails left by Milly's parents and friends as they repeatedly called the girl and left messages begging her to call and get in touch with them. When Milly's voicemail box was full, News of the World deleted the first voicemails to make room for more. The deletion of the earlier messages led Milly's relatives and friends to believe the girl had done it, and led them to believe she was still alive. It also confused the police as they searched for clues about the girl's disappearance. Milly was eventually found murdered. British police plan to arrest former News of the World journalist Andy Coulson, who in 2002 was deputy editor of the paper. Until recently, Coulson worked as U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron's media advisor and Director of Communications. Coulson resigned that position in January, 2011.
News of the World was founded in 1843 and employed about 200 people. It had a circulation of 2.66 million in May, 2011, and was known for covering sensational stories about crime and sex. Some of Rupert Murdoch's other holdings include the Fox News Channel, the Wall Street Journal and book publisher HarperCollins.