The US Federal Bureau of Investigation has launched an investigation into Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp over alleged phone hacking crimes, as the media mogul admitted to ‘minor mistakes’ in his handling of the crisis.
Eric Holder, US attorney general, confirmed the probe after members of Congress requested officials examine allegations that News Corp tried to hack into the phones of 9/11 victims.
Before spreading to the United States, the phone hacking scandal had already forced News Corp to abandon its £7 billion takeover bid for British Sky Broadcasting (BSY.L), and close Britain’s biggest-selling newspaper, the News of the World.
BSkyB shares inched up 4.5p to 700.5p in early trading on Friday after dropping 9.5p to 696p in the previous session, while News Corp gave up 37 cents, or 2.26%, to $15.99 on Thursday.
Meanwhile, Murdoch said News Corp had handled the crisis ‘extremely well in every way possible’, making just ‘minor mistakes’, in his first significant public comments since the crisis engulfed his media empire.
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, a title he owns, the News Corp chairman and chief executive vigorously defended the company's handling of the crisis but said it would establish an independent committee to ‘investigate every charge of improper conduct’.
The comments came a day after Murdoch and his son James, head of News Corp’s European operations, changed their minds and agreed to appear before a parliamentary committee next Tuesday.
In spite of the mounting public outrage, Murdoch told the Wall Street Journal that the damage to the company was ‘nothing that will not be recovered. We have a reputation of great good works in this country.’
Asked if he was aggravated by the negative headlines in recent days, he said he was ‘just getting annoyed. I'll get over it. I'm tired.’
Speaking to Newsnight, Prince Al Waleed bin Talal, News Corp’s biggest non-family shareholder, said News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks would have to go ‘if her connection [to phone hacking] is explicit’. However, he reiterated his support for James Murdoch.
Rupert and James Murdoch reversed their decision not to face questions in parliament after David Cameron, prime minister, said they should attend.
In the past week, politicians across the spectrum united in condemning the phone hacking that initially had appeared to focus on celebrities and politicians but has become far more widespread.