News Corp’s London arm News International has set up a website for those seeking compensation for having their phones hacked on the orders of the company’s now-defunct tabloid, News of the World. The media empire is already facing more than 60 civil action suits for invasion of privacy. The website, and the courts, are likely to see a lot of traffic. The day before its launch, London police revealed that they knew of 5,800 people hacked by the tabloid and that number could rise. That’s almost 2,000 above estimates released in July when the tabloid was shuttered.
The company has reportedly set aside £20 million ($32 million) in order to pay out the claims made against them, but the Guardian reports that News International could end up paying out ten times that amount. And this is a scandal that just keeps on giving with phone-hacking only one area under investigation. On Nov. 4 Jamie Pyatt, a journalist from the News of the World‘s stablemate, the Sun, was arrested by police investigating corrupt payments to police. And the BBC alleges not only that the News of the World hired investigators to spy on the lawyers for the hacking victims with the intention of discrediting them but that it commissioned covert surveillance of public figures and their relatives “on an industrial scale.” Those targeted are said to have included not only Prince William and his brother Prince Harry’s on-off-girlfriend Chelsy Davy but the parents of Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe.
This makes uncomfortable news for the Murdoch dynasty of newsmen and not least for James Murdoch, Rupert’s youngest son, who faces a second interrogation by a committee of British MPs this week. The compensation website — which was a voluntary scheme on News International’s part — was plainly an attempt to patch up the publicity mess of the hacking and most likely a way to clear the air before the upcoming interrogation. With the latest surveillance revelations, however, the Murdochs won’t likely be able to move past the scandal by throwing money at the problem. And, naturally, the papers are having a field day.
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