Media baron Rupert Murdoch has apologised unreservedly to the British public with a full-page advertisement in several newspapers for “serious wrongdoing” by one of his tabloids that engaged in illegal phone hacking, a day after two of his top executives quit over the scandal.
After landing in London with his characteristic elan a week ago to deal with the crisis, 80-year-old Murdoch changed gears as the controversy threatened to spill over beyond Britain and affect his global media empire.
Murdoch initially supported Rebekah Brooks — who was head of his British operations and ex-editor of the now-closed News of the World tabloid, under whose editorship the phone of murdered teenager Milly Dowler was hacked – but on Friday showed her the door.Another top Murdoch aide to resign was Les Hinton, chief executive of the media group’s Dow Jones, who was head of News International from 1995 to 2007 and has worked with Rupert Murdoch for more than five decades.
Hinton, the most senior executive to leave the conglomerate, said in a statement that he was “ignorant of what apparently happened” but felt it was proper to resign.
In the advertisement published on Saturday, Murdoch said: “We are sorry for the serious wrongdoing that occurred… I realise that simply apologising is not enough. Our business was founded on the idea that a free and open press should be a positive force in society. We need to live up to this”.
He added: “In the coming days, as we take further concrete steps to resolve these issues and make amends for the damage they have caused, you will hear more from us”.
Former deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, who has been severely critical of Murdoch’s business practices, said he was “desperately” trying to save his company, and “ditching everybody else in the process”.
Prescott alleged that Murdoch’s apology changed nothing and only came about because he was going to be asked questions about his record by MPs next week.
Meanwhile, actor Jude Law is reportedly suing The Sun, another newspaper owned by Murdoch, for alleged phone hacking, and has launched legal proceedings over four articles published in 2005 and 2006.
It is for the first time that The Sun, Murdoch’s best-selling daily tabloid, has been dragged into the phone-hacking scandal.
A spokesperson for Murdoch’s News International called the news “a deeply cynical and deliberately mischievous attempt to draw The Sun into the phone-hacking issue.”