LONDON — The fallout of a roiling scandal over phone hacking in Britain threatened to further damage Rupert Murdoch’s empire Monday, with government officials raising fresh concerns over News Corp.’s bid to take full control of the country’s largest pay TV broadcaster and pressure mounting on the media mogul to hold top executives accountable.
In the latest development,, several British news organizations reported Monday that people working for News Corp. newspapers in Britain, including the Sun and the Sunday Times, targeted former Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s personal information. Brown was scheduled to give a statement later in the day.
Murdoch was in London on Monday, attempting to personally manage what is quickly emerging as a serious crisis for the world’s second-largest media conglomerate, a vast global network of film studios, television stations and newspapers including U.S.-based Fox News and the Wall Street Journal.
murdoch this weekend shuttered the 168-year-old News of the World tabloid, seeking to quell a growing fervor over revelations it used illegal methods to hack the voice mails of not only celebrities and royal family members, but also a broad array of average crime victims. But Britain’s Deputy Prime Minister Nicholas Clegg on Monday suggested that move would not be enough.
After meeting with the parents of Milly Dowler, a 13-year-old abducted and killed in 2002 whose case was complicated by News of the World phone hacks, Clegg called on murdoch to drop his bid to take over full ownership of British Sky Broadcasting, the nation’s most lucrative satellite broadcaster. News Corp. now owns 39 percent.
The call came as Jeremy Hunt, the culture minister who is in charge of the deal, also wrote to Britain’s media regulator to see whether the bid should be submitted to competition authorities — a move some experts interpreted as a sign the government was seeking a way to block it.
The Associated Press reported that News Corp. on Monday withdrew a pledge to spin off Sky News as a condition of the BSkyB takeover.
The opposition Labor Party said on Sunday that it would present a motion in Parliament to prevent the takeover. Such a move could thwart News Corp.’s plans to consolidate its position as the dominant voice of conservative Britain by adding a highly profitable and politically influential asset to its portfolio. As doubts about the deal swirled, BSkyB shares plunged as much as 7 percent in heavy London trading.
“Look how people feel about this, look how the country has reacted with revulsion to the revelations,” Clegg told reporters Monday. He called on murdoch to “do the decent and sensible thing and reconsider, think again, about your bid for BSkyB.”