From News of the World to the news of the day, media scandals in the U.K. have become practically de rigueur over the past few months. In fact, the phone-hacking scandal and the subsequent parliamentary, public and police inquires into media ethics have each been repeatedly called “the gift that keeps on giving” for journalists. The scandal that started with a single paper at News International, the British newspaper arm of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, has since expanded and touched on politicians, police officers and corporate executives. Yet there are days when even the most jaded reporter will be floored by the reach of the scandal. Put another, more clichéd, way: when it rains, it pours.
The week of May 28 was already sure to be momentous, as a series of high-profile politicians, including former Prime Minister Tony Blair and serving members of the current government, were summoned to give testimony at the inquiry led by Lord Justice Brian Leveson. Yet, the scandal’s twists and turns weren’t confined to the inquiry. An additional series of revelations, which no one was accounting for, have not only kept journalists and investigators very, very busy but have also solidified the idea that the tentacles of phone-hacking allegations spread very, very far. Here’s a run-down of the week’s revelations, so far:
CHARGES: News broke Tuesday night that the Crown Prosecution Service had been forwarded another case related to the investigation into phone-hacking. This time the charges related to a police officer accused of misconduct in public office and corruption. While there have been dozens of arrests in the hacking-related investigations, this marks just the seventh case where charges are being formally considered or, indeed, have been pressed by the prosecuting authorities.
COULSON: On Wednesday, Andy Coulson, Prime Minister David Cameron’s former communications director and a former News of the World editor, was arrested and charged with perjury. In 2010, Coulson testified at the perjury trial of Scottish politician Tommy Sheridan at the High Court in Glasgow. As a result of that trial, Sheridan was jailed for three years for lying under oath during his 2006 defamation action against the NotW. Coulson had testified during the trial that he had no knowledge of illegal activities by reporters while he was editor of the tabloid. This isn’t the first time that Coulson has been arrested; last July, he was detained under suspicion of conspiring to intercept communications and corruption during his time as editor at NotW. He was held for about six hours on Wednesday before being released on bail. There has been no comment on the perjury charge, though Coulson has stated in the past that he had no knowledge of hacking at NotW.
CONNERY: There is already a long list of celebrities who’ve been informed they were likely victims of phone-hacking by News of the World. The latest addition to that list is none other than James Bond himself. The Guardian reported Wednesday that Scottish actor Sean Connery was alerted by police that they suspected his phone had been hacked several times in the past by the now-shuttered tabloid. Connery’s close confident and biographer, Murray Grigor, told the Guardian: “Apparently there were 10 instances… but [Connery] doesn’t want to know. He doesn’t want anything to do with it.”
CABLE: Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrat Business Secretary and former adjudicator of the News Corp. multi-billion-dollar bid on the British Sky Broadcasting company, appeared before Leveson on Wednesday. Removed from his quasi-judicial role over the bid due to a perceived bias against News Corp. – he was famously secretly recorded saying that he’d “declared war” on Murdoch – Cable’s testimony was sure to be sensational. And it was, as he revealed that members of the News Corp. camp made “veiled threats” to Cable, insinuating that if he did not approve the takeover, his party would be “done over” by the newspaper group. Cable also wrote in his witness statement submitted to the inquiry that he “believed that the Murdochs’ political influence exercised through their newspapers had become disproportionate.”
CANNED: As if that weren’t enough news about the news, unrelated to the hacking scandal, former-Leveson witnesses Richard Wallace and Tina Weaver also made headlines when it was announced that they were leaving their prominent posts as editors of the Daily Mirror and the Sunday Mirror, respectively. In a letter to staff, Mark Hollingshead, managing director of national titles at Trinity Mirror group, told employees that the dual departures were due to the papers’ shift to a seven-day publishing model. Though the Trinity Mirror is a wholly separate company from News International, there’s the definite feeling that there’s been a change in the media tide. When Murdoch closed the NotW, he too changed one of his best-selling papers, The Sun, from a Monday through Saturday paper, to a seven-day operation. It seems that the waves caused by the NotW closure have clearly caused ripples across other papers as well.
And the week’s surprises aren’t likely to stop there. Many have Thursday marked down in their calendars, as it’s the day that Conservative Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt is testifying at Leveson, likely about his role overseeing the BSkyB bid and his relationship with the News Corp. crew. It could spell the political downfall of the Tory MP, who was unexpectedly caught up in the scandal when James Murdoch revealed a slew of email correspondences indicating coziness between the government and the media conglomerate. Yet for all the surprises the mining of the media culture has thrown at us, there is one thing everyone can be near certain of: the scandal will continue to grow and it’s never certain who will be ensnared next.