New facts chip away at Murdoch's UK media empire



London: Media baron Rupert Murdoch was on Tuesday summoned to appear before British lawmakers as new revelations about his UK-based group's illegal news gathering practices diminished his influence in the country.

The new revelations included the dismayed former prime minister Gordon Brown going on television to state that Murdoch's News International used criminals and the 'criminal underworld' to access details about his tax, bank account and also the health records of his son, Fraser.

Murdoch has now been asked to appear before the Culture, Media & Sport committee of the House of Commons, along with his son, James Murdoch, and chief executive of News International, Rebekah Brooks.

"We have been made aware of the request from the CMS select committee to interview senior executives and will cooperate. We await the formal invitation," the News International said.

Top officials of the Scotland Yard were grilled on live television today by the Home Affairs Select Committee chaired by Indian-origin Labour MP, Keith Vaz.

They were closely questioned why earlier police inquiries on the issue did not look at related evidence, and prevent the illegal practices.

It was revealed during the session that News International did not cooperate during the earlier inquiries, while Sue Akers, the deputy assistance commissioner currently heading the police inquiry named Operating Weeting, guaranteed a thorough inquiry into the scandal.

The phone-hacking scandal has thrown open a can of worms across politics, media and the police with Murdoch's influence suffering serious knocks.

Brown expressed surprise in an interview to BBC at the "level of criminality" allegedly indulged in Murdoch's News International, and said the group had links with the 'known criminals and the criminal underworld' in Britain.

Brown, whose tax and bank details were allegedly secured illegally at the behest of Murdoch-owned newspaper titles, accused The Sunday Times of trying to bring him down as a government minister.

He said he was "in tears" when he was told by News International journalists that The Sun had details of his son Fraser's medical condition (he has cystic fibrosis) because he had wanted the information to be kept private.

"Sarah and I were incredibly upset about it, we were thinking about his long term future, we were thinking about our family," he said.

He said he did not know how the newspaper had got access to the details, "The fact is, it did appear and it did appear in the Sun newspaper."

James Murdoch, Chairman of News International who owned the 'News of the World' tabloid had shut down the 168-year-old paper last weekend in the face of the raging phone hacking scandal, where money was swapped for scoops.

PTI