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Deepening News of the World Scandal Threatens Murdoch’s $12B TV Deal

July 8, 2011 at 12:00 AM EDT
There was more fallout from The News of the World's phone-hacking scandal Friday when London police arrested former editor Andrew Coulson, who once worked for Prime Minister David Cameron. International Television News' Gary Gibbon reports on the scandal and new allegations that News Corp. may have attempted a cover-up.

JIM LEHRER: The News of the World scandal in Britain took new turns today. The Rupert Murdoch tabloid is shutting down on Sunday, amid allegations that reporters hacked into phones of murder victims and the families of slain soldiers.

Today, police in London arrested three people, including former editor Andrew Coulson, who once worked for Prime Minister David Cameron. And Cameron himself faced new questions.

MAN: No further than this line, ladies and gentlemen. Agreed?

MAN: Agreed.

MAN: Agreed?

GARY GIBBON: Police officers entered Andy Coulson’s home at lunchtime to remove his hard drive and other potential evidence. The prime minister in Number 10 had just given one of those press appearances Andy Coulson used to manage for him.

DAVID CAMERON, British prime minister: Good morning, everyone.

GARY GIBBON: Instead of standing in his traditional place, at the back of a hall watching David Cameron speak, Andy Coulson was heading for a South London police station, where he was arrested and questioned on suspicion of conspiracy to hack phones and on suspicion of bribing police officers.

DAVID CAMERON: I made a decision to employ Andy Coulson. He had resigned from the News of the World. He said at the time he didn’t know what was happening on his watch. He should have known what was happening on his watch. He paid the price. He resigned.

GARY GIBBON: David Cameron hired Andy Coulson in opposition to run his press operation barely five months after Mr. Coulson has resigned as editor of the News of the World and the paper’s royal correspondent was jailed for phone hacking.

MAN: Didn’t you turn a blind eye as to what every single person knew; you couldn’t be an editor or deputy editor of that newspaper without knowing what was going on?

DAVID CAMERON: There had been what I thought at the time was what looked on the surface of it a proper investigation had taken place, where someone had been imprisoned. And, so, it seemed to me that, because he had resigned for what had happened, which he said he didn’t know about, it was reasonable to offer that person a second chance.

GARY GIBBON: David Cameron said that the scandal dogging the Murdochs and News International was a wakeup call to politicians, who had turned a blind eye to newspaper malpractice because they wanted newspaper support.

DAVID CAMERON: Over the decades, on the watch of both Labor leaders and Conservative leaders, politicians and the press have spent time courting support, not confronting the problems. Well, it is on my watch that the music has stopped. And I’m saying loud and clear that things have got to change.

GARY GIBBON: Although the prime minister said he wanted the current self-regulation by newspapers to be replaced by something independent, it wasn’t clear just how much the relationship between political leaders and newspapers would change.

For the first time, David Cameron distanced himself from his friend and neighbor Rebekah Brooks, former News of the World editor, now News International executive, still, to many, defying gravity as she keeps her job.

DAVID CAMERON: It has been reported that she offered her resignation over this. And, in this situation, I would have taken it.

GARY GIBBON: By the end of the press conference, Andy Coulson was inside Lewisham police station in South London being questioned.

At another police station, police pulled in the former royal correspondent of the News of the World, Clive Goodman, who served a four-month sentence for phone hacking. This time, they were questioning him on suspicion of making illegal payments to police officers.

Police are said to be even more concerned about a massive deletion of data belonging to News International, which they think they will never be able to retrieve.

JIM LEHRER: That report was by correspondent — ITN correspondent Gary Gibbon.