Story transcripts

Bad News

Friday, July 15, 2011

Reporter: Ray Martin
Producers: Stephen Rice, Ali Smith

Rupert Murdoch is one of the most powerful, and most feared, business tycoons around.

But none of that could save his Sunday paper, the News of the World, as the phone hacking scandal just got worse and worse.

Last weekend he was forced to close it down and now the entire Murdoch empire is under siege.

But it wasn't the high and mighty who pulled the rug out from under him, as Ray Martin reports, it was public opinion and average everyday people who finally said, "That's it, that's enough."

Full transcript:

RAY MARTIN: Australia’s home-grown media mogul, Rupert Murdoch built his global empire on tabloid newspapers. It was the muck-raking News of the World that kick-started his reign as the baron of London’s Fleet Street and - some say - the most powerful man in Britain.

MURDOCH: If you’ll just keep silent for a minute.

RAY MARTIN: But this week the tables turned - Murdoch became the headline and - swept up in a runaway scandal – had to shut down The News of the World forever.

HUGH GRANT: It’s revolting. You know, I like to feel proud of our country and proud of our democracy and here we are with something a democratic system that has had for a very long time a massive cancer in its side.

RAY MARTIN: Celebrities like Hugh Grant - so often the fodder of the tabloids - were the first to cry enough, claiming the Murdoch Press had long ago slipped from the gutter into the sewer.

RAY MARTIN: Do you accept that celebrities like Hugh Grant or politicians are fair game?

HUGH GRANT: I don’t as it happens believe that. I think that if you have a little bit of success in whatever field you’re in, I don’t think that that is a reason why one of your most fundamental human rights i.e., privacy, should be taken away from you.

RAY MARTIN: In its 168 year history, The News of the World boasted many of Britain’s most sensational scoops. It’s now clear where some of them came from. The newspaper’s reporters often hacked illegally into private telephone conversations or personal records and the victims – at least 4,000 of them - are only just finding out. Why have you gone on the front foot on this one?

HUGH GRANT: Well, it began as a personal grievance because my phone was hacked and medical records stolen et cetera but it became the more I found out about this the more outrage I also was just on behalf of my country. I couldn’t really believe that both our police and our government had been so obedient to one media baron.

RAY MARTIN: Hacking the stars for celebrity gossip was just the tip of the tabloid iceberg. What’s been revealed is a widespread network of journalists, police and government authorities dealing in stolen information.

PAUL MCMULLAN: The most I’ve ever paid in cash was 30,000 quid, two carry bags, 15 grand in each. Thank you very much.

RAY MARTIN: 30,000 pounds?

PAUL MCMULLAN: 30 grand. So that’s a big carrot to dangle in front of anyone, a policeman, anyone…

RAY MARTIN: Paul McMullan is an old-school Murdoch journalist, once a senior reporter on The News of the World. He openly admits the paper paid police officers for information and for the private phone numbers of media targets.

PAUL MCMULLAN: It was great fun. It was seen as a laugh. Hacking into someone’s phone was just a laugh and ninety per cent of the celebrities are really cool with it as well. I mean, like Brad Pitt doesn’t seem to mind. But more recently we’ve got people like Hugh Grant you know they’ve led, meaningless shallow lives for most of their careers and now all of a sudden “oh we can get public sympathy on our side”.

RAY MARTIN: So hacking the phones of politicians or celebrities is okay, even though it’s against the law?

PAUL MCMULLAN: Well, in my book yes, I think there should be a grey area that would benefit democracy and freedom of speech that journalists should be allowed to enter into.

RAY MARTIN: But it’s not high profile celebrities who’ve sparked a major Parliamentary investigation, arrests and resignations at the very top of the News International Empire. What really got Britons baying for Rupert Murdoch’s blood, was his newspapers’ appalling treatment of ordinary people facing real life tragedy.

MARK LEWIS: It was in fact ordinary people who were being affected and there was certain cruelty.

RAY MARTIN: Mark Lewis is the lawyer for the family of 13-year-old Millie Dowler who was murdered in 2002. When Millie went missing, a private investigator working for the News of the World hacked into her phone. He not only listened to her voicemail but he deleted messages – clearing space for more calls. Millie’s family, seeing this phone activity, were given false hope that their little girl was still alive.

MARK LEWIS: The voice mails were all full and there was an automated message saying "Sorry, please try again later" and the next day, the next time they called they could leave a message and that made them think that Millie was alive.

RAY MARTIN: Because the News of the World reporter had actually deleted the messages.

MARK LEWIS: And that was cruelty. That was somebody looking to get a story - irrespective of the harm. It was callous.

PAUL MCMULLAN: I never really defended the hacking into the Millie Dowler the little girl who went missing and was found murdered. While that is indefensible, fundamentally the newspaper and the journalist were just trying to find the little girl.

RAY MARTIN: But Paul, they were also deleting messages so that her family thought she may have still been alive.

PAUL MCMULLAN: Yeah, no, look, none of that is yeah, I just if I tried to defend it I’d get a punch in the face you know.

RAY MARTIN: Now if you’re wondering how journalists hacked into thousands of phones, I’m told it’s dead easy. I ring your phone and I wait until I get the engaged signal. Then I punch in the default PIN code – every telephone company has one and if you’re like me, you don’t change it. So I press, let’s say 1111 and bingo – I’m into your message bank. I can hear everyone who rang you and what they said and you don’t even know. Once they’d figured out how to do it, it seems there was no depth the newspaper wouldn’t plumb. Anyone was fair game.

RAY MARTIN: Tell me about David?

GRAHAM FOULKES: Sorry, I’m sure every father says his son was the best son in the world. All I can say is that they’re wrong, I’m right.

RAY MARTIN: Manchester Magistrate Graham Foulkes lost his 22-year-old son, David, in the London subway bombings of 2005. It was Britain’s worst ever terrorist attack. For six days, Graham and his wife made hundreds of phone calls desperately trying to find their only son.

GRAHAM FOULKES: If anybody was listening to the phone calls from my mobile phone to David’s mobile would have heard me begging for David to contact me, and other sort of messages, as I’m sure you can imagine.

RAY MARTIN: And someone was listening. Graham was shocked to discover that his heart-wrenching cries for help had been intercepted by Murdoch journalists.

GRAHAM FOULKES: I cannot understand how somebody’s morals are such that they can think that is a good day’s work.

RAY MARTIN: And even worse, he now fears in the midst of his family’s agonising ordeal, the police sold their private telephone numbers.

GRAHAM FOULKES: It is wicked beyond wicked. It’s nine days since I was told and I’m still enraged at News of the World.

MARK LEWIS: People who’ve suffered family tragedies and all that the News of the World were interested in was selling a newspaper, heaping tragedy upon tragedy.

RAY MARTIN: Phones belonging to the wives of British soldiers killed in action, have also been hacked. And in America, the FBI is now investigating claims that Murdoch reporters tried to hack the phones of September 11 victims.

DAVID CAMERON: Murder victims, terror victims who have had their phones hacked is quite disgraceful.

RAY MARTIN: They’re acts of bastardry the British nation can barely comprehend. Even Prime Minister David Cameron has been voicing anti-Murdoch outrage, until now, something that was unthinkable for a British politician.

DAVID CAMERON: What has happened with this company is disgraceful, it’s got to be addressed at every level.

RAY MARTIN: Rupert Murdoch and his newspapers, have such political clout, that every leader since Margaret Thatcher has been careful to keep him on side.

HUGH GRANT: You know if you run a, what is not very far away from being a protection racket as a news business you can exert enormous power over politicians, enormous influence over them.

RAY MARTIN: That’s a big call - protection racket.

HUGH GRANT: Yes but Politicians for a long time have been bending over backwards in the most undignified positions to be nice to Rupert Murdoch.

MARK LEWIS: Rupert Murdoch is effectively the kingmaker. I mean, he can control who has, who is the Prime Minister of Britain

RAY MARTIN: That’s hard to believe in a democracy like Britain.

MARK LEWIS: Well, we almost get to what I’ve termed as a ‘Murdocracy’ that people are scared of the power of Rupert Murdoch, scared of the power of the press.

DAVID CAMERON: Politicians and the press have spent time courting leaders – not confronting the problems. Well, it’s on my watch that the music has stopped.

RAY MARTIN: The spreading scandal has already damaged Prime Minister Cameron. Andy Coulson, his former head of communications is now facing criminal charges. Coulson was a former News of the World editor. And the PM spent last Christmas with Rebekah Brooks. Until her shock resignation two days ago, she was the Chief Executive at News International. Brooks is also a former editor of the News of the World, but claims she had no idea what her journalists were up to.

PAUL MCMULLAN: She turns round and says “oh were our reporters doing that? I didn’t know.” It’s like “what? Come on, love”.

RAY MARTIN: Paul McMullan was one of Rebekah Brooks’ reporters. So far, he’s the only one willing to come clean. Do you think that Rebekah Brooks would have known that these private investigators could have been paid 100,000 thousand quid a year without her knowing?

PAUL MCMULLAN: Um, shit she’d have to have been the worst Features Editor in the world not to have known how you can pay 100 grand and not know what, well no, it’s just ridiculous. Of course she did.

RAY MARTIN: As Andy Coulson the Editor had to know?

PAUL MCMULLAN: Yeah, absolutely. He knew, ordered it.

RAY MARTIN: What’s the reaction?

NEWS VENDOR: People are disgusted if all of this is true. The sales of the papers, Murdoch papers have just plummeted.

RAY MARTIN: For the past fortnight, all the British papers have been chocka-block with the unravelling of this scandal, day after day. Now it’s spread across the Atlantic to America – headquarters of News Corporation. But maybe like Watergate, the scandal that brought down an American President, the real story isn’t the original crime, but the attempts to cover it up. This week, a British Parliamentary Inquiry will try to open the lid on that cover-up. And already the Empire is in damage control. Rupert’s eldest son Lachlan has flown in from Australia, just in time to see his father make a belated personal apology to Millie Dowler’s family.

MURDOCH: I just said as the founder of the company, I was appalled to find out what had happened and I apologised and I have nothing further to say.

RAY MARTIN: This weekend, Rupert Murdoch made an unprecedented extraordinary apology with full pages ads in every newspaper in Britain – not just the ones he owns. There’s little doubt the Murdoch Empire will survive this scandal. But those whose private lives and intimate moments were bought and sold aren’t about to forgive or forget.

HUGH GRANT: I am after revenge. I don’t deny that for a second and I think that any man who’s had his voice mail hacked or his privacy stolen for someone else’s profit, I think any kind of man you know is angry. If you find a burglar in your house you reach of a cricket bat and you want to smack him round the head.

RAY MARTIN: What would you say if Murdoch was here?

GRAHAM FOULKES: He needs to convince me that he fully understands what they’ve done and why it is so wrong. We wake up every morning and still think – “my God, someone was listening to us at the darkest time of our life”. How can anybody do that?

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