As Hacking Scandal Grows, So Does News Corp.’s PR Crisis

Photo: Andrew Winning, Reuters

As News Corp.’s problems related to the phone-hacking scandal deepen, the company continues to take steps to try and control the PR disaster that has ensued.

Besides shutting down the still-popular 168-year-old News of the World, News Corp. is trying to stall the takeover of BSkyB to try and ride out the storm, which has now battered both companies’ stock price. A YouGov poll quoted in The Wall Street Journal says only nine percent of people think the deal should proceed while 70 percent think it should not.

And AdWeek looks at Rupert Murdoch associate and News Corp. exec Chase Carey, who has a reputation as a “cleaner,” as a possible successor to Murdoch. (Another AdWeek writer suggests selling the entire company.)

In other words, if shutting down News of the World was meant to be a crisis comms move, it has failed because of the broad and awful scope of the allegations.

When last we looked, we discussed how this disaster is impacting Rupert Murdoch, but now the problem is spreading quickly across the business.

The scandal has enraged the British public with allegations of hacking into the cellphone accounts of a murdered teen and the families of war veterans, and is now seeping into politics with the arrest of former British PM spokesperson and NotW editor Andy Coulson, and charges from former British PM Gordon Brown that he, too, was hacked. There are also rumors of hackings at other publications and involving the royal family.

And with rumors that 9/11 victims may also have been hacked, the outrage that has reached fever pitch in the U.K. may do so here as well.

“If the allegations prove true, not only will it make a great hook for Fox haters to hang their nooses on (we are approaching the 10th anniversary of 9/11, after all), it will require some serious tap dancing on Fox’s part to report on it without directing their familiar trumped up rage — normally their bread and butter — at their own boss,” Business Insider writes. The site also reports that Fox News has only reported on the scandal 14 times in the past five days. (CJR comments on The Wall Street Journal’s toothless attempts to cover the scandal as well.)

As we mentioned in today’s Morning Media Menu, the issues tied to the hacking allegations cut to the core of what a media company is supposed to do: report the news with honesty and integrity. The nature of the scandal also shows a lack of decency. For now, these are allegations that still need to be fully fleshed out, but it’s so thoroughly distasteful that anyone associated with it, let alone a powerful news organization with designs on getting bigger, can’t help but to be damaged. We called the crisis “BP level” for News Corp. this morning. With news developments seemingly each day, there could be a long and windy road to recovery.