Key figures in Britain's phone-hacking scandal

8th July 2011, Comments 0 comments

Britain's phone-hacking scandal took a dramatic twist on Friday with the arrest of Prime Minister David Cameron's former media chief and ex-News of the World editor, Andy Coulson.

Here are some of the key figures in the controversy:


Street-smart Andy Coulson, 43, has risen from humble beginnings to the editorship of the News of the World and then on to a top job in the prime minister's Downing Street office.

He started his career on a local newspaper in his native Essex, southeast England, but his ambition and talent were quickly spotted and he was recruited to The Sun, the sister paper of the News of the World.

He became editor of the Rupert Murdoch-owned News of the World in 2003, at the age of just 34. Under his leadership the paper in 2005 won the coveted newspaper of the year award at the British Press Awards.

"The News of the World doesn't pretend to do anything other than reveal big stories and titillate and entertain the public, while exposing crime and hypocrisy," Coulson said when he picked up the award.

But he quit the paper in January 2007, when its royal editor and a private investigator working for the tabloid were jailed for hacking mobile phone voicemails.

Coulson accepted ultimate responsibility as editor but denied knowing the practice was taking place on his watch.

Several months later David Cameron hired him as his communications director to shape the Conservatives' media strategy going into the 2010 general election, relying on his media contacts as well as his common touch.

His influence was also credited with getting Murdoch to abandon the Labour party and back Cameron before elections in May 2010.

But the phone-hacking scandal refused to die down and in November last year Coulson was interviewed by police as a witness, before he eventually left Downing Street in January.


Fiery redhead Rebekah Brooks, 43, conquered the macho world of Britain's tabloid press, rising fast up the ladder to become head of News International, the British newspaper publisher which is part of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.

She took the helm at the News of the World in 2000 and stirred up controversy with a series of populist newspaper campaigns including one calling on people to "name and shame" paedophiles living in their neighbourhoods.

In 2003, she became the first female editor of The Sun and in 2009, she left the Sun to become chief executive of News International.

Her turbulent marriage to the star of a British soap opera also saw her receive attention from other tabloids.

Brooks has faced calls to resign from News International in recent days amid the new claims of hacking, some of which allegedly took place when she was in charge of News of the World.

But she has rejected the calls and Murdoch has also publicly voiced support for her.


The Australian-born tycoon heads the News Corp. media empire, which ultimately owns the News of the World, and at the age of 80 shows no sign of slowing down.

After inheriting two small Australian newspapers at a young age, he returned in 1969 to Britain, where he had previously studied at Oxford, and took control of the News of the World, gaining a high-profile foothold in the British media.

He transformed that and The Sun into Britain's biggest selling newspapers and expanded his empire in 1981 with the acquisition of newspapers The Times and The Sunday Times.

His papers reflected his rightwing views and for years he supported Britain's Conservative party, until in 1997 Labour party leader Tony Blair succeeded in winning the coveted endorsement of the Sun to help him become prime minister.

But his successor as Labour leader and premier, Gordon Brown, proved a disappointment for the Murdoch empire, and the Sun and the News of the World switched their allegiance back to the Conservatives before last year's general election.

The phone-hacking scandal at the News of the World now threatens to hamper one of Murdoch's key projects in Britain, his bid to take full control of satellite TV group BSkyB.

News Corp. boasted assets worth $57 billion (40 billion euros, £36 billion) in 2010 across its television, book publishing, Internet and newspaper businesses, including the Wall Street Journal, and conservative US media outlets such as Fox News.


Private investigator Glenn Mulcaire and ex-News of the World royal editor Clive Goodman were the first people to be caught up in the phone-hacking scandal.

The pair were convicted in 2006 for hacking into mobile phone voicemails of members of the royal family, including princes William and Harry.

They were jailed in January 2007, Goodman for four months and Mulcaire for six.

Police relaunched the phone-hacking investigation in January amid a steady stream of fresh allegations about phone hacking.

Goodman was arrested again on Friday, this time in connection with illegal payments to police officers.

© 2011 AFP

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