British PM names new media chief in phone-hack row

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British Prime Minister David Cameron appointed a top BBC figure as his new media chief on Wednesday, after the previous holder of the post quit over a growing newspaper phone-hacking scandal.

Craig Oliver, currently the controller of BBC Global News, will take over from Andy Coulson, who resigned as director of communications last month, Cameron's Downing Street office said in a statement.

In a blow to Britain's coalition government, Coulson said he had to go because the deepening row over the illegal hacking of mobile phone messages when he was editor of the News of the World had affected his ability to do his job.

"I am very pleased that Craig Oliver is to become the new Director of Communications at 10 Downing Street," Cameron said in the statement.

"Craig has formidable experience as a broadcast journalist. He will do an excellent job in explaining and communicating the government's programme."

Oliver, 41, a father of three children, has been at the BBC for four years and was the editor for coverage of the 2010 general election. He was previously with the private broadcaster ITV News, the statement said.

"I'm delighted to be joining David Cameron and his team at such an exciting and challenging time," Oliver said. "It's difficult to leave the BBC after a fascinating few years -- but this is an opportunity I can't turn down."

Coulson's resignation renewed questions about practices at the News of the World at a crucial time for its owner, Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, which is trying to gain full control of the BSkyB satellite broadcaster.

Coulson had been under growing pressure about what he knew about the activities of the tabloid's royal editor and a private investigator, who were jailed in January 2007 for hacking voicemails of Princes William and Harry.

He resigned as editor over the row but insisted he knew nothing about hacking.

The News of the World initially said the problem was confined to the two who were jailed, but has recently said it is investigating the issue and it sacked a senior employee, Ian Edmondson.

Britain's Metropolitan Police, which has faced criticism for its handling of the phone-hacking scandal, said one week ago it was launching a fresh investigation after receiving "significant new information" from the paper.

© 2011 AFP

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