BRITAIN’S News of the World tabloid will print the last edition in its 168-year history on Sunday following a devastating scandal over phone hacking, owner Rupert Murdoch’s son James said last night.
The shock move comes after Britain’s biggest-selling Sunday newspaper was hit by allegations that it had hacked the phones of a murdered girl, the relatives of dead soldiers and hundreds of celebrities, politicians and royals.
“Having consulted senior colleagues, I have decided that we must take further decisive action with respect to the paper. This Sunday will be the last issue of the News of the World,” James Murdoch said in a statement.
“In addition, I have decided that all of the News of the World’s revenue this weekend will go to good causes,” added Murdoch, the chairman of News International, the British newspaper wing of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, owner of The Australian.
Mr Murdoch admitted that the paper, known for its racy diet of sex, scandal and celebrity news but also for its undercover investigations, had lied to parliament and to the public in its earlier statements on the long-running scandal.
“The News of the World is in the business of holding others to account. But it failed when it came to itself,” Mr Murdoch said in the two-page statement, which was addressed to News International staff.
James Murdoch said the jailing in 2007 for phone hacking of the paper’s royal correspondent Clive Goodman and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire had failed to cure the problem.
“Wrongdoers turned a good newsroom bad and this was not fully understood or adequately pursued,” he said.
The death blow for the tabloid came on Thursday when veterans’ charity the Royal British Legion and a flood of businesses joined a boycott of the newspaper.
The deepening scandal threatened a bid by Rupert Murdoch for control of pay-TV giant BSkyB, while British Prime Minister David Cameron faced fresh questions over his ties to the Australian-born media baron.
Scotland Yard said up to 4000 people may have had their voicemails accessed by the News of the World and added that it was probing claims that the paper had paid policemen for information.
The Royal British Legion said it was “shocked to the core” by claims in the Daily Telegraph that an investigator hired by the News of the World may have accessed the voicemails of relatives of dead soldiers.
It said it was dropping the tabloid as a campaign partner as it could not maintain its links with the paper if it had been “preying on families in the lowest depths of their misery.”
Earlier this week the paper faced fresh claims that it had accessed the phone and deleted the voicemails of of a murdered 13-year-old girl, Milly Dowler, as well as the relatives of two other murdered girls.
Supermarket giant Sainsbury’s, mobile phone operator O2, energy supplier Npower and high street stores Dixons, Boots and Specsavers became the latest companies to pull advertising from the paper.
They joined major brands such as Ford, Vauxhall and Mitsubishi, the Halifax bank and Virgin Holidays.
The British government also said it was urgently reviewing its own advertising contracts with the News of the World.
Mr Cameron on Wednesday promised an inquiry into the phone hacking scandal, including into allegations that police failed to properly investigate the allegations when they were first made several years ago.
But Opposition Leader David Miliband last night urged the Prime Minister to distance himself from two former editors of the paper during the period covered by the scandal.
Mr Cameron has dined on several occasions with Rebekah Brooks, now chief executive of News International, the British newspaper arm of News Corporation, while his former communications chief Andy Coulson quit in January over the claims.
“What we know is that the Prime Minister does have close relationships with many of the people involved in this – Andy Coulson who worked for him, Rebekah Brooks who is at the centre of some of what has happened,” Mr Miliband said.