Rupert Murdoch's News Group Newspapers has paid out more than $1.6 million to settle legal cases after its journalists were accused of involvement in phone tapping. The journalists allegedly
hired private investigators to hack into the mobile phones of politicians, sports stars and actors ranging from former deputy prime minister John Prescott to supermodel Elle McPherson. The
journalists allegedly gained access to confidential information about these people, including financial records. The payments secured secrecy over out-of-court settlements.
While some media watchers say these allegations are not new or particularly dangerous, one of Murdoch's former editors at theNews of the World says that this scandal is a major modern media story. It suggests that such behavior -- if shown to be true -- was a systemic policy in the newsroom, which opens the paper up to lawsuits. Second, the scandal also threatens to embroil the police -- who apparently did not alert all those whose phones were targeted.
Conservative party leader David Cameron could also be tainted: The party's chief of communications, Andy Coulson, was an editor at the News of the World when the alleged wire-tapping took place. Murdoch, for his part, maintains that he knew nothing about any of this.