New Phone-Hacking Documents Heighten Focus on Rupert Murdoch's News Int'l

Continued investigation has the potential to derail News Corp's bid to takeover BSkyB.


LONDON -- Pressure is mounting on Rupert Murdoch's News International newspaper publishing group here, as police call for the release of yet more documents relating to illegal phone-hacking allegations.

The continued investigation into reporting tactics used by staff on the News of the World newspaper has the potential to directly impact British Prime Minister David Cameron -- whose press secretary, Andy Coulson, was formerly the editor of the paper.

This sensitive political dimension, coupled with anxiety over the paper's power and tactics, also has the potential to derail News Corp's bid to takeover BSkyB, which the British government is currently considering.

For Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt to approve the deal, he would have to be able to argue that News Corp's increased power would not have a negative commercial and civil impact here. The behavior of the News of the World reporters -- if revealed to be widespread practice -- could derail that argument.

Last week the paper suspended a senior executive, Ian Edmondsen, after a private legal case brought by Sienna Miller uncovered information suggesting he may have known about the illegal hacking. Miller is one of a number of celebrities, sports agents and talent, to be taking private legal action against the paper after police initially concluded that the paper had no case to answer.

Elle MacPherson, Steve Coogan, publicist Max Clifford and Who Wants To Be A Millionaire host Chris Tarrant are also thought to have initiated legal action.

Three years ago Coulson resigned from the News of The World after an investigator and a reporter were jailed for illegal phone hacking. However, he has always maintained that he knew nothing of the practice and was never involved.

News Corporation in London would not comment on the issue beyond saying that it would co-operate fully with any police investigation.