LONDON (AP) ? British Prime Minister David Cameron was to face the media Friday, the morning after a phone-hacking scandal brought down Rupert Murdoch’s Sunday tabloid newspaper.
Cameron could expect questions about his decision to hire former News of the World editor Andy Coulson as his official spokesman, his friendship with Rebekah Brooks, another former News of the World editor, and Murdoch’s bid to take over British Sky Broadcasting.
But there are many more questions swirling around the shocking announcement by James Murdoch, Rupert Murdoch’s son and heir apparent, on Thursday that the muckraking 168-year-old tabloid would disappear after this weekend’s edition.
The paper’s life is ending amid an expanding police investigation of phone hacking and alleged bribery of police officers, and just at the moment when Rupert Murdoch is seeking government clearance to bid for full control of BSkyB, a prize far more valuable than his British stable of newspapers.
The Guardian newspaper and the BBC’s “Newsnight” program reported late Thursday that Coulson had been told by police that he would be arrested Friday and questioned about hacking.
Several News of the World journalists have already been arrested and quizzed over the allegations, but Coulson would be by far the most senior. Two employees of the tabloid were sent to prison in 2007 after being convicted of hacking into royal telephones.
The News of the World’s defenses against simmering questions about its activities collapsed this week after it was reported that it had hacked the mobile phone of 13-year-old murder victim Milly Dowler in 2002 while her family and police were desperately searching for her.
News of the World operatives reportedly deleted some messages from the phone’s voicemail, giving the girl’s parents false hope that she was still alive.
That report provoked a level of public outrage far above any reaction to intrusion into the lives of celebrities which the paper had previously acknowledged and for which it paid compensation. Several major companies pulled their advertising from the paper, fearing they would be tainted by association with it.
Chris Bryant, a member of parliament who is suing the newspaper claiming his phone was hacked, said Brooks should resign because she was editing the paper at the time.
“This strategy of chucking first journalists, then executives and now a whole newspaper overboard isn’t going to protect the person at the helm of the ship,” Bryant said.
News International, the British unit of Murdoch’s News Corp., has not said whether it will move quickly to put another paper into the Sunday market which had been dominated for decades by News of the World.
Shares in BSkyB, which have fallen all week because of doubts whether the takeover will go ahead, were marginally higher in early trading in London Friday.
Shares in News Corp. rose 1.6 percent on the Nasdaq index in New York after Thursday’s announcement.