UK networks BBC1 and ITV1 have scrambled to commission quick-turnaround documentaries on the escalating phone hacking scandal engulfing Britain, as News Corporation today announced it was abandoning its plans to take full control of pay-TV firm BSkyB.
ITV1 has commissioned ITN to produce Rupert Murdoch, the Power and the Story, to air on its “Tonight” strand tomorrow (July 14) evening. The doc will see presenter Alastair Stewart ask “whether the demise of the News of the World heralds the beginning of the end for Rupert Murdoch’s powerful grip on the media.”
Meanwhile, BBC1 will cancel a planned ‘Panorama’ special set to air on Monday, July 18, replacing it instead with a quick-turnaround doc on the mogul (pictured above), entitled Murdoch: Breaking the Spell?, a BBC spokesperson told realscreen. The special, which replaces Gerry and the GPs, is produced by Stephen Scott and the editor is Tom Giles.
According to the BBC, the doc will look at how “one man has wielded extraordinary power over the country’s media, politicians and even police officers” for decades. “After the revelations of the phone hacking scandal, Rupert Murdoch and News International stand accused of corrupting British life,” the show’s billing proclaims. “‘Panorama’ tells the inside story of how the media giant’s influence was dramatically challenged.”
The news comes as Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation today announced that it would be abandoning its attempts to take control of the 61% of BSkyB that it does not already own, after facing pressure and hostility from UK politicians and members of the public.
News Corp’s deputy chairman and chief operating officer Chase Carey said in a statement: “We believed that the proposed acquisition of BSkyB by News Corporation would benefit both companies but it has become clear that it is too difficult to progress in this climate. News Corporation remains a committed long-term shareholder in BSkyB.”
The abandonment of the takeover comes after a stinging fortnight for the media mogul’s UK newspaper division, News International.
The company has faced a broad range of accusations over the past nine days, including that reporters for its newspaper The News Of the World illegally hacked into the voicemail messages of dead servicemen, terror attack victims and a murdered schoolgirl.
The company last week announced it would be closing the 168-year-old paper in a bid to stem the controversy; however, this week has seen fresh allegations against sister newspapers The Sun and The Sunday Times, including that the former paper accessed the medical records of the infant son of former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown – a claim the paper denies.
(pictured above: Rupert Murdoch at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting Davos 2009. (c) World Economic Forum swiss-image.ch/Photo by Monika Flueckiger. Used under a creative commons license – some rights reserved.)