Contagion spreads as Murdoch’s empire falters

By Ian Dunt

There are growing signs that Rupert Murdoch will not be able to limit the damage to his empire to just the UK, following reactions to phone-hacking in Australia and the US.

Two US senators have called for the justice department and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to investigate whether News Corp broke US laws concerning payments to influence foreign officials.

The move concerns allegations that figures at the News of the World paid police officers for information.

Senators Barbara Boxer and Jay Rockefeller also want further details about reports that staff at News of the World may have hacked the phones of families of the victims of September 11th. That explosive allegation could destroy Mr Murdoch's reputation in the US, potentially threatening the popularity of Fox News.

Meanwhile, Mr Murdoch's seemingly unassailable position in Australia, where he controls three-quarters of daily metropolitan newspaper circulation, may also be under threat following demands for a review of media laws.

The Green party, whose representative holds an influential position providing confidence-and-supply to the Labour minority government, is calling for a wide-ranging parliamentary inquiry into media ownership and regulation.

Statements from prime minister Julia Gillard suggest that she would be willing to authorise the review.

"To see some of the things that have been done to intrude on people's privacy, particularly in moments of grief and stress in the family lives, I've truly been disgusted to see it," Ms Gillard told Australia's National Press Club.

"I anticipate that we will have a discussion amongst parliamentarians about this, about the best review and way of dealing with all of this," she said.

Green senator Bob Brown told a news conference: "Following events in Fleet Street, it is very clear that here in Australia there's sufficient concern about the potentially unrolling of similar events."