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Rupert Murdoch: His empire under attack, a media potentate stumbles

The tawdry depths of the phone hacking scandal surrounding Rupert Murdoch's media empire have shocked the UK public and exposed the heights of his political influence.

By Staff writer / July 15, 2011

Rupert Murdoch attempts to speak to the media after he held a meeting with the parents and sister of murdered school girl Milly Dowler in London, on July 15.

Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP

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The New York Times was once described in worldly terms as "the kingdom and the power." But in recent decades the title applies more to the global empire of Rupert Murdoch, whose massive media octopus of $60 billion in assets spans Australia, China, Latin America, India, the United States, and Europe. In 2010, News Corp. earned $33 billion in revenue from Star TV in Hong Kong, Dow Jones in the US, and Sky TV and papers in London, to name a few. Mr. Murdoch's US-based Fox News network is described in a 2010 News Corp. report as "unstoppable."

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Murdoch's clout is such that Tony Blair's first trip as British leader was to Australia for an audience with the mogul. If being feared is a requirement for British power, says Oxford writer Timothy Garton Ash, Murdoch has been more powerful than the previous three prime ministers.

What News Corp. potentates did not count on was Milly Dowler.

The 13-year-old British girl murdered in 2002 had her voice mail hacked and messages erased by Murdoch's media operatives within his British newspaper arm News International. After a July 5 Guardian exposé revealed that News of the World (NotW), one of Murdoch's bestselling British tabloids, tampered with Milly's cellphone messages (leaving her family thinking she was alive), she posthumously became Murdoch's Mohamed Bouazizi – the young Tunisian vegetable vendor whose self-immolation in December sparked the Arab Spring.

The scandal's penetration seems to have no end. It has smeared British Prime Minister David Cameron for hiring a key Murdoch editor (Andy Coulson, since fired); brought revelations of some 3,870 phone-hacking victims; damaged public trust with widespread evidence of police payoffs; caused a national inquiry into press, police, and politicians; and it has now leaped the Atlantic to an FBI inquiry into the possible tampering of the cellphone voice mails of 9/11 victims.

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