The ongoing News Of The World phone hacking scandal has been a black eye for the U.K. tabloid dating back to 2006, when allegations first surfaced that Clive Goodman -- then the paper's editor covering the royal family -- had, with the assistance of private detective Glen Mulcaire, illegally tapped the phones of royal household members and published stories using information gleaned from those taps. That touched off a saga of further charges and scandal, as revelations surfaced that similar phone hacks had been executed against various political figures and celebrities.
But with the latest revelation that the paper had hacked into the voicemail of Milly Dowler, a 13-year-old schoolgirl who was abducted and subsequently murdered in 2002, it seems that News Of The World has gone too far over the proverbial bridge. Now, advertisers are said to be "reviewing their options," with the Ford Motor Company announcing it is pulling out its money entirely.
As Marietta Cauchi, of Dow Jones Newswires reports:
Ford Motor Co. (F) Tuesday said it was withdrawing all advertising from U.K. Sunday newspaper the News of the World amid allegations that the racy tabloid hacked into the voice mail of a murdered 13-year-old girl.
"Ford is a company which cares about the standards of behavior of its own people and those it deals with externally," the U.S. auto maker said in an emailed statement.
"We are awaiting an outcome from the News of the World investigation and expect a speedy and decisive response," it added.
The breach of Milly Dowler's voicemail is, without a doubt, the most galling and upsetting turn this scandal has taken. According to reports, investigators from Scotland Yard have found evidence that Dowler's voice mail was hacked by Mulcaire and messages to it were intercepted by News Of The World journalists soon after the girl disappeared. According to the allegations, when the girl's voice mail inbox filled up, NOTW journalists deleted old messages in order to make room for new ones. By doing so, they not only interfered with an ongoing police investigation, but they instilled hopes in Dowler's loved ones that she was still alive.
But as Nick Davies and Amelia Hill report in yesterday's Guardian, things got only more egregious from there:
The Dowler family then granted an exclusive interview to the News of the World in which they talked about their hope, quite unaware that it had been falsely kindled by the newspaper's own intervention. Sally Dowler told the paper: "If Milly walked through the door, I don't think we'd be able to speak. We'd just weep tears of joy and give her a great big hug."
It is thus, on the crest of a wave of revulsion, that advertisers are considering taking their business elsewhere:
Ford, npower, Halifax, T-Mobile and Orange became the first large companies to announce such action as the pressure increased on both the newspaper and those who advertise in its pages.
The energy company was the quickest to react to the fallout from the allegations, with an npower spokeswoman saying: "We note the concerns which have arisen on the back of fresh allegations of phone hacking against the News of the World. We are currently reviewing our options."
Social media seems to be a key driver of the wedge between the paper and its advertisers, with Guardian blogger Roy Greenslade leading the charge. This renewed scandal comes at a precarious time for News Corp., the parent company of News Of The World, as it seeks to close a deal to take over satellite broadcast company BSkyB.