Murdoch Entity Bugged Variety Show Green Room


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Breaking News

Breaking News

By John Romano

(YBH) – As of this week, the U.K.’s populist, trashy newspaper News of the World, in continuous publication since 1843, is no more, folded by the Murdoch empire after reams of evidence came to light that pols and celebs alike were having their cellphones hacked in a ruthless pursuit of scoops. So far, the Murdoch spin has been that a few rogues went too far; the newspaper’s reputation was unsalvageable and so must close.  Rupert Murdoch himself flew to the UK this weekend to deal with the affair and former News of the World Editor Andy Coulson (an ex-aide to Prime Minister David Cameron) was arrested early Sunday for his alleged part in the scandal.  More arrests seem likely in the coming days.

Does News Corp’s hacking scandal end with News of the World?

 

Before his death this past May, BBC radio presenter and musician Big George Webley alleged that a News Corp. entity bugged dressing rooms of celebs and politicos as far back as 1990.  The allegation, if true, would show that News Corp. had a pattern of bugging/hacking over a long period of time that went far beyond a rogue editor or reporter for News of the World.

The show in question was Jameson Tonight, which was hosted by UK entertainment stalwart Derek Jameson on Murdoch’s Sky network. Mr. Jameson, a colorful character, was raised in an East End orphanage during WWII, getting his start as a messenger boy during the height of Fleet Street power. He rose to become editor of the Daily Mirror, Daily Star, Daily Express and, interestingly, News of the World. His rough-edged accent was a boon when, in the 1970′s, the BBC started hiring more talent that spoke like the average viewer instead of the Queen. Though he had been fired as editor of News of the World in 1984, Mr. Murdoch later put him on the then-very new Sky TV, rotating between morning and late night chat shows, including Jameson Tonight.

Mr. Webley was a noted composer who arranged the theme music to the original “The Office” and wrote a host of music for British television including the theme to the long running “Have I Got News for You” on BBC One.  In the mid-nineties he became a radio presenter and over time wound up hosting a very popular over night talk show on BBC London 94.9 which he continued to host until the time of his death this past spring.  Earlier, in 1989, Mr. Webley landed the gig as music director of Jameson Tonight.  He worked on 350 episodes of the show for the network.

It is during this period that Mr. Webley alleged that Sky bugged the dressing rooms of guests in order to get candid off-air scoops, and, in a roundabout way, led to the emotionally charged phone call I received from Mr. Webley in late April.  As detailed by YBH! earlier this week, Mr. Webley was quite concerned that he would suffer retribution from Mr. Murdoch’s organization for allegedly revealing this information to the British government during the BSkyB (Sky TV’s parent company) buyout review.  Also, it was never fully detailed to me how Mr. Webley found out about the bugging during his years at Sky.  In no way did he allege that he was in danger for his life, as was stated in my earlier piece.  Mr. Webley had a heart attack in 1996 and likely suffered a fatal one this past May.  A full coroner’s report is due to be released in August detailing an official cause of death.  What is known is that the whole incident did worry Mr. Webley more than a little bit.

It has never been revealed publicly or proven that News Corp. listened in on the green room of Jameson Tonight or any other Sky or News Corp. television show.  However, in light of the News of the World scandal, the allegation bears some examination and at least opens the door for more questions.  Personally, I saw the strain the affair took on Mr. Webley (a personal friend) as the proposed buyout of BSkyB was coming to fruition and the deal came under regulatory review.  Mr. Webley was clearly concerned.  I for one would like to know the truth.

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