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News Corp. Under Investigation For Attempting To Bribe An Australian Senator With Favorable Coverage

For months, News Corp. has been embroiled in controversy after it was revealed that the worldwide media conglomerate hacked the phones of more than 5,800 people. The scandal widened earlier this month when a reporter for the Sun newspaper, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., was arrested on charges of bribing a police officer.

Murdoch’s company sustained another major blow today as police revealed they are investigating News Corp. for attempting to bribe a former Australian senator into voting for favorable legislation. The charge stems back to 1998, when Senator Bill O’Chee was approached by an “unnamed executive of News Ltd” and promised favorable treatment by the media conglomerate’s numerous outlets if the conservative lawmaker voted against proposed digital TV legislation. The AP has more:

The newspapers reported that an unnamed executive of News Ltd asked O’Chee during a lunch on 13 June 1998 to vote against his conservative government’s legislation on the creation of digital TV in Australia. The news group stood to profit from the legislation failing. […]

O’Chee, a former senator for the state of Queensland with a track record of voting against his National party’s wishes, alleged the executive told him that while voting against the digital TV legislation would be criticised, “we will take care of you”.The executive “also told me we would have a ‘special relationship’, where I would have editorial support from News Corp’s newspapers, not only with respect to the … legislation but for ‘any other issues’ too,” O’Chee reportedly told police in his statement.

Murdoch, who was born in Australia, “has a near monopolistic control of the media in many major cities,” notes Joe Romm. His media empire includes the largest Australian newspaper — The Australian — as well as “the sole dailies in Brisbane, Adelaide, Hobart and Darwin and the most popular metropolitan dailies in Sydney and Melbourne.”

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Today’s bribery charges, which are punishable by up to six months in prison, underscore how pervasive the culture of corruption has been at News Corp. for years. From Australia to the United Kingdom to the United States, major ethical breaches appear to have been the norm, rather than the exception, at Murdoch’s media conglomerate.

Despite the seemingly-endless parade of scandals, Murdoch and his sons were reelected to News Corp.’s board last month.