Greens’ Brown Calls for Watchdog, Inquiry on Media Intrusion in Australia

Australian Greens party leader Bob Brown called for talks on establishing a domestic media watchdog following reports of phone hacking carried out by News Corp.’s London tabloid News of the World.

Australia should have an “arms length” body to assess acts of media intrusion, Brown told reporters in Hobart today. Brown said he has no evidence of complaints against Australian media.

“We’ve got a Press Council in Australia and we can stick with that, but that’s effectively established by the media itself,” Brown said. “In these days of huge potential for invasion of privacy we ought to have a watchdog.”

Rupert Murdoch Murdoch shut down the 168-year-old News of the World, owned by News Corp. (NWS) since 1969, following allegations it hacked into the mobile phone of a 13-year-old murder victim. Murdoch got his start in 1953, when he inherited a daily newspaper with a circulation of 75,000 in Adelaide, after which he built a media empire with newspapers, satellite television and movie studios spanning the globe.

The News of the World, which closed on July 9, was Britain’s largest circulation Sunday publication. A public outcry prompted Prime Minister David Cameron to launch an independent inquiry. Bloomberg LP, the parent of Bloomberg News, competes with News Corp. units in providing financial news and information.

Media Holdings

News Ltd., the Sydney-based Australian division of News Corp., owns 120 metropolitan, regional and rural newspapers, including The Australian and the Daily and Sunday Telegraph, 14 magazines including Vogue and GQ, and websites including News.com.au, taste.com.au and TrueLocal. The group also owns about 44 percent of Sky Network TV in New Zealand. Its non-media holdings include the Melbourne Storm rugby league team and a 69 percent share of the Brisbane Broncos team.

Greg Baxter, Sydney-based spokesman for News Ltd., declined to comment on Brown’s call for an inquiry when reached by phone today, saying the remarks apply to all media in Australia, and the events in the U.K. are unrelated to the company’s Australian operations.

“Phone hacking is the antithesis of everything we stand for,” News Ltd. Chairman and Chief Executive John Hartigan said in a memo to staff dated July 8 that was obtained by Bloomberg. “Adherence to our ethical code is fundamental to our right to publish.”

Support from the Greens helped Prime Minister Julia Gillard form a government after the August 2010 election delivered the closest result for 70 years. The party has one member in the lower House of Representatives and its nine Senators, including Brown, have control of the upper house vote.

Murdoch’s New York-based media company tumbled $1.27, or 7.6 percent, to $15.48 in Nasdaq Stock Market trading yesterday, the biggest drop since April 2009. It was the fourth straight decline in the company’s closing price, cutting its market value by 15 percent to $41.2 billion.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Peter Hirschberg at phirschberg@bloomberg.net

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