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Murdoch empire under fire

world Updated: Jul 17, 2011 23:43 IST

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The apologies keep on coming: Rupert Murdoch took out a second newspaper ad on Sunday promising Britons that News Corp. will make amends for the phone-hacking scandal shaking his global media business.

Murdoch’s empire came under renewed attack as UK’s Opposition leader called for new laws to stop one man from owning such a big chunk of the national media.

The ad in several UK Sunday newspapers titled: “Putting right what’s gone wrong” said News Corp. would assist the police probe into phone hacking and police bribery. It vowed there would be “be no place to hide” for wrongdoers.

“It may take some time for us to rebuild trust and confidence but we are determined to live up to the expectations of our readers, colleagues and partners,” the ad said.

That follows a full-page Murdoch ad in Saturday’s papers declaring: “We are sorry.” It s all part of a campaign of contrition as Murdoch struggles to tame a scandal that has already destroyed one major UK tabloid, cost the jobs of two of his senior executives and scuppered his dream of taking full control of a lucrative satellite broadcaster British Sky Broadcasting.

Last week, Murdoch shut down the 168-year-old News of the World after it was accused of eavesdropping on the phones of celebrities, politicians, other journalists and even murder victims.

Sunday was the first day in Britain that the popular gossipy muckraking weekly was not on the newsstands.

Murdoch also abandoned his BSkyB takeover bid and two of his senior executives — Wall Street Journal publisher Les Hinton and Rebekah Brooks head of News Corp.’s British arm News International — stepped down. Brooks was arrested on Sunday evening.

But Murdoch’s critics say that is not enough. Labour Party leader Ed Miliband says Murdoch had “too much power” in UK and his share of Britain media ownership should be reduced. Now that News of the World is shut down, Murdoch owns three national British newspapers — The Sun, The Times and The Sunday Times — and a 39% share of BSkyB.

“I think that we’ve got to look at the situation whereby one person can own more than 20% of the newspaper market, the Sky platform and Sky News,” Miliband told The Observer newspaper.

“I think it’s unhealthy because that amount of power in one person s hands has clearly led to abuses of power within his organisation. If you want to minimise the abuses of power then that kind of concentration of power is frankly quite dangerous,” he said.

There is more pressure ahead for 80-year-old Murdoch, who usually shuns the spotlight. On Tuesday, his son James and Brooks face questioning by UK lawmakers.

PM David Cameron’s Conservative-led government is also facing questions about close relationship with Murdoch’s media empire.

Cameron has held 26 meetings with Murdoch executives since he was elected last May and invited several to his country retreat.