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Leveson Inquiry is death knell for British newspapers says ex-News International Exec

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lord-levesonA FORMER senior executive at News International says the sweeping Leveson Inquiry into British press ethics will result in the closure of many more newspapers.

A culture of phone hacking at the Rupert Murdoch owned News of the World – and especially revelations that the phone of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler had been targeted – led to the closure of the 160-year-old paper.

But today, as the conduct, role and regulation of British newspapers came under scrutiny from a public inquiry, known as the Leveson Inquiry, a former senior executive said other titles would 'collapse like dominos'.

The executive, who did not wish to be named, said an arrest at The Sun newspaper – the News of the World's sister paper – had 'spread the toxicity'.

He said: “The News of the World is just the first. If the arrest at the Sun develops into a criminal court case – though that is far from certain of course – it may be forced to close. Indeed journalists at The Sun are already preparing themselves for the worst.

“If The Sun allegations come to anything then Rupert Murdoch's credibility as a political player in this country will be undermined further and no one will want to go near him – he will be a completely busted flush.

“That being the case there will be little point in propping up The Times, which he has always used as a political chip to give him credibility and clout. So even The Times could be under threat.

“Elsewhere the inquiry is probing ex-journalists from the Daily Mirror, where Piers Morgan was editor, and sister titles The Sunday Mirror and The People. Again, if they come up with anything then who's to say they won't close too?

“Leveson could genuinely be the beginning of the end for Britain's newspaper industry.”

Lord Leveson, a senior judge, is beginning his investigation into the the entire newspaper industry at the High Court in London.

Other media analysts believe the inquiry, expected to last more than a year, could impose statutory regulation on newspapers for the first time in British history.

Critics of the process say it is an over-reaction and accuse politicians of using the inquiry to take revenge on papers for exposing their wrongdoing.

It was set up by Prime Minister David Cameron in July after revelations that a private detective working for the News of the World hacked the phone of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler.

The opening session today will see Robert Jay QC, counsel for the inquiry, set out the origins and ambitions of the inquiry.

Mr Jay's statement will be followed by submissions from lawyers for the ''core participants'' of the inquiry, who are legally represented and can ask to cross-examine witnesses.

There are more than 50 core participants, including newspaper groups and people who have complained about press intrusion, among them Milly's family, the parents of missing Madeleine McCann, Hugh Grant and Harry Potter creator JK Rowling.

Live video of all the sessions will also be streamed on the inquiry's website, www.levesoninquiry.org.uk.


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