News International is the British newspaper publishing division of Australian-born media magnate Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation. It publishes the United Kingdom’s best-selling newspaper, The Sun, as well as its oldest national daily newspaper, The Times, and their Sunday counterparts. It also published the News of the World until that newspaper was forced to close in July 2011.
News International’s formal title is NI Group Limited.
News International’s antecedents start in 1969, with Murdoch’s acquisition of first the News of the World (in January), and then The Sun from Daily Mirror publishers IPC. Originally a mid-market title, under Murdoch’s ownership The Sun went decidedly downmarket and competed directly against the Mirror, ultimately eclipsing its former stablemate.
In early 1981 Murdoch made a bid for Times Newspapers Ltd, publishers of both The Times and The Sunday Times. It was widely predicted that the bid would have to be referred to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission, given that the ownership of four national titles would be a major concentration of the press in one set of hands. But it wasn’t, on the grounds that the business wasn’t profitable – although The Sunday Times certainly was.
Rumours persisted for several years that Murdoch had met Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to lobby her not to refer the bid to the MMC. Although The Times‘s official history stated that the two had not met at that stage, documents released from Thatcher’s archives in March 2012 show that in fact they did have a meeting at Chequers to discuss Murdoch’s plans for the British newspaper industry, though the issue of MMC referral did not specifically arise.
In January 1986, after protracted and unsuccessful negotiations, the print unions working at News International’s newspapers called a strike. News International promptly sacked the striking workers and, in a move that had been under careful preparation, immediately shifted production of their newspapers from Fleet Street to a new plant in Wapping staffed by members of the Electrical, Electronic, Telecommunications and Plumbing Union (EETPU). (Murdoch had led the unions to believe that the new plant was for a new evening newspaper for London, the London Post. No such newspaper was ever published.) Government support for News International meant that ultimately the strike failed, in February 1987.
In 1987 News International took over Today, a mid-market tabloid printed in colour (the first British national title to be so printed) that had been founded by Eddy Shah the previous year. It continued in production until 1995, when it closed for economic reasons.
In June 2002 it became News International Limited.
For three years from 2006 to 2009 it published an evening freesheet pickup and brand-to-hand newspaper, The London Paper, through its subsidiary NI Free Newspapers Ltd. This title is to date the only newspaper that Murdoch has ever launched in the UK rather than taken over.
In 2009 The Guardian reported that News Group Newspapers had paid over £1 million to settle legal cases involving the illegal tapping of mobile phones by their staff. It has been alleged that purchases of information obtained illegally were widespread and carried out with the knowledge of the editorial staff. The specific allegations in July 2011 that the voicemail of murdered teenager Milly Dowler had been hacked into, and that private investigators had been targeting the families of killed British service personnel, forced the closure of the News of the World on 10 July, and led also to News Corporation withdrawing its bid to acquire satellite broadcaster BSkyB outright three days later.
Investigations into standards in British journalism continue in a public inquiry chaired by Lord Justice Leveson.
On 20 July 2012 it was announced that Rupert Murdoch would be stepping down as a director of all his UK-based subsidiary companies as part of the reorganisation of News Corp into two firms to enable separate handling of print publishing and TV and film enterprises. He was expected to remain as chairman of both firms.
- Times Newspapers Ltd
- News Group Newspapers Ltd
- NI Free Newspapers Ltd
- NI Group Limited
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