News International, a subsidiary of Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, owns The Sunday Times, the Sun, and the News of the World.
The media organisation shut the News of the World last week following allegations of phone-hacking and illegal payments to the police, but is now faced with more of its brands becoming implicated in the scandal.
GolinHarris MD Matt Neale commented: ‘News International is like a nuclear reactor overheating. Closing the News of the World cools the core a little, but the plant could still suffer massive failure.’
Lexis MD Jason Gallucci argued that, if the news allegations proved to be true, News International was faced with shutting down The Sunday Times too. ‘I think the latest allegations in the escalating scandal have shown this is now a problem within News International as a whole not just a rogue journalist, a dodgy newsroom and the editorial policy of a single newspaper. Surely it’s more than just a coincidence that two newspapers from the same company happen to employ the same dodgy methods.
‘How can they not shut The Sunday Times now they have set the precedent?’
The latest allegations relate to a Sunday Times front page story that claimed Brown had purchased a flat previously owned by Robert Maxwell at a ‘knock-down price’. There are also allegations that someone said to be acting for The Sunday Times posed as Brown and obtained details of his Abbey National account in January 2000.
The Browns are also questioning whether medical records of their son Fraser were obtained by The Sun. The newspaper revealed he had cystic fibrosis in 2006.
Gallucci insisted there should be a change to media laws to prevent these underhand tactics: ‘There needs to be a legal framework for the ethics on obtaining a story and fixed penalties for breaking those laws. These should then be monitored by an independent body. The media always talk about the public having "a right to know" and often confuse this with "the public likes gossip and dirt".'
In a statement, News International said: ‘So that we can investigate these matters further, we ask that all information concerning these allegations is provided to us.’
Neale said News International faced a tough task recovering its reputation and credibility. He advised: ‘Rebuild the organisation around transparency and hold News International to the same standards that we expect from those in elected office. Within the law, get ahead of the news rather than obfuscating and reacting to The Guardian and Labour's agenda.
'The first question a News International editor should ask themselves is the same thing that we advise our clients: "what would this look like if it became public knowledge?"
'Newspapers will no longer be able to operate under non-existent self-regulation that has failed the public and journalism.’