Planet Pop

Agencies

Mon, May 16, 2011 - Page 13

Film star Sienna Miller accepted £100,000 (US$162,500) in damages and an unconditional admission of liability from a newspaper that snooped on her phone messages, a scandal that embarrassed Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp while it seeks approval for a huge merger.

Miller, the on-and-off girlfriend of fellow Hollywood star Jude Law, was one of the main plaintiffs suing News Corp over allegations that reporters at its News of the World tabloid illegally listened to voice messages to get scoops.

The scandal has already cost British Prime Minister David Cameron’s spokesman his job and led to calls for greater oversight of Britain’s ruthlessly competitive news media.

Miller was one of more than 20 celebrities — including TV personalities, sports figures and even former Cabinet members — suing the News of the World for hiring a private investigator to hack into the voicemail accounts of their mobile phones.

Her case was expected to be one of a handful of lead cases against the newspaper that will set compensation levels for other plaintiffs.

The lead cases are expected to be decided at a case-management hearing this week.

The scandal has damaged News Corp’s reputation at a time when it has been seeking government approval for a proposed US$14 billion takeover of British pay-TV firm BSkyB. Opponents want the merger blocked pending the outcome of a police probe.

One journalist at the newspaper was jailed in 2007 for illegally snooping on phone messages of a member of the royal household, but the paper maintained until this year that it was an isolated incident.

The police have since reopened the investigation, several journalists have been arrested and the newspaper has made an apology.

Cameron’s media chief Andy Coulson, who had been the newspaper’s editor at the time when the snooping took place, resigned.

Mike Myers got the jump on the media hounds on Friday, when his publicist announced that the Austin Powers star was going to be a first-time dad.

The 47-year old funnyman and his wife, Kelly Tisdale, are expecting their first child later this year.

“We are overjoyed,” the couple said in a joint statement.

The duo, who began dating in 2006, got married last fall. Myers was previously married to Robin Ruzan for 12 years. The couple did not have any children together.

Meanwhile, former Friends star Matthew Perry said on Thursday he is taking a break from show business to focus on his sobriety.

“I’m making plans to go away for a month to focus on my sobriety and to continue my life in recovery,” Perry told celebrity news Web site TMZ.

Perry’s publicist said the actor was going away but said he is not currently in rehab.

Perry’s decision follows a disappointing reception for his new TV comedy Mr Sunshine. The 41 year-old actor starred, created and co-produced the show, which made its debut in February but is thought to be at risk of cancellation after low ratings.

Perry made two trips to rehab for addiction to alcohol and prescription painkillers during the 10-year run of Friends, on which he played wise-cracking Chandler Bing.

Unlike some of his Friends co-stars, Perry has had limited luck in his career since the end of the comedy series in 2004. His last major network TV series, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, was canceled in 2007 because of poor ratings.

Speaking of substance abuse, British musician Pete Doherty, best known as a member of bands Babyshambles and The Libertines, will not face charges over the death of an actor at a party in 2006, prosecutors said on Thursday.

Mark Blanco, 30, died after plunging from a balcony at a flat in Whitechapel in east London.

After examining the case in detail, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said there was insufficient evidence to charge any individual with either murder or manslaughter.

Blanco had been involved in a confrontation with Doherty, his minder Johnny Jeannevol and a friend, Paul Roundhill, at the party shortly before the actor’s death, investigations have shown.

All three have denied any wrongdoing and an investigation and police reports have failed to establish the circumstances that led to the actor’s death.

Jeremy Hopkins, head of the CPS London Complex Casework Unit, said none of the evidence available was capable of establishing that Blanco was thrown or pushed from the balcony or that any other individual was present when he fell.

“If any further evidence does come to light, we will, of course, review our decision in accordance with our normal practices,” he added in a statement to the media.

Blanco’s family has been waging a long campaign for an inquiry and has already vowed to issue private proceedings against Doherty.