Murdoch was questioned by a representative of Associated Newspapers, which owns the Daily Mail as well as a representative from the National Union of Journalists.
The representative from Associated Newspapers asks about the role of commercial interest in editorial policy and refers to references about the Daily Mail’s campaign against News Corp’s BSkyB bid. The representative also points out that it does not reflect Paul Dacre’s personal editorial views.
Murdoch said that “I think there’s no doubt that the Mail and many other newspapers were campaigning against us… that is a commercial reason. They said at the time they thought they were in some commercial danger if we’d succeeded.”
The representative from the NUJ asked Murdoch several questions, regarding unethical treatment of reporters, allowing the NUJ to represent News Corp journalists and the introduction of a ‘conscience clause’.
Murdoch responded that he didn’t believe there was any unethical treatment of journalists at any of his newspapers and that they are “perfectly free” to join the NUJ should they wish to. He side-stepped a question about whether News Corp journalists can be represented by the NUJ instead of the in-house staff association and that being represented by the NUK would not prevent un-ethical practices.
Regarding the conscious clause Murdoch liked the idea, and said “I think that’s a good idea” but said it should be a condition of employment instead of needing to go through the NUJ.
Following this Lord Justice Leveson announced that the hearing had come to an end, Murdoch had completed his evidence. Though the inquiry is yet to be complete, a parliamentary select committee is due to release its report next Tuesday after a four month delay. The report is apparently highly critical of Rupert and James Murdoch, along with other senior News International figures.
After another brief break, Jay has continued to ask questions about the difference between illegal and unethical actions. Jay explained that he is putting these actions in a spectrum, unethical action leading to civil wrong, then criminal wrong which all comes together.
Murdoch said that it was unfair to refer to him as having had a cavalier attitude towards potential risks and that cost of maintaining high standards was not as costly as serious unethical or criminal actions.
He added that in the case of NOTW the systems in place were “inadequate” and he placed a great emphasis that the blame laid on both the previous editor Myler and Tom Crone the legal manager.
Stunning those in the inquiry, Murdoch said that he owned the greatest newspaper in America but “The News of the World, quite honestly, was an aberration, and it’s my fault.”
For a long time Murdoch spoke about the regulation of the industry, almost lecturing about how regulation would alter the media industry and the challenges that newspaper face.
He said, “The day will come when we’ll say it’s not worth it, we can’t afford all the huge presses and so on, and we’ll be purely electronic.”
Murdoch seemed to advocate that some regulation was necessary, but he begged for care.
Jay questioned him once again on the issues of privacy and Murdoch seemed to re-phrase earlier statements that people with PR experts or politicians deserve privacy.
Murdoch was asked if he had anything else to add, before questions were raised from others in the inquiry room.
Murdoch has alleged that he did not unfairly target people using his newspapers, he also said he felt as though he was held to account every day by the British public.
Jay asked Murdoch if he believed that the cost of maintaining high ethical standards costs a lot of money, which Murdoch denies.
Instead he said that failure to maintain ethical standards is expensive, he shared that the inquiry has cost “hundreds of millions.” He added that the company has investigated all their papers around the world to ensure that “this only happened here in London”.
Jay brought up self-regulation and Murdoch’s personal interactions with his editors, specifically if he had ever told them to pursue stories regarding particular individuals or to make life uncomfortable for regulators.
Murdoch said that privacy laws are always proposed for the “protection of the great and the good and not for the masses.” This is an interesting reaction as when he was being “mobbed” by the press he appeared to dislike the attention.
Murdoch responded both questions about editors pursuing stories to make life uncomfortable for individuals or regulators with customary bluntness, saying only “no.”
The inquiry returns to the closure of NOTW, particularly why Murdoch decided to close it down rather than continue.
Murdoch has said that it began with the “Milly Dowlers situation” but that he “panicked” but he said that he is glad he closed the tabloid down.
Murdoch already described NOTW as not as close to his heart as The Sun, but it certainly generated a shock reaction from those in the room when he said “I’m sorry I didn’t close it years before and put a Sunday Sun in.”
He agreed with Jay that the business with NOTW is a “serious blot on my reputation.”
Murdoch disagreed entirely with Jay that News Corp and News International managed the legal risk by covering up the scandal. He said that the executives response to questions asked by parliament and select committees was “far too defensive and worse, disrespectful of parliament.”
Jay asked Murdoch on the difference between illegality and unethical behaviour. Murdoch said; “If I had asked the prime minister for favours in return for [coverage], it would have been unethical...I doubt it would be criminal”. He continued in this vein, adding “it would have wrong and that’s why I wouldn’t do it.”
Murdoch is being questioned about media ethics and denied that NOTW was concerned with mainly “tittle tattle” and gossip; instead he said that more resources were spent on covering “the weekend soccer.”
To the derogatory comments from former prime minister John Major made about the behaviour of Fleet Street press Murdoch responded that he didn’t believe that referred to his newspapers.
He wants to distinguish that there is a difference between The Sun and NOTW, saying lumping them together is “grossly unfair towards The Sun.”
Jay again questioned Murdoch on the behaviour of journalists employed by NOTW in the case of the so-called Max Moseley “Nazi orgy” photographs. It was alleged that a journalists was able to use the photos through blackmailing one of the participants and ensuring that there face was not visible when published.
Leveson asked Murdoch whether the use of blackmail is an appropriate way for journalists to gain information and chastises Murdoch for taking this incident lightly. Leveson stated he found that approach “somewhat disturbing.”
Following this statement Murdoch said one of the most controversial comments so far in the inquiry.
He said: “But it’s a common thing in life – not just in journalism that people say if you scratch my back I’ll scratch your back.”
Following the break, Jay has returned to his much more probing form of questioning to continue to address phone hacking, unethical behaviour at News Corp newspapers and the behaviour of politicians.
Jay questioned Murdoch on whether the scandal would have come out at all if it wasn’t for The Guardian’s report, with Murdoch saying; “I don’t think so, but perhaps.”
Instead Murdoch seemed to dismiss the idea suggesting that the police may had the Mulcaire diaries and may have assisted, alternatively there are “plenty of other investigative journalists around.”
The line has moved away from the potential reasons why the scandal wasn’t uncovered by News Corp to look at Murdoch’s support for particular editors, including Rebekah Brooks.
Jay asked Murdoch why he referred to Brooks as his priority when confronted by the media.
Ironically, Murdoch responded that he did so under duress because they were “mobbed” by press attention.
He said; “Well if you’ve got journalists and paparazzi...you are under duress.” He added that this behaviour was all “part of the game” and it was due to journalists being competitive. He said his reason for protecting Brooks was not just due to the media attention but because he was concerned for her. He stated that he was “seeking to keep her confidence, I mean her self-confidence” in light of the pressure placed on her and her choice to resign.
The Leveson Inquiry begins again today with Rupert Murdoch returning after revelations about former PM Gordon Brown declaring ‘war’ on News Corp, relationships with politicians and lobbyists as well as his influence on the editorial of News Corp newspapers. Today Murdoch will be questioned further about his editorial influence, relationship with politicians and about the extent of phone hacking within News Corp.
Robert Jay QC began questioning Murdoch about the alleged conversation between himself and Brown which was brought up yesterday. According to Murdoch the conversation resulted in Brown declaring ‘war’ on News Corp which was strongly denied by Brown yesterday evening.
Murdoch tells the hearing that he stands by what he said.
Moving on quickly Jay explores the statement made by Murdoch yesterday that if anyone wanted to know about his thinking they should check The Sun. He asks Murdoch about how his editors would know his thinking unless he told them.
Murdoch seemed to dislike this question and avoids answering at first by saying; “The issues we are interested in, the issues we fight for you will find them in The Sun and that I agree with most of them, if not all of them.”
Jay repeats the question with Murdoch finally responding that, “They sit and talk to me. Or I call them. There are conversations pretty constantly.” He agreed that he does get to know the editors of The Sun or the New York Post quite well.
Jay has again turned to Murdoch’s relationships with politicians, wondering if it is the same case as with his editors, they get to know him and are able to gauge his thinking. Jay is again trying to discover and understand if the power of Murdoch’s press assets allowed him to have greater access to politicians and see if they were sympathetic to the News Corp agenda.
He asks Murdoch about the former Times journalist and now minister Michael Gove to which Murdoch responds that he had dinner with Gove and his wife a few times, but that he enjoys the having interesting people around him, “not just politicians.”
Jay is returning to the BSkyB bid, questioning Murdoch if he ever met Jeremy Hunt, the Culture Minister now embroiled in allegations that he was biased towards News Corp’s acquisition. Murdoch admited that they believed they would get a “fairer go” from anyone other than Vince Cable.
Murdoch is being questioned about Fred Michel, which emails revealed an apparently close relationship with News Corp and Jeremy Hunt’s office, particularly between Michel and Hunt’s special advisor Adam Smith.
Murdoch candidly says about the emails; “I don’t want to say anything bad about Mr Michel but...I think there may have been a little bit of exaggeration there.”
He also admits to Jay that the loss of the BSkyB bid was due to the phone hacking scandal and blames the police for the slow release of details.
The inquiry has now turned to the phone hacking scandal, Murdoch claiming to be “shocked” that a law firm's document suggests News International was being obstructive in the investigation.
Regarding the phone hacking scandal Murdoch alleges that it was not to his knowledge, but rather a cover-up. He said; “Maybe even the editor, but certainly beyond that, someone took charge of a cover-up.”
Jay has suggested that there was a consistent theme of cover-up, and asks where this culture comes from. Murdoch alleges that the culture of cover-ups emanates from within The News of the World. He is also highly critical of the choice of Colin Myler as editor of NOTW saying that “he would not have been my choice”.
Murdoch is apologetic that there was not further investigation into the matter, but says that at the time he trusted Mr Myler and did delegate to him. Jay suggests that this picture is constant with a desire to cover up rather than expose the issue and gets a harsh response from Murdoch.
Leveson at this point has interrupted the questioning of Jay to ask Murdoch why, if so passionate about his newspapers, he wasn’t intensely concerned about what was happening at NOTW.
Murdoch admitted that some newspapers were closer to his heart than others and was sorry about the hacking scandal occurred.
He said that he didn’t continue the investigation further because of the police closing the file.
“Well I think when the police said they were satisfied this was a rogue reporter, we’re closing our file... I have to admit that I’d have closed it too.”
He added: “But with hindsight...I can only say what I should have done.”
The inquiry has already taken a brief break, after only an hour of questioning from Lord Leveson and Jay.
The inquiry resumed with Jay turning to Murdoch’s first introduction to David Cameron as the then leader of the Opposition, the BSkyB bid and his relationship with Scotland’s first minister, Alexander Salmond.
Murdoch said that he met Cameron at a family picnic, and was then asked about his thoughts on Cameron at the time and whether he considered him a political “lightweight” to which he responded with “no, not then”.
Murdoch denied that he ever discussed the BBC licence fee, Ofcom or the appointment of Andy Coulson with Cameron however he was greeted with more laughs after saying, “I’d gone through it before with other prime ministers…They all hated the BBC and they all gave it whatever it wanted.”
Once again Leveson has asked Murdoch to clarify his claims that he does not bring his commercial interests into political discussions. Murdoch pointed out to Leveson that if he had always done what was in his commercial interests he would have supported the Conservatives at every election because of their stance as a pro-business party.
A definitive moment occurred when Jay questioned why the BSkyB bid was launched one month after the 2010 election. Murdoch paused, the first time he has appeared speechless so far in the inquiry.
Murdoch responded by saying he didn’t know and that he’d have to go and look at his records. Jay continues the theme to discover if there was any support from the Tories by pointing out decisions about proposing a bid is not arbitrary.
Murdoch surprisingly said that “I don’t think we gave any thought to the timing of it”.
Jay has moved onto the subsequent support The Sun gave to Alexander Salmond, asking Murdoch to describe his relationship to Salmond and explain the decision to begin to support the SNP.
Originally The Scottish Sun had been opposed to Salmond and the SNP in 2007, with warnings that voting for the SNP would be “hanging a noose around Scotland’s neck”. In 2011 however this was changed to support and Jay asked Murdoch to describe his relationship with Salmond and why he supported the SNP.
Murdoch described the relationship as warm, noting that he didn’t know Salmond well but “he’s an amusing guy, I enjoy his company, I enjoy talking and listening to him”.
Explaining the decision of The Scottish Sun to support Salmond but remain neutral on the issue of independence he admitted that he did “probably” contribute to that decision.
He said that he was attracted to supporting the SNP emotionally, but he wasn’t convinced on independence, “I said we should stay neutral on the big issue”.
Following the revelation of support for the SNP and Salmond for the 2011 election, Leveson decided that the inquiry would finish for the day.
Leveson apologised for having to inconvenience Murdoch, saying that it would recommence tomorrow morning at 10am.
Jay has continued to question the involvement of Murdoch with politicians, moving on to the Blair government and Murdoch’s relationship with Tony Blair and his administration. These questions have been looking specifically at News Corp publications that had endorsed or shown support for the Labour party.
Murdoch has become defensive with this line of questioning; repeatedly saying that he did not remember specific discussions, or did not recall what exactly was said.
His response to most of the questions regarding conversations with Tony Blair and his successor Gordon Brown has been “I have no memory of that.”
He did however admit that he might have said to Blair, “If our flirtation is ever consummated then I expect we will end up making love like porcupines, very, very carefully.” This statement is regarding the desire to support the election of Labour by The Sun.
At one point Murdoch seemed to become impatient with Jay, tapping the table in front of him and saying that he “never asked Mr Blair for anything, nor did I receive any favours”.
Murdoch did express regret when The Sun came out as against Gordon Brown in 2009, which apparently put an end to a “very warm” relationship with Labour and says he hopes the relationship can be repaired.
Brown’s response to Murdoch on hearing that The Sun was changing its endorsement to the Conservatives was apparently to declare war.
According to Murdoch in a conversation with Brown, he allegedly said: “Well your company has declared war on my government, and we have no alternative [but] to make war on your company.”
Brown's response to this statement is much awaited, but in the meantime the inquiry has broken for lunch. It was suggested by Jay that after lunch the enquiry only continues briefly and recommences tomorrow morning.
Guardian journalist Dan Sabbagh tweeted that Murdoch did not like the suggestion to convene early.
Rupert to advisers in courtroom: "Let's get him to get this fucking thing over with today".— Dan Sabbagh (@dansabbagh) April 25, 2012
The inquiry is due to resume at two o'clock.
Leveson has continued to question Murdoch on a person's right to privacy, asking whether there is a distinction between those that are considered to have positions of influence and those who are famous. Murdoch appears to be side-stepping this question by concentrating on those that hold responsibilities and focussing on the Daily Telegraph's expose of politicians expenses.
Jay has returned to questioning Murdoch about his relationship with Thatcher, once again looking at the relationship between his newspapers in disseminating the views of a particular party. Murdoch has said that at the time of Thatcher's premiership she had the support of more than just him. Murdoch referred to The Telegraph as the "mouthpiece of the Tory party."
He also added that it is only "natural for politicians to reach out to editors and sometimes propreitors if they're available, to explain what they're doing and hoping that makes an impression that gets through." He added that he was only one of several.
Jay suggests that political parties may benefit from the support of News Corp's publications, questioning Murdoch on his politics and whether he chooses to back the winning side.
An example that has been brought up by Jay is the famous headline of The Sun regarding the 1992 election, "It's The Sun wot won it". Mudoch disagrees and describes the headline as "tasteless and wrong for us." Murdoch goes on to say that "The Sun may be the only indepedent paper in the business..." reach is greeted by more laughter from those attending the inquiry. He also added that to judge his thinking you only need to "look at The Sun."
Murdoch hastens to add that when taking a position, he judges candidates on issues, never letting his commercial interests come into any elections but points out that politicians always seek the support of "all newspapers and all media outlets." Murdoch is consistently denying that he uses politics to benefit his commercial enterprises, and that he has no commercial interests except newspapers which he loves.
Jay questioned Murdoch about a lunch with Margaret Thatcher at Chequers, and although he did not recall he accepted that Thatcher’s press secretary did take the minutes of the meeting.
Murdoch has said he had lunch with Thatcher, and that the meeting was about informing her about the likelihood of a change of ownership of an iconic asset, that of The Times, which he believed was appropriate. He said that Thatcher merely wished him well and that no favours were asked and he did not recall exact details of the interactions with Thatcher’s government regarding The Times acquisition. Jay’s line of questioning is aiming to reveal the depths of the Murdoch’s involvement with politicians, and the length of time it has existed.
Leveson interrupted to ask Murdoch whether he has any personal influence on the editorial line of his newspapers after Murdoch said that he was “proud” of the fact that commercial interests were never pushed through his newspapers in Australia. He was also questioned on this by Jay, responding that he was always closer to his tabloids suggesting he had more involvement, particularly The Sun but that he “never gave instructions to the editors of The Times or the Sunday Times. ” He added however that if he had spare time on a Saturday he would call and ask about the news of the day, out of curiosity.
After a brief break they have returned to discuss the issue of privacy, with the intention to expand on the phone hacking case. Murdoch has said he thinks politicians are not entitled to the same privacy as “the man on the street.”
Today the Leveson Inquiry speaks to Rupert Murdoch, following revelations from his son about Jeremy Hunt's relationship with News Corp and News International executives. Robert Jay QC will be looking to discover if Rupert Murdoch will go further than James in exposing the intimate details of the apparently friendly relationship between senior politicians, lobbyists and company executives.
Lord Leveson introduced the session this morning by explaining that the inquiry continue until completion, with every side of the story to be heard and saying that he had absolutely "no bias" in hearing the precedings. He added that it was necessary because not all documents, including the emails released yesterday can be taken at "face value."This introduction came after various comments from the press and politicians suggesting new inquiries be launched to deal with revelations and requests from politicians, including Hunt that testimony be moved forward in the inquiry.
Jay QC questioned Murdoch on his interest of British politics over the last 60 years, his philosophy towards business and politics and his thoughts on the need for the inquiry.
Murdoch responded to these questions with customary bluntness, saying that the need for the inquiry was "fairly obvious" in investigating the abuses and that he "welcomed the opportunity to put myths to bed." He admitted that the abuses went further than phone hacking. He also said that all his business interests were "contained to the media."
Jay asked Murdoch on his political interest in British politics which spanned over the last 60 years with Murdoch responded tha the did with "varying intensity"
Murdoch openly said that he was an admirer of Baroness Thatcher, from her election and that he continues to remain a "great admirer."
There was laughter from those in the session, including Murdoch himself when he was asked about recent tweets about "right-wingers" and "toffs."
He said, "don't take my tweets too seriously. "