1 May 2012

MPs slam Murdoch execs – but Tories refuse to condemn Murdoch

Damning report from the media select committee on the Murdoch empire, but four Tory MPs didn’t sign up to the criticism of Rupert Murdoch – a Lib Dem and the five ¬†Labour members did.

That diminishes the power of the report somewhat, and some will feel Tom Watson and others over-reached themselves and diminished the power of what was – without the criticisms of the Murdochs – a pretty painful document for News Corp.

Tom Watson said he and colleagues pushed that point because they’d been “negligent” in the past and needed to “raise the bar.” There was cross-party agreement that –

Rupert and James Murdoch‘s claims that they didn’t know hacking went beyond one rogue reporter until December 2010 are “simply astonishing”. I asked if that was a lawyer’s euphemism for “incredible”, something the committee discussed when drafting, but am told it wasn’t.

– Hush money “to buy silence” was repeatedly paid by News International to hacking victims and to hacking staff in the form of settlements and inflated pay-offs

– News International executives were involved in a “cover-up” and repeatedly “misled” the committee, specifically Tom Crone, Colin Myler and Les Hinton.

– The committee does not make serious allegations about Andy Coulson or Rebekah Brooks (on legal advice), and it reserves its right to return to this whole saga again when more details, post police and Leveson inquiries, are available.

What happens to individuals who are found guilty of misleading parliament, the highest court in the land? Parliament itself decides in a vote if it there’s been contempt. ¬†It’s not clear if individuals are then hauled to the cells.

Much as this select committee broke new ground (or revived ancient tradition) sending a Commons official off to News International’s Wapping HQ when it wanted to summons the Murdochs for an evidence session, it is yet again going into what John Whittingdale called “uncharted waters.”

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