26 Apr 2012

LIVE BLOG: Rupert Murdoch at the Leveson Day Two

On his second day of giving evidence at the Leveson Inquiry, Rupert Murdoch will face questions over the allegations of phone hacking and bribery at the heart of the scandal that led to the closure of the News of the World. Follow all the action with Channel 4 News’ live blog and have your say here.


On his second day of giving evidence at the Leveson Inquiry, Rupert Murdoch will face questions over the allegations of phone hacking and bribery at the heart of the scandal that led to the closure of the News of the World.

Highlights of Rupert Murdoch’s second day at the Leveson inquiry –

– BBC in part to blame for decline of newspapers
– Should have ‘torn the place apart’ after Clive Goodman found guilty
– After the phone hacking scandal, News Corp now ‘a new company’
– Feels NoW affair is “aberration” and “serious blot” on his reputation
– Shocked by Daily Mail’s profit-driven editorial policy
– Says he is ‘held to account’ every day
– At pains to distinguish between the Sun and the NoW
– BSkyB bid would have succeeded but for phone hacking scandal
– Frederic Michel’s closeness to Adam Smith may have been exaggerated
– Saw nothing wrong with activities of News Corp lobbyist Frederic Michel
– Does not recall meeting Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt
– On his editors: ‘I think they know my philosophy, yes’
– ‘Stands by every word’ of yesterday’s Gordon Brown comments

13.15 The session ends with Lord Leveson thanking Rupert Murdoch for the time he has devoted to the presentation of evidence. Mr Murdoch’s statement is due to appear on the Leveson inquiry website.

13.11 Mr Murdoch is asked if the presence of the NUJ at NI would have given a journalist somewhere to turn if they were asked to do something unethical.

13.10 Does the absence of the NUJ being recognised at NI mean journalists have nowhere to go to complain?, Mr Murdoch is asked. He replies that a staff association had been set up to deal with complaints.

13.08 Asked if there had been any investigation at NI into allegations of bullying of staff, Rupert Murdoch replies: “I’ve never heard of it.”

13.06 John Handy cites two examples suggesting there was a culture of bullying at the News of the World. Mr Murdoch asks why one of the journalists in question did not resign. Lord Leveson states that she might not have resigned because she needed a job.”

13.04 On the question of the management standards committee, Rupert Murdoch states that NI journalists are perfectly free to join the NUJ (National Union of Journalists) whenever they wish.

13.03 Rupert Murdoch replies that the MSC did not disclose any journalists’ sources.

13.01 An NUJ representative, John Handy, addresses the “unethical treatment of journalists and photographers”, whether allowing the NUJ to represent members would not be good protection against future unethical behaviour, whether News international was involved in the insertion of a particular provision in the industrial relations legislation apparently protective of NI, whether a “conscience clause” would not be a sensible protection for journalists in future, and the role of the management standards committee and the absence of protection of journalists in relation to their activities.

12.58 “Whatever might have happened at the NoW, I have contributed to the plurality of the press. You wouldn’t be here with 10 papers today… If I hadn’t beaten the old craft unions, who I’m sure Mr Dacre remembers and would agree with me we went through agonies, there wouldn’t be such a good, democratic press, with all its faults, that we have today. And in television, the same.”

12.55 A representative of Associated Newspapers returns to Rupert Murdoch’s claim that he was surprised to hear that Paul Dacre’s editorial policy was driven by the need to make money. He directs Mr Murdoch to an email from Frederic Michel to James Murdoch, in which he summarises what happened when Jeremy Hunt spoke to a number of editors.

12.53 Mr Murdoch concedes that his association with the interception of voicemails “is going to be a blot on my reputation for the rest of my life”.

12.50 Lord Leveson asks Rupert Murdoch to expand on his comments about the failure to maintain ethical standards. “I have been through the whole of News Corporation, I have spent hundreds of millions of dollars. In London alone… we have examined 300 million emails… It led to the arrest and terrible distress of a number of families of journalists who’d been with me many, many years, friends of mine. And it caused me a lot of pain. But we did it.

12.47 “Everybody’s doing it for money, including the bloggers,” says Mr Murdoch. He cites the example of the Huffington Post, originally a political publication. “I don’t believe they’re making a profit yet, but they’re read by millions and millions of people.” He claims the Mail online “just steals”. “It’s a great gossip site – or bad, whichever way you look at it, and comes right up to the barrier of fair use of other people’s material.” But there’s no profit in it, he suggests.

12.43 The News Corporation chairman ponders the opportunities worldwide offered by new technology – the Times of London, for example, is available online, on an iPad, via subscription, every in the world, seven days a week. He maintains that the press guarantees democracy rather than autocracy.

12.41 “The local press have a great history in this country of contribution to our democracy,” he says. He goes on to discuss “disruptive technologies” that are changing our world and whose challenge we have to meet.

12.38 Rupert Murdoch on the BBC: “By far the greatest force in media in this country… a very important organisation.” He suggests that the popularity of the BBC website is one of the reasons why newspaper consumption is declining.

12.35 Rupert Murdoch predicts that newspapers will continue to exist for up to 20 years, at which point they will be unaffordable.

12.33 He predicts that in five years there will be “billions” of computer tablets in the world.

12.32 “I honestly believe that newspapers… are a huge benefit to society.” Mr Murdoch recalls the newspaper industry being “on its knees” in the 1980s – and claims some credit for reforming it.

12.30 Rupert Murdoch concedes he is not a technologist. But now the internet is “absolutely in our space”, he maintains.

12.30 “I would say that the laws that you’ve seen in force in the last few months… are perfectly adequate,” says the News Corp CEO. “It’s been a failure of the enforcement of the laws.”

12.29 “The News of the World was an aberration – and it’s my fault”

12.27 Rupert Murdoch admits that there should not have been just one legal officer in place for 20 years at News International.

12.26 Robert Jay suggests the only “system in place” at the News of the World was the personality of Tom Crone, legal affairs manager at News International.

12.25 The News of the World’s “being” was not to take risks, asserts Mr Murdoch. The systems that were in place were inadequate.

12.23 Rupert Murdoch is asks if he adopted a cavalier attitude to business risk. “No, I think it’s unfair to put that to me. I’m guilty of not paying enough attention to the News of the World at any time that I was in charge of it, certainly. But to say that it’s me, around the world: no.”

12.20 Rupert Murdoch: “Serious breaches of the law are certainly unethical… I can think of other unethical things which I would call unethical and extremely serious – but they’re not criminal. And I hope I’m not guilty of either. I try in my life, private and public, to be without that.”

12.07 Lord Leveson announces a short break in today’s hearing.

12.06 Rupert Murdoch agrees that he can see the link between ethical misbehaviour and legal misbehaviour. “Legal rules are certainly devised to try to encourage ethical behaviour,” he says.

12.04 Rupert Murdoch tells the inquiry that, with hindsight, he should have examined royal correspondent Clive Goodman himself and decided whether or not he was telling the truth. “I would have torn the place apart.”

12.02 “We are now a new company. We have new rules. We have new compliance officers,” says the News Corporation CEO.

12.01 Rupert Murdoch recalls his appearance before an MPs’ select committee last year. He says he pledged to clear up his business and has spent hundreds of millions of dollars in doing so. “That led to, I think, a dozen midnight arrests because of my pledge, not because of the police – they did not asks us to go and do it to that extent.”

11.58 “Do you accept that your company managed the legal risk by covering it up?” asks Robert Jay QC. “No… there was no attempt… to cover it up.”

11.57 “Did you business register the risk of a compound commercial disaster of these proportions?” asks Robert Jay QC in relation to the closure of the NoW. “No, it was a decision taken very quickly by my son… I think Ms Brooks was still there, and myself.”

11.56 “This whole business of the News of the World is a serious blot on my reputation,” concedes Rupert Murdoch.

11.54 Why did you close the News of the World rather than tough it out?” asks Robert Jay QC. “When the Millie Dowler situation was first given huge publicity… it made people all over the country aware of this… You could feel the blast coming in the window – and I panicked. But I’m glad I did.” Rupert Murdoch claims he is sorry he did not close the NoW years before and replaced it with the Sunday SUn.

11.53 “I do not tell journalists to promote our TV channels,” asserts Mr Murdoch. And he denies encouraging employees to pursue negative stories about rival businesses.

11.50 Discussing Piers Morgan’s editorship of the News of the World in the 1990s, Robert Jay quotes his diaries in which he says Rupert Murdoch apologised for publicly admonishing him in relation to the publication of photographs of Countess Spencer.

11.48 In reply to Rupert Murdoch’s question, Lord Leveson confirms that the evidence he has presented, and his statements, will be put on the Leveson inquiry website.

11.46 “Mr Neill seems to have found it very profitable, to get up and spread lies about me,” asserts the News Corp CEO.

11.45 Robert Jay quotes Andrew Neill in an interview with CNN in which he maintains Rupert Murdoch cannot be held responsible for every individual act… but you create a climate in which people think it’s all right to do certain things. Rupert Murdoch replies that Mr Neill does not know “the first thing he’s talking about”.

11.44 “Would you agree that maintaining high ethical standards at newspapers costs money?” asks Robert Jay QC. “No, I don’t,” replies Mr Murdoch. “Failure to maintain ethical standards can be immensely expensive.”

11.42 “I was shocked when he said… the editorial policy at the Mail is driven by commercial interests,” repeats the News Corp CEO.

11.40 Rupert Murdoch says he feels as if he is being held to account every day. “I’m under strict instructions by my lawyers not to say this, but I’m going to… I was really shocked by the statement of Mr Dacre the other day, this his editorial policy is driven by commercial interests. I think that is just about the most unethical thing I’ve read for a long time.”

11.38 Rupert Murdoch dismisses as “very unkind” Lord Wyatt’s observation that newspapers nowadays just bring anyone down to flaunt their power. “Only yesterday… the Daily Mail had on its page one attacking Google for not deleting porn from its service… But it was a very, very strong attack, and I think that’s fair. I think a newspaper… if it feels the company’s doing wrong, I think it’s fair to debate it and debate it in strong terms.”

11.37 Rupert Murdoch denies that his newspapers ever decided to “target” Ann Diamond.

11.35 Robert Jay QC asks Rupert Murdoch if he recalls being interviewed by Ann Diamond in the 1980s and being asked about Princess Diana and Elton John. Mr Murdoch says he does not. He says he does not know who Ann Diamond is.

11.36 Robert Jay QC picks up the “you scratch my back” remark. He asks Mr Murdoch if such an approach has had no part of his dealings with politicians over the past 30 years.

11.33 Lord Leveson suggests that such behaviour is a form of blackmail. Rupert Murdoch replies: “It’s a common thing in life… for people to say ‘You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours’.”

11.31 Lord Leveson inquires if it is appropriate to say to a member of the public: “We’ve got this photograph of you. We can do this two ways: we can embarrass you by unpixellating your photograph… or alternatively we’ll give you some money and you tell us the inside story.” Is that an appropriate way for a journalist to behave?, asks Leveson

11.27 Did The Sun perform better or worse than other papers, Murdoch is asked. “No I really want to distinguish…the difference between The Sun and the News of the World. You lump them together all the time and I think it’s grossly unfair on The Sun,” Murdoch replies.

11.18 Murdoch is asked about the time he was surrounded by journalists outside his home with Rebekah Brooks, when he said his priority was “this one” pointing to Brooks.

Murdoch: “It’s part of the game”

Jay: “What’s the game?”

Murdoch: “Harrass people”

11.13 Were it not for the “good work of The Guardian”, the phone hacking scandal wouldn’t have come out Jay puts to Murdoch. “I don’t know. The Independent seemed to be pretty active,” he replies. Murdoch is very reluctant to give The Guardian any credit and doesn’t accept that NI didn’t do enough. “We looked, we didn’t find anything,” he said.

Jay: “You probably haven’t read Tom Watson’s book Dial M for Murdoch yet?”. Murdoch: “I’m not planning on reading it”.

10.57 On the settlement with Gordon Taylor, Murdoch he was “surprised”, adding that his son James was “given two boxes to tick” on the settlement – lower or much higher. “He was pretty inexperienced at the time”.

10.52 On the possibility it was just one rogue reporter, Murdoch sites the Nightjack case and says: “I think in newspapers people do act on their own. They do protect their sources. They don’t disclose to their colleagues what they’re doing.”

“I think I said yesterday that I’m guilty in not paying enough attention to the News of the World, probably for the whole time I owned it. I was more interested in the excitement of a new newspaper.”

10.48 Robert Jay QC tells Murdoch it looks like he wanted a cover up. “To people with minds like yours”, Murdoch hits back, before apologising. Jay says not to worry “I have very thick skin”.

“I have to admit I failed, and I’m very sorry about it”, Murdoch says of discovering the phone hacking.

10.45 Murdoch says he trusted Hinton and “delegated” to Hinton. “I relied on Mr Hinton, who had been with me for 50 years” to find out extent of wrongdoing at News of the World.

10.41 Colin Myler was not Murdoch’s choice for editor of NoW, he was Les Hinton’s choice. “I can think of some stronger people at The Sun”.

10.39 Murdoch: “Someone took charge of a cover up which we were victims of…No question someone…maybe even the editor, certainly beyond that, someone took charge of a cover-up” (on hacking)

Murdoch is asked where the cover up came from. “I think within the News of the World, people who’d been there for many many years.”

He suggests that “a drinking pal of the journalists” forbade people from reporting suspicions to Rebekah Brooks and his son.

10.34 Contradicting police evidence, Murdoch says News International did not obstruct the police in the hacking inquiry. He says he didn’t know NI was still refusing to waive privilege in order for their lawyers to give full disclosure.

10.27 “The BSkyB bid would have succeeded if it hadn’t coincided with the hacking scandal…The hacking scandal was not a great national thing until the Milly Dowler disclosure – I’m not making any excuses for it – but half of it was disowned by police. We didn’t have any information because the police had under lock and key the Mulcaire diary – still do. And we’ve been limited by that.”

10.25 Murdoch says he “only recently learned of the extend of Mr Michel’s lobbying”.

“I don’t want to say anything about Mr Michel but I think there could have been a bit of exaggeration there (regarding Michel’s closeness to Hunt’s SpAd).”

Did Murdoch think Hunt was on side? He replied: “I assumed that any responsible minister would be responsible and deal with it in a completely unbiased way. I thought that Dr Cable was an exception”.

10.20 Murdoch on Hunt replacing Cable: “We just thought we’d probably get a fairer go from anyone other than Dr Cable”.

10.15 Murdoch says he doesn’t believe he’s ever met Jeremy Hunt, he says he may have had dinner with him a few years ago but has never had any telephone conversations with him. However, he said his son James told him when Vince Cable was replaced by Hunt. “We were shocked by both what Mr Cable said and the unethical means in which that was deleted from the story in The Telegraph, who are clearly running a paper in their own commercial interests”.

10.12 Murdoch says until recently he spent less than 10 per cent of his time in the UK. But he says of his editors; “I think they know my philosophy yes”.

Asked how close he is to education secretary Michael Gove, he says: “Not very, I wish I was, no I don’t say that but he had a very distinguished career at The Times for a long time…

“We are passionate about it (education). We believe that it’s an absolute disgrace the standard of public education here and in America.

“This is a crime against the younger generation and we want to do something about that. I’m sorry to divert from the business of the inquiry but it’s just an example of – it’s not for profit or to sell papers – but to try and get people interested.”

10.08 Questioned on yesterday’s comment “if you want to judge my thinking look at The Sun”. Today Murdoch said: “The issues that we get interested and we fight for, you’ll find them in The Sun and you’ll find that I agree to most of them – if not all. There are details I don’t agree with.”

“There are conversations pretty constantly”, he adds.

Murdoch calls the former Sun Editor David Yelland’s autobiography ‘very strange’…says he was drunk at time, which we didn’t notice”.

10.04 Rupert Murdoch is questioned about his Gordon Brown anecdote from yesterday, when he described how the former PM said he’d declare war on him. Despite Brown’s denial last night, Murdoch said today: “I stand by every word of it”.

LIVE BLOG: Rupert Murdoch at the Leveson Day Two