25 Apr 2012

LIVE BLOG: Rupert Murdoch at the Leveson Inquiry

Rupert Murdoch appears before the Leveson Inquiry, following his son James’ appearance yesterday which unearthed evidence that Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt ‘secretly supported’ News Corp’s bid for BSkyB. Mr Murdoch Snr is due to take the stand today from 10am to 4.30pm and on Thursday. We’ll be live blogging all the action here and you can have your say on the day’s events as they unfold in the box below.

Rupert Murdoch appears before the Leveson Inquiry, following his son James’ appearance yesterday which unearthed evidence that Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt ‘secretly supported’ News Corp’s bid for BSkyB.

Despite calls for his resignation, Mr Hunt has denied any wrongdoing.

Further revelations are expected as Mr Murdoch Snr takes the stand today from 10am to 4.30pm and on Thursday. We’ll be live blogging all the action here and you can have your say on the day’s events as they unfold in the box below.

Wednesday’s highlights from Rupert Murdoch’s evidence –

– Murdoch calls Alex Salmond ‘an amusing guy’
– Denies trade-off between his papers’ support and parties’ policies
– Brown not in ‘balanced state of mind’ when he declared war on News Corp
– Brown ‘misled parliament’ over Sun story about his son
– Cameron impressed Murdoch as a family man
– No ‘implicit understanding’ between Murdoch and Blair’s on media oversight
– ‘It’s the Sun what won it’ headline was ‘tasteless’
– Using ┬áhacking and private detectives is lazy

And with that Lord Leveson brings today’s hearing at the inquiry to a close. Rupert Murdoch’s evidence resumes tomorrow morning at 10am.

14.47 The general manager of News International Newspsaper Scotland wrote to Mr Salmond on 9 May 2011 congratulating him on the SNP election victory. “It might be said that you had an ally in Mr Salmond,” suggests Robert Jay QC.

14.43 The Scottish Sun supported the SNP in the Scottish elections of 2011 but was neutral on the subject of Scottish independence. “Was that a decision you contributed to?” Robert Jay asks. “I don’t remember, but probably yes,” replies Mr Murdoch.

14.38 “How would you describe your relationship with Mr Salmond?” asks Robert Jay. “Is it warm or something different?” “Today? I would describe it as warm,” replies Rupert Murdoch. He goes on to describe Alex Salmond as “an amusing guy”.

14.35 Records show there was no contact between Rupert Murdoch and Alex Salmond for seven years, between 2000 and October 2007. But from 30 October 2007 there is far more contact, states Robert Jay QC.

14.34 Robert Jay discusses Alex Salmond, leader of the SNP and Scotland’s first minister. Mr Murdoch concedes that the Scottish Sun supported the Labour Party and not the SNP in 2007. “And then in 2010, the next election, we supported Mr Salmond and his party.”

14.32 “I don’t know” – Rupert Murdoch’s response to the question as to why News Corp’s bid for BSkyB was announced one month after the general election in 2010.

14.29 Rupert Murdoch says he never gave any thought to the possibility that News Corp’s bid for BSkyB would hit “choppy waters” if Gordon Brown won the 2010 general election.

To read more from our coverage of Rupert Murdoch, go to the Channel 4 News website.

14.26 Rupert Murdoch says the perception that there is a trade-off between his newspapers’ support for politicians and the policies their parties adopt is one that irritates him. He cites the example of Michael Bloomberg in New York, who is driven crazy by Mr Murdoch’s newspapers – but who receives their support when he runs for re-election.

14.25 “I enjoy meeting… our leaders. Some impress me more than others. And I meet them around the world – and I could tell you one or two who’ve particularly impressed me,” says Mr Murdoch.

14.23 Rupert Murdoch: “We’re very lucky in this country that we have 10 vibrant national newspapers to keep the debate going.”

14.22 On the subject of David Cameron’s detour to visit Rupert Murdoch in Santorini 2008, Mr Murdoch says politicians go out of their way to meet people from the press. “There may have been some issued discussed passingly.” he continues: “All politicians of all sides like to have their views known by the editors of newspapers… hoping they will be put across, that they will succeed in impressing people. That’s the game.”

14.19 Rupert Murdoch: “It is a complete myth that I used the influence of the Sun to get favourable political treatment.”

Check out our graphic of who sued and who settled in the phone hacking scandal.

14.17 Discussing the BSkyB bid, Mr Murdoch says he was concerned, from the US, that the independent directors were driving up the price to many billions of dollars.

14.15 “The Tory party… were always pro-business,” says Rupert Murdoch – on which basis, he repeats, he would have supported them in every general election.

14.12 Rupert Murdoch tells the inquiry: “They (prime ministers) all hated the BBC and they all gave it whatever it wanted.”

14.11 Rupert Murdoch denies that his conversations with David Cameron prior to his becoming prime minister touched on licence fees, Ofcom, and Andy Coulson’s appointment as director of communications with the Conservative Party.

14.09 Mr Murdoch says if business motivations were the sole justification for supporting a party, then his newspapers would always come out in support of the Conservatives. But there were also considerations of policy.

14.07 Robert Jay QC lists Rupert Murdoch’s meetings with David Cameron prior to him becoming prime minister.

14.04 Rupert Murdoch recalls his first meetings with David Cameron, who impressed him as a family man.

12.59 The hearing breaks for lunch. Rupert Murdoch’s evidence will resume at 2.pm.

12.57 Mr Murdoch says it never occurred to him that the “declaration of war” between the Labour government and News Corporation would result in obstacles placed in the way of the company’s bid for ownership of BSkyB.

12.52 Rupert Murdoch responds to Gordon Brown’s claim that the Sun had hacked into his son’s criminal records, which prompted Mr Brown’s reference to News International as a “criminal organisation”.

12.51 Murdoch on what he said to Gordon Brown during the phone conversation: “I’m sorry to tell you, Gordon, but we have come to the conclusion that we will support a change of government.” Mr Brown replied, according to Mr Murdoch, that “We have no alternative but to make war on your company.”

12.49 Asked about Kelvin Mackenzie’s assertion that Gordon Brown talked to Rupert Murdoch on 20 September 2009, Mr Murdoch discusses the claim that Mr Brown “roared at him” for 20 minutes.

12.46 In June 2008, Rupert Murdoch had dinner with Gordon Brown on the 6th. There was a slumber party on the 14th – at which Mr Murdoch was not present. On 16 June Mr Brown attended Rupert Murdoch’s annual summer party – “Yes,” replies Rupert Murdoch, “most people did.”

12.44 Asked about a visit to Chequers, Mr Murdoch asks: “Was that the pyjama party weekend?”

12.43 On his relations with Gordon Brown, Rupert Murdoch says his personal relationship with the former premier had always been warm – until the Sun “came at him” in 2009.

12.42 Asked if he had a view on who should succeed Tony Blair in 2007, Rupert Murdoch replies: “I thought the matter was settled.”

12.40 Rupert Murdoch: “We certainly expressed the opinion strongly that the EU constitution should be put to the people.”

12.39 Rupert Murdoch says he would “doubt it very much” that he discussed with Tony Blair a strategy for attacking the then French president, Jacques Chirac. “It was then well known that the Sun was pretty rude about the French from time to time,” he admits.

12.37 On the subject of the Iraq war in 2003, Rupert Murdoch concedes that all of his newspapers across the world back the war.

12.36 Rupert Murdoch recalls a day at Chequers with Tony Blair in which they spent the whole evening debating the euro. Murdoch says his anti-euro views have been proved right.

12.34 Alistair Campbell’s diaries on the 2001 election cited – a diary entry for 30 October 2000. Tony Blair asks Murdoch outright whether he was going to back Labour in the forthcoming generation election. Murdoch denies saying that the Tories then were “unelectable”.

12.30 Rupert Murdoch asked about a decision to “pull” a book by former Hong Kong governor Chris Patten, due to be published by HarperCollins, because of his own ambitions in China.

12.27 Murdoch asked if he asked Tony Blair to speak to the then Italian premier, Romano Prodi, about Murdoch’s “multi-billion-pound” bid for MediaSet.

12.16 Rupert Murdoch denies any “implicit understanding” between Labour and Rupert Murdoch in regard to media oversight.

12.14 18 March 1997 saw the Sun endorsing the Labour Party. Rupert Murdoch confirms that he “would have been delighted” by an article in the Sun by Tony Blair in which he expresses eurosceptic views.

12.09 Discussing a meeting with Tony Blair and Gordon Brown before the 1997 general election, Rupert Murdoch says: “They probably wanted to convince me that they were the right people to be leading Britain – and I’m sure they were doing that to every other press proprietor.”

12.07 Murdoch: “I, in 10 years… never asked Mr Blair for anything – nor indeed did I receive any favours.”

12.05 Extracts from Alistair Campbell’s diaries being quoted to Rupert Murdoch. Murdoch agrees with the contention that he had by 1997 lost respect for John Major and the Tories.

12.03 Murdoch says he did not notice the fact that the 1997 Labour manifesto contained no proposals on controlling media ownership.

11.48 Murdoch hits back at the suggestion his political motives are tied in with his commercial interests. “I never let my commercial interests enter into consideration during elections – give me an instance”.

11.46 Long pause as Murdoch is asked if he generally backs the winning side. “No (pause), I’m trying to think when we didn’t,” he says to laughs.

11.41 Murdoch says he gave The Sun a “terrible bollocking” for the headline; “It’s the Sun wot won it” in the 1992 election. “I just thought it was tasteless and wrong for us. We don’t have that sort of power,” he adds.

“I think perhaps we’re (The Sun) the only independent newspaper in the business”

11.37 Murdoch is asked: You’re the biggest player now aren’t you? He replies: “If you’re talking about newspapers alone, yes. Well, put it this way, I go to an election every day – people can stop buying my newspapers any time – often do I’m afraid. And it’s only natural for politicians to reach out to editors and sometimes proprietors if they’re available to explain what they’re doing and hoping that it gets through. But I was only one of several (in the 90s) and today I’m only one of several.”

11.30 Of Labour in the 1990s, Murdoch says he thought The Sun’s splash on the 1992 election – featuring Neil Kinnock and a lightbulb – was “absolutely brilliant” (see that famous front page here).

11.24 With that Jay brings to a close the 1980s and says he wants to move on to the 1990s. Lord Leveson chips in, that on the point of privacy isn’t it not that people court fame but “just that they are rather good at what they do?”. Murdoch says it is people of responsibility, such as politicians, that should expect journalists to look “behind the facade”.

11.21 Murdoch on titilating celebrity stories. “So much of that material is provided by paid public relations agents working for those people. It’s our job also to look behind what we’re being told…I don’t believe in hacking or using private detectives. That’s a lazy reporter not doing their job. But I think it’s fair that when people hold themselves up as public figures or great actors, that we take a look at them.”

“A lot of these people are very big in the lives of ordinary people…and of course I must include politicians…I include press proprietors in that…I don’t think they are entitled to the same privacy as the ordinary man in the street.”

11.10 Break. Jeremy Hunt’s special adviser Adam Smith, whose flurry of emails with News Corp’s lobbyist emerged yesterday, has resigned.

11.08 Was Murdoch involved with the publication of the Hitler Diaries? “I’m sorry to say, yes,” he replies. “It was a major mistake and I take full responsibility for it – it was a mistake I will have to live with for the rest of my life.”

11.07 Murdoch’s witness statement has been posted on the Leveson Inquiry’s website.

11.03 “Not The Times, if you want to judge my thinking look at The Sun” says Murdoch.

10.59 Facing a staff insurrection at The Times, Murdoch denies telling former editor Harry Evans: “I give instructions to my editors all round the world, why shouldn’t I in London?” (as Evans wrote in his book). Murdoch says Evans was the only editor of The Times he has ever let go.

10.56 Murdoch: “The Sun has never been a better paper than it is today. I can’t say the same of my competitors”.

10.51 Murdoch: “I do try very hard to set an example of ethical behaviour…but do I send out an aura, or charisma? I don’t think so”. Lord Leveson cuts in to make the point that the media mogul has seen many editors; “Our editors have generally been very long-serving, I invite you to call all the living ones up here,” says Murdoch.

10.49 Murdoch says he takes “particularly strong pride in the fact that we’ve never pushed our commercial interests through our newspapers”.

10.43 Slow pace at Leveson this morning, with Jay’s line of questioning beginning with Murdoch’s bid for The Times in the 80s and his political influence at the time.

10.39 Jeremy Hunt is to make a statement to the House of Commons at 12.30 regarding the Murdochs and News Corp’s bid for BSkyB.

10.29 “I’ve never asked a Prime Minister for anything”, Murdoch says regarding his acquisition of The Times. He admits he could have easily been “outbid” but insists that he never asked for Thatcher’s help.

10.25 Laughs as Murdoch says he “was always bidding for things”, regarding his fight for The Times in 1981. And more laughs as he mentions the union unrest of the age; “I didn’t have the will to crush the unions, I might have had the desire…but that took several years”.

10.18 Jay takes Murdoch back to 1981 and a lunch with Thatcher – when he had 30 per cent of the media market. “The Sun must have been more of a success than I thought”, he said, “But I’ll take your figures”.

Murdoch: “I think the conversation at least for some time was taken up by me gossiping about Australian and American politics”. Murdoch is asked if Thatcher, Reagan and he were all the same page politically. “I guess that’s fair”, he responds.

10.16 “Don’t take my tweets too seriously”, Murdoch says of comments he has made recently on Twitter. He agrees with Robert Jay QC that there “is a lot of mythology around you (him) that needs to be debunked”.

10.14 Asked about his political philosophy and Margaret Thatcher, Murdoch says he “was when she was elected and remains a great admirer” of the Baroness.

10.10 Rupert Murdoch is sworn in. He agrees he has been following British politics “with varying intensity” for about 60 years.

He tells the hearing he thinks there is “a need for this inquiry”, adding that he wanted to “put certain myths to bed”.

10.08 A few minutes late, Lord Leveson begins – bearing in mind the furore over yesterday’s revelations, he reminds us: “it is very important to hear every side of the story before drawing conclusions”.