19 Jul 2011

Murdochs express ‘great regret’ over phone hacking

Rupert Murdoch and his son James have apologised for the phone-hacking scandal while giving evidence to MPs. The session was briefly interrupted by a protester attempting to attack the pair.

Rupert Murdoch and his son James are being questoned by MPs on the Culture Media and Sport Committee about the phone-hacking controversy at News International (Getty)

Mr Murdoch junior started his evidence by apologising to the victims of phone hacking and their families saying it was a matter of “great regret for him and his father”.

Rupert Murdoch told MPs that it was the most “humble day of his life” and he was “absolutely shocked, appalled and ashamed” when he heard about the Milly Dowler phone-hack case.

He said people he had trusted with his British newspaper business had been betrayed.

But he added that he had not considered resigning: “Because I feel that people I trusted let me down and they behaved disgracefully, betrayed the company and me and it is for them to pay.”

Rupert Murdoch was ‘misled’

Asked by Labour MP Tom Watson whether he had been “misled” by senior employees, Mr Murdoch senior replied: “Clearly.”

Mr Watson pointed out that former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks admitted in 2003 that police were paid for information.

Mr Murdoch senior said: “I am now aware of that, I was not aware at the time. I’m also aware that she amended that considerably very quickly afterwards.”

Who's who: the MPs grilling the Murdochs

Rupert Murdoch was asked several questions which he struggled to answer.

Mr Watson said it was “revealing” in itself what Rupert Murdoch did not know as the man in charge of News Corp.

‘Lost touch with NoW’

Rupert Murdoch told MPs that Britain benefits greatly from a competitive press and has a more transparent society because of it.

But he added that the News of the World had lost trust with its readers.

Rupert Murdoch told MPs he would phone the editor of the News of World around once a month but the News Corp boss added: “I’m not really in touch”.

He said that he had lost touch because the newspaper was so small compared to the scale of News Corp.

His son James did admit there was a need to think about ethics in journalism in the future.

He said there was no decision yet on whether to replace the News of the World with another Sunday paper.

‘I believed in Rebekah’

Asked why he had not accepted Ms Brooks’ original offer to resign, Rupert Murdoch said: “Because I believed her and I trusted her and I do trust her.”

Explaining why he eventually accepted it, he said: “In the event, she just insisted. She was at a point of extreme anguish.”

Mr Murdoch said Mr Hinton had “sadly” offered to resign as he was in charge of News International at the height of the hacking abuse.

He refused to give details of the pay-off each will receive but said Mr Hinton’s would “certainly be considerable” as it would include pension packages.

James Murdoch said commercial confidentiality agreements were part of the exit package but there was nothing that would “stop or inhibit” them from co-operating fully with investigations.