Rupert Murdoch: Phone hacking is ‘lazy’ journalism

He also denied using the power of his press for personal gain, saying his newspapers did not lobby for his commercial interests and he had “never asked a prime minister for anything.”

“I take a particularly strong pride in the fact that we’ve never pushed our commercial interests in our newspapers,” said Murdoch, who owns the Sun and the Times in London, the New York Post and Wall Street Journal, and papers in Australia as well as television stations and book publishers.

And he said he does not hold a grudge against British Prime Minister David Cameron, who established the probe into press ethics to which Murdoch gave testimony. The panel was created in response to phone hacking at Murdoch’s News of the World tabloid.

Murdoch said rumors that he could not forgive Cameron for setting up the Leveson Inquiry are “untrue.”

He was speaking a day after his son testified about close ties between the family and the highest levels of the British government.

Tuesday’s hearing shed light on the links between the Murdoch family and British politicians, with James Murdoch saying he had drinks with Cameron at a pub before Cameron became prime minister and dined with him once he was in office.

On Tuesday, inquiry lawyer Robert Jay pressed James Murdoch over the extent of his contact with politicians as the company moved to take full control of satellite broadcaster BSkyB, a bid that collapsed because of the phone-hacking scandal.

Evidence published Tuesday suggests that News Corp. was getting inside information from the government minister with the power to approve or block the acquisition, Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

An aide to Hunt resigned Wednesday, saying his contacts with Murdoch representatives had gone beyond what the culture secretary had authorized.

James Murdoch spent Tuesday testifying at the Leveson Inquiry, insisting that he knew little about the scale of phone hacking by people working for the News of the World, as he continued his fight to limit the damage the scandal does to him and his family’s media empire.

The scandal has reverberated through the British political establishment, led to dozens of arrests on suspicion of criminal activity and forced News Corp. to pay hundreds of thousands of pounds in compensation to the victims of phone hacking.

Hundreds of pages of e-mails painted a picture of a back channel between Hunt’s office and Frederic Michel, a top Murdoch employee.

Michel told Murdoch in January 2011 that he had gotten “absolutely illegal” information about government plans related to the takeover plan, the e-mails show.

Prime Minister Cameron has full confidence in Hunt, his spokesman, Craig Oliver, said after the Murdoch testimony concluded.

Hunt’s portfolio includes the London Olympics, which are now fewer than 100 days away.

 

James and Rupert Murdoch have been hammered over the past year about what they knew about phone hacking by people working for them.

 

Underlings did not tell James Murdoch how pervasive it was when he took over News Corp.’s British newspaper publishing arm, he testified Tuesday.

He agreed with a suggestion that the reason was because they knew he would put a stop to it.

“I think that must be it, that I would say, ‘Cut out the cancer,’ and there was some desire to not do that,” he told the Leveson Inquiry.

Former Murdoch employees testified earlier that they told him about the problem.

The younger Murdoch has already been called twice to testify before British lawmakers and resigned from a number of top management positions at British subsidiaries of his father’s media empire.

He and his father have always denied knowing about the scale of phone hacking, which police say could have affected thousands of people, ranging from celebrities and politicians to crime victims and war veterans.

James Murdoch said Tuesday that he had no reason to look into illegal eavesdropping by his employees when he took over the company’s British newspaper subsidiary in December 2007.

A News of the World reporter and a private investigator had been sent to prison that year for hacking the phones of the staff of Princes William and Harry, but Murdoch said he had been assured that the problem went no further.

“I was not told sufficient information to go and turn over a whole bunch of stones that I was told had already been turned over,” he said. “I don’t think that, short of knowing they weren’t giving me the full picture, I would’ve been able to know that at the time.”

The journalist who went to prison, Clive Goodman, had been saying that phone-hacking went beyond his case, Leveson Inquiry counsel Robert Jay said.

“I was not aware of that,” Murdoch replied.

He acknowledged meeting with Cameron and his predecessor as prime minister, Tony Blair, but denied having lobbied them improperly about his family’s business interests.

And he denied having made a “crass calculation” about how The Sun’s endorsement of Cameron’s Conservative party before the 2010 elections would affect News Corp.

Dozens of people have been arrested in criminal investigations into phone and e-mail hacking and police bribery, and police asked prosecutors last week to charge at least eight people.

The suspects include at least one journalist and a police officer, the Crown Prosecution Service said, declining to name them.

No charges have been filed, and the Crown Prosecution Service said it did not know when a decision would be made about charges.

In addition to the Leveson Inquiry, two parliamentary committees also are looking into media conduct.

James Murdoch, 39, resigned as chairman of British Sky Broadcasting this month, saying, “I am determined that the interests of BSkyB should not be undermined by matters outside the scope of this company.”

Rupert Murdoch testified before lawmakers in July alongside his son.

News Corp. shut down its British Sunday tabloid, The News of the World, last summer after public outrage at the scale of illegal eavesdropping its journalists did in search of stories.

The British lawyer representing dozens of alleged News Corp. phone-hacking victims was in New York last week, exploring options for a U.S. case against the company.

Attorney Mark Lewis said he is representing three or four new clients, one of whom is believed to be a U.S. citizen, who say their phones were hacked while they were on U.S. soil.

There are also many other potential new clients, Lewis said.

 

“As I’ve been traveling here,” he said, “I’ve been contacted by many people who’ve had, so they say, similar problems — not just hacking but maybe being trailed or have fallen out with some American Murdoch News Corp. company and then found themselves, as they would say, at the wrong end of investigations, the wrong end of information gathered.”

 

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