Leveson inquiry

Infuriated by Fleet Street’s tabloids, the House of Lords this week nodded through a law to curb the British press. It authorised a Royal Charter that defines how self-regulation will work after the Leveson inquiry into phone hacking.

Andrew Hill

Rupert Murdoch

Rupert Murdoch

It will be a shame if bitter and partisan debate over whether Rupert Murdoch is “a fit person to exercise the stewardship of a major international company” obscures the more important conclusion of the UK parliament’s culture, media and sport committee on phone-hacking: that he and his son James were wilfully blind to what was going on.

Whether BSkyB, controlled by the Murdoch-owned News Corp, is a “fit and proper” owner of a broadcasting licence is a question for Ofcom, the regulator, which has now entered an “evidence-gathering” phase of its probe.

But as even the dissenting members of the committee said on Tuesday, if the “fit person” line had been omitted from the report, they would have voted unanimously to back it, including the charge that the Murdochs oversaw a culture of wilful blindness. Read more

John Gapper

James Murdoch faces tough questioning at the Leveson Inquiry. Getty Images

James Murdoch faces tough questioning at the Leveson Inquiry. Getty Images

The Leveson inquiry has finally arrived at the heart of an issue that has long bedevilled the UK media and political establishment – do newspaper proprietors get favourable treatment in business in return for supporting politicians?

James Murdoch, now the deputy chief operating officer of News Corporation, insisted angrily that he expected no more from politicians reviewing News Corp’s bid for the rest of the equity in British Sky Broadcasting in 2010 than to play it straight down the line:

In response to a suggestion from Robert Jay, counsel to the inquiry, that News Corp had courted Jeremy Hunt, the culture secretary, to get the bid through, he replied:

“That is absolutely not the case. Any question of support from a newspaper for one individual politician or another would never be linked to a commercial transaction… I simply wouldn’t do business in that way.”

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