Welcome to our live coverage of the Leveson Inquiry into the standards and ethics of the UK press, on the second day when Rupert Murdoch, chairman and chief executive of News Corp, gave evidence.
NB: We refer to Rupert Murdoch as Rupert throughout for speed and to avoid confusion with his son James. Jay is Robert Jay QC, who is questioning Rupert.
16.45 What were the most interesting things that Rupert said today? Here’s a selection of three key moments. Let us know your thoughts in the comments.
- “The News of the World, quite honestly, was an aberration, and it’s my fault”. Rupert said this in the context of defending his other newspapers and their integrity, thus characterising the NOTW as a sort of rogue newspaper – just as he once relied on the “rogue reporter” argument. However, it’s also noticeable that he appeared to take responsibility – “it’s my fault”. He would later say he was “sorry he didn’t close [the NOTW] years before”.
- “I think the senior executives were all informed, and I — were all misinformed and shielded from anything that was going on there, and I do blame one or two people for that, who perhaps I shouldn’t name, because for all I know they may be arrested yet, but there’s no question in my mind that maybe even the editor, but certainly beyond that someone took charge of a cover-up, which we were victim to…” This is where Rupert effectively accuses “one or two” people at the News of the World of organising a cover-up of the extent of phonehacking at the newspaper.
- “It’s a common thing in life, way beyond journalism, for people to say, ‘I’ll scratch your back if you scratch my back’”. It was as if Rupert momentarily let the veil fall when he made this offhand comment, giving a sense into what his critics might say is ‘the real Rupert’. Robert Jay QC was quick to jump on the remark, saying: “You said it was a common thing in life… and that’s true, that’s human nature, but it’s interesting that you say that’s no part of the implied deal in your relations with politicians over 30 years, Mr Murdoch. Is that right?” Rupert saw the trap and took evasive action: “I don’t ask any politician to scratch my back… That’s a nice twist, but no, I’m not falling for it.”
14.21 On Tuesday, a parliamentary select committee will finally publish its report on phonehacking, after months of testimony from dozens of witnesses including Rupert and James Murdoch. The report, delayed for four months, is expected to criticise senior News International figures, including Rupert Murdoch. One person familiar with early drafts told the FT’s Jim Pickard earlier this month that “None will be entirely unscathed”.
James Murdoch wrote a letter to the parliamentary committee in advance of the report, claiming his innocence again, in an attempt to contain the potential fallout.
Two possibles outcomes of the report would be particularly interesting:
- if the committee says James Murdoch was in some way guilty of a cover up, or of playing a role in a cover up of the extent of phonehacking at the News of the World
- if the committee decides that he was incompetent in terms of management
14.07 Update – the official Leveson Inquiry website is now host to a whole new selection of evidence associated with Rupert’s appearance, which contain some very interesting information but will take a lot of sifting through. You can take a look at them here, and helpfully, an index is also posted here.
13.17 Lord Justice Leveson has announced the end of the hearing for today, saying that Rupert has finished his evidence.
Phew. Lot to take in. We’ll bring you all the analysis and comment on FT.com as soon as we can.
13.15 The NUJ representative puts it to Rupert that News International had some discussion with Tony Blair or officials on his side, to ensure that provision was in legislation that prevented the creation of an independent trade union, if an existing non-independent trade union was already in place at the company. This had the effect, he says, of excluding the NUJ from making an application for collective bargaining at News International, because the company already had a staff association.
Rupert denies it:
No. I know that I never approached or spoke to Mr Blair about it. Otherwise I have no knowledge.
13.12 The NUJ representative asks whether Rupert knows about the idea of a ‘conscience clause’ that would allow a journalist to refuse to do something which they thought was unethical. Rupert says he doesn’t know anything about it but he likes the idea:
I wouldn’t do it through the NUJ, but as a condition of employment… I think that’s a good idea.
13.11 The NUJ representative asks whether if the NUJ were permitted to represent members of News International titles, that would be one step towards the eradication or prevention of unethical story-gathering practices?
No… I’m sure some of the people who were arrested were once members of the NUJ. It didn’t stop them doing what they did…
13.10 The NUJ representative asks whether Rupert accepts that the absence of the NUJ having any form of recognition at News International means journalists have nowhere to go if they have complaints about bullying or other matters at work?
There is a staff association where they are certainly very welcome to raise whatever issue they wanted.
13.08 The NUJ representative says that at present, the NUJ is not allowed to represent any journalists on a News Int title, isn’t that right? Rupert says that if a majority of journalists wanted to join the NUJ, he would have no choice but to accept it.
13.03 Leveson says he will allow questions on the first point.
Rupert says he doesn’t believe there is any unethical treatment of journalists at his papers:
We have a very large staff of very, very well-paid journalists and they are perfectly free to join the NUJ whenever they want.
The NUJ representative says Michelle Stanistreet, general secretary of the NUJ, gave evidence to the same Leveson inquiry, about bullying and unethical treatment.
Our journalists are perfectly free to make complaints…
Leveson interrupts to say one has to be careful because Ms Stanistreet only spoke generally, because the complaints were anonymous.
The NUJ representative says he has clear evidence of a culture of bullying at the News of the World, citing a woman who experienced bullying at the News of the World.
Why didn’t she resign?
Leveson says: I think it might have been that she needs a job. (laughter in the room). He then warns that perhaps if Rupert hasn’t seen the evidence being discussed, he shouldn’t be answering questions about it.
13.00 The National Union of Journalists’ representative is now speaking about the culture and ethics at the newspapers. There are five areas he wants to address:
- unethical treatment of reporters and photographers which contributed to the unethical newsgathering which you’ve been investigating
- allowing NUJ to represent journalists which would have been good protection against unethical behaviour in the future
- whether News International was involved in the insertion of a particular provision in industrial relations legislation which would appear to be protective to News Int
- whether a conscience clause would be a good protection for journalists in the future
- and the role of the Management Standards Committee and the absence of journalists’ protection (the Will Lewis-led internal investigation at News Int, which has been accused of disclosing journalists’ sources to the police)
12.54 Now we have questions from others in the inquiry room.
A representative of Associated Newspapers [owner of the Daily Mail] asks about editorial policy being driven by commercial interest. He points to an email from Mr Michel, to James, about Jeremy Hunt, which references a campaign by the Daily Mail and other sections of the media against News Corp’s takeover of BSkyB.
The representative wants to point out that it does not reflect Paul Dacre’s personal editorial policy.
Rupert takes the opportunity to bring up how proud he is of the time he almost “went broke” in creating BSkyB.
I think there’s no doubt that the Mail and many other newspapers were campaigning against us… that is a commercial reason. They said at the time they thought they were in some commercial danger if we’d succeeded.
Something else – I would say that – I’m very, very proud of. I nearly went broke, I’m not talking about the company, I’m talking about myself… I mortgaged my apartment in New York… but we got through it, and we gave great plurality to the British public. They now have 600 channels.
Whatever happened at NOTW, I have contributed to plurality of the press, you wouldn’t be here with 10 papers today… if I hadn’t beaten the old craft unions… there wouldn’t be such a good democratic press.
12.53 Rupert is asked if he has anything else to add.
No, I think I’ve… I’ve made some comments about the BBC, I’ve spoken about the local press…
12.52 Rupert says he doesn’t think that people who pay public relations experts, or politicians, deserve privacy. Leveson says he’s asking about people who have legitimate complaints.
I regret it and I’ve said it will be a blot on my reputation for the rest of my life.
I know, says Leveson.
12.51 Rupert repeats – almost verbatim – what he said earlier about the investigation at News Corp, including about the pain caused by the arrests:
Through the ethical lapses that we discovered… I have spent hundreds of millions of dollars, way beyond anything the police asked… 300 million emails, I didn’t believe that many existed, of which 2 million were given closer examination… [he continues in the same vein as he did earlier].
12.45 Leveson is asking Rupert about that which is unethical, but not necessarily a civil or criminal wrong.
You may say that the problems of the NOTW are an issue of enforcement as much as anything else, although I might say that external enforcement by the police must be the very very last run, and therefore some enforcement must come internally… but there also must be some mechanism for speedy recognition of complaints… which are short of claims in libel or claims in breach of a civil or criminal wrong, there has to be some mechanism to resolve them and one would want to encompass as many as possible, including those who decide to publish for profit only online… have you considered how that may be organised? Given that I have the opportunity…
I’m not aware – I should be – of all the details of the PCC. I know the number of complaints that have been received… If you only talking about profitable organisations, you’d leave out most of my newspapers.
Leveson says he just means people publishing for revenue, not necessarily profit.
Something like the Huffington Post… some quite clever blogs… but mainly stealing stories from newspapers. I don’t believe they’re making a profit yet… The Mail Online – they just steal. They just steal gossip from everybody. It’s a great gossip site. Or bad, depends which way you look at it. It comes right up to the barrier of what is fair use of other people’s materials. But is has tens of millions of followers around the world… but there’s no profit in it – at least not yet, according to their public statements.
12.42 Rupert seems to be summing up his thoughts on regulation – it seems he is basically making a call for a light touch:
So I think there are opportunities… we’re dealing in a very complex world with disruptive technologies and we’re suffering at the hand of those. So when it comes to regulation, I just beg for some care. It is really a very complex situation. The press today guarantees democracy. We want democracy rather than autocracy.
12.40 Couple of tweets on Rupert’s ‘lecture’ on the changing media landscape – which is still going on:
12.30 Rupert talks – for a long, interrupted time – about regulation and the challenges facing the newspaper industry:
You said at the beginning that I had a great understanding of technology… I don’t. I can’t write computer code or anything like that. The fact is that the internet came along, developed as a source of news, and now is absolutely in our space, and I think it’s been responsible for a loss of circulation. I should ask the judge – this inquiry is for the press in this country, not just the press in Fleet St? We’re saying everybody under extreme pressure… only this week 3 newspapers ceasing publication as dailies and becoming weekles.
There’s a reason for that. There’s a disruptive technology. Certain things can be done I think to control the major players but in the long run it is just too wide. People can tend their blogs from Beijing or from the Cayman Islands, and whatever you do, you can’t regulate that.
I think you have a danger of regulating, putting regulations in place which will mean there will be no press in 10 years to regulate. I honestly believe newspapers and all they mean – mistakes and qualities – are a huge benefit to society…
In a very short time, I would put money on it, there will be billions of tabloids in the world… and smart telephones – people will get the news on a smart telephone…
I think we’ll have both for quite a while… I’d be more inclined to say 20 [years]… The day will come when we’ll say it’s not worth it, we can’t afford all the huge presses and so on, and we’ll be purely electronic.
Now, as I say, privacy, if you have my telephone number of my iPhone, you could find out… if you’re here in London, you could find out wherever I was, any time of the day, within 10 feet.
The telephone is used for industrial espionage, it’s used for law enforcement, and it’s not going to go away… particularly industrial espionage which is conducted internationally. I think what can be done, certainly with the big players, it is perfectly practical and possible to say no pornography, no links to confidential intellectual property…
That can be stopped. It would take legislation, and I would encourage it, I’m not saying there are other people beyond the jurisdiction of the law… I would say one more thing about the internet. Not only is it a major source of information, but in this country we have the BBC which is by far the greatest force of media in this country it does some great broadcasting... but it also has gone online with the news service… which 12 million people watch it and feel they’ve had enough news. That must be affecting one of the reasons why newspaper circulations are in decline. More seriously, my criticism is the taxpayer funded thing…
12.28 Jay says: May I suggest that any claim that a paper such as the NOTW was an agent of the public interest is in danger of seriously overstating the position. What the NOTW provided was what the public wanted or what you believe the public wanted?
Rupert says he has the greatest newspaper in America and that:
The News of the World, quite honestly, was an aberration, and it’s my fault.
[Is this an echo of the rogue reporter argument, rehashed into newspaper form?]
12.27 Jay asks whether it would be fair to say that Rupert had a swashbuckling or cavalier attitude? Rupert says no.
12.25 Rupert says:
We had systems, they proved inadequate. And I’m sorry about that… I think we learned a lot about how to control compliance and so on, which takes place pretty naturally in all other newspapers but certainly did not in the News of the World.
Jay: The only system in place was the human personality of Mr Crone, and that of the editor, there was nothing else, was there?
No… well there were corporate lawyers above him. There were HR people. With major responsibilities…
I think editors are all responsible for their papers… I hold them to that.
12.22 Jay says, ‘If you were serious about managing the business risk of wrongdoing in itself, you would have to do that not at the most serious end only – namely criminal behaviour – but holistically, namely by instilling an ethical culture, would you agree?’ Rupert says yes.
Jay: There are however business costs in doing that, though, aren’t there?
I think I explained – minor, compared to serious unethical or criminal offences.
Jay: But could it not be said that your failure to ensure there were systems in place of corporate governance …at News of the World – demonstrates a cavalier attitude to the risks I referred to?
No I think that’s unfair… to say that it’s me, no.
12.22 Jay says he is trying to get across that this is all on a spectrum – unethical, leading to civil wrong, and then criminal wrong – all part of a continuum or spectrum. Rupert says he can see that.
12.20 Rupert is asked about the difference between illegal actions and unethical actions:
Serious breaches of the law are obviously unethical. I can think of several other things that are obviously unethical and extremely serious but are not criminal…
12.20 We’re back.
12.07 A short break. Andrew Edgcliffe-Johnson, our media editor, has sent over this snappy summary of the morning:
Many commentators found Rupert Murdoch’s appearance before the Leveson Inquiry a slow-burn affair on Wednesday. Some expressed frustration that Robert Jay, the QC leading the questioning, seemed to land few punches. That all changed on Thursday morning.
Mr Murdoch was throwing jabs from the start, with a swipe at David Yelland, a former editor of The Sun, and a firm restatement of his account of an angry conversation with Gordon Brown which the former prime minister strongly denied last night.
Before long, he was swinging at Mr Jay, QC. “Some might say this picture is consistent with a desire to cover up rather than a desire to expose?” the QC said. “Yes, to people with minds like yours,” Mr Murdoch shot back, to audible gasps, before quickly retracting the remark.
There were admissions, with hindsight, that he “failed” to dig deep enough into the hacking scandal, but the headlines from the morning session at Leveson will be taken by the testier tone of Mr Murdoch’s exchanges with Mr Jay, and by his blaming the handling of the issue on a “cover-up” inside the News of the World.
Without quite naming names, he pointed the finger at Colin Myler, the paper’s former editor, and Tom Crone, its former in-house lawyer – the two men who challenged evidence to the House of Commons select committee given by Mr Murdoch’s son, James.
Harbottle & Lewis, a law firm used by the News of the World to investigate the early stage of the scandal, also took flak: “I cannot understand a law firm reading that and not ringing the chief executive of a company and saying ‘You’ve got some big problems,” Mr Murdoch charged.
James and Rebekah Brooks, the former News International chief executive, were kept in the dark, he maintained.
Mr Murdoch probably elicited bigger gasps at The Guardian offices across town when he said he had often voiced admiration for the newspaper whose reporting brought the slumbering phone hacking story back to life. But he could not quite bring himself to agree that the story would not have come out without its coverage.
12.06 Rupert is asked about the difference between illegality and something that is unethical. He says:
If I had asked a prime minister for favours in return for [coverage], it would have been unethical… I doubt it would have been criminal, but it would have been wrong and that’s why I wouldn’t do it.
12.04 Rupert says:
If I had really got into it, when Mr Goodman wrote that letter in 2007, saying he shouldn’t have been making accusations that other people were involved, we appointed Harbottle & Lewis, I should have gone then and thrown all the damn lawyers out of the place and seen Mr Goodman one-on-one. He’d been an employee for a long time, I should have cross-examined him myself and made up my mind if he was telling the truth. And if I had come to the conclusion he was telling the truth, I would have torn the place apart and we wouldn’t be here today. That’s hindsight which is of course a lot easier than foresight, but…
12.01 Rupert talks about how much the phonehacking scandal investigation has cost the company and about the arrests of some former employees:
I have spent hundreds of millions of dollars… we had to electronically examine 300m emails, which we chose 2m which Linklaters and ourselves examined and anything faintly suspicious was passed to the police…
That led to midnight arrests because of my orders. The police did not ask us to go to that extent – we went way beyond what we were asked to do. I remain greatly distressed that people who I’ve worked with for 20 or 30 years, friends of mine… although it would be presumptuous to compare my distress with the immense hurt of the people who were arrested… but I’m glad we did it.
We are now a new company, we have new rules, we have new compliance officers. I think we’re showing, with The Sun, that you can still produce the best newspaper without the actions that were disclosed.
[NB: More than 30 News International journalists have been arrested for alleged hacking, bribery and perverting the course of justice.]
11.58 Jay asked did the company manage the legal risk by covering it up?
No. There was no attempt either at my level or several levels below me to cover it up. We employed legal firm after legal firm. And perhaps we relied too much on the conclusions of the police…
Some of our senior executives were questioned by the select committee and accused of ‘selective amnesia’… and I think our response to that was far too defensive, and worse, disrespectful of parliament.
11.57 Jay is asking whether News Corp as a business registered the risk of a compound commercial disaster of this proportion. Did you think about these risks, says Jay, in 2005, 2000, or 1995? Rupert seems bemused:
1995? What for?
11.55 Jay says, the closure was a disaster, commercially and reputationally, wasn’t it?
Rupert says it didn’t affect the circulation of The Sun, which has continued to sell well. But he adds:
Let me agree with you, this whole business of the NOTW is a serious blot on my reputation.
11.52 Jay: Why did you close the News Of The World rather than tough it out?
When the Milly Dowler situation was first given huge publicity, I think all the newspapers took the chance to really make a really national scandal. It made people all around the country aware of it who hadn’t followed it. You could feel the blast coming in the window, almost. And, I say it succinctly, I panicked. But I’m glad I did.
I’m sorry I didn’t close it years before and put a Sunday Sun in.
11.52 A core participant has asked whether Rupert ever instructed or encouraged his editors to promote his own interests such as tv channels in the newspapers.
I don’t have any other business interests…
This is clearly not true, as Jay points out, saying: “Your other business interests are within other newspapers and TV channels.”
Yes but I certainly do not tell journalists to promote our TV channels, or our TV channels, or our films. You oughta read the critics. The New York Post… they kill [our films].
Jay: Have you ever instructed your editors to pursue negative stories about competitors or rival individuals?
Jay: Did you ever put pressure on editors to make life uncomfortable for regulators such as Ofcom or the Competition Commission?
11.49 Jay says he wants to ask about attitude to self-regulation: “We have some evidence from Piers Morgan, at the time when he was editing the NOTW. The PCC upheld a complaint by Earl Spencer about private photos of his wife. Publicly you supported that but privately, Piers Morgan says you called him into his office and said: “I’m sorry about all that press complaining thingymejig.” Did you say that?”
I might have said… let’s put that behind us. Remember it but get on with it…
I think privacy laws are always proposed for the protection of the great and the good and not for the masses.
11.47 Rupert says they’ve done an investigation into all their papers around the world… he wants to be absolutely certain that “this only happened here in London”.
11.45 Jay quotes Andrew Neil saying: “Of course Rupert can’t be held responsible for every individual act… but you create a climate in which people think it’s alright to do certain things. And I would argue that Rupert Murdoch with his ‘take no prisoners’ approach to tabloid journalism… and the end justifying the means, that created a climate in which hacking and other things were done with impunity on an industrial scale.”
I don’t think he knows the first thing he’s talking about… Mr Neil seems to have found it very profitable to get up and spread lies about me but that’s his business… it’s somewhat of an industry, which I hope this inquiry has done a lot – yesterday – to dispel – a lot of those myths. We have given you hard, written, third-party evidence to show that a lot of these are just myths. I take it that they will go up on your website. Is that fair to assume?
Jay says he doesn’t give answer to questions, he just asks them.
Leveson says the evidence will be placed on the website.
11.43 Jay asks: Would you agree that maintaining high ethical standards in newspapers costs money?
No I don’t. But… failure to maintain ethical standards can be immensely expensive – as I bear witness to today…
We have compliance officers – we have more now, as a result of this. But the cost is – even though they’re highly paid lawyers… is peanuts, compared to what this whole scandal, inquiry has cost us. I’m talking hundreds of millions.
11.40 Rupert says he feels he is held to account every day, by the British public, who, he says, can stop buying the paper. He says he’s under “constant attack” and then goes on to criticise Paul Dacre, editor of the Daily Mail:
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 that his editorial policy is driven by commercial interests. I think that’s just about the most unethical thing I’ve read in a long time, and what’s more from a surprising source as I have great respect for his abilities. Indeed, many years ago when he was editor of the Standard, he agreed to leave and become editor of The Times. I was very pleased and Associated quickly made him editor of The Daily Mail, where – some friends of mine would disagree strongly – but I think he’s been a great success. But I was shocked when he said that the editorial policy of the Mail was driven by commercial interests.
Jay says: to be fair to him, that was said in the context of the alliance that formed against the BSkyB bid, and he made it clear that the philosophy underpinning that alliance was commercial considerations, not legal.
11.37 Jay is asking about Anne Diamond and an interview she did with Rupert, in which she asked him about Princess Diana and Elton John, and asked him how he felt about ruining other people’s lives and how he could sleep at night. Rupert says he can’t remember the interview. Jay refers to an allegation that Rupert then decided, together with his editors, to target Anne Diamond. Rupert denies:
That is absolutely wrong.
11.35 Jay picks up on the ‘you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours’ comment and asks the question we all want answered: how can Rupert admit this is a common behaviour, but then say this has had no part in his relationships with politicians over the last 30 years.
Well, you said it was a common thing in life, “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch my back”, and that’s true, that’s human nature, but it’s interesting that you say that’s no part of the implied deal in your relations with politicians over 30 years, Mr Murdoch. Is that right?
Uh … yes. I don’t ask any politician to scratch my back…
That’s a nice twist, but no, I’m not falling for it.
11.32 Leveson is asking Rupert whether it was a “proper way” for a journalist to act, and chastises Rupert for apparently taking the incident lightly. He says:
I want to make it very clear to you that… I find that approach somewhat disturbing.
Rupert says he apologises, he has not read Justice Eady’s judgement. He then goes on to say:
It’s a common thing in life, way beyond journalism, for people to say, ‘I’ll scratch your back if you scratch my back’
[That is a very interesting comment from Rupert]
11.28 Jay is asking Rupert about correspondence with Max Moseley. Jay says that the point Moseley was making was that Justice Eady referred to blackmail being employed by journalists at the News of the World. You are aware of those comments?
I am aware now… I think [Eady] suggested that one of the ladies in the picture of this Nazi orgy had been offered to have her face blocked out if she cooperated with the story… with all respect to Justice Eady I’m not as shocked by that, I’m much more shocked by the behaviour of Mr Brett in not telling him.
Jay asks: Have you read Mr Eady’s judgement? He came to the clear conclusion… that your journalists – or at least one of them, had perpetrated blackmail of these two women. Is it really your position, oh we don’t have to worry about what he says?
No it’s not my position at all. I respect him and I respect what he says. I’m just simply saying that journalist was doing a favour for someone in return for a favour back is pretty much everyday practice.
Leveson says he needs to make it clear that Eady rejected allegations there were Nazi overtones to the scenario.
11.25 Jay asks about some rather denigratory comments from John Major, the former prime minister, about Fleet Street. Rupert says he doesn’t think they refer to his newspapers, to which Jay responds incredulously. Rupert:
There was great competition but I don’t think it leads to lies… 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 towards The Sun.
Jay says the inquiry is into the culture and ethics of the press, and John Major’s comments related to all of Fleet Street. Rupert says:
I would expect [Major] to be bitter about the press and its treatment of him… it’s very natural that he would make sweeping allegations about the press, in which there may be an element of truth.
11.23 Tweet from the FT’s media editor:
11.22 Rupert is denying that the News of the World was mainly concerned with salacious “tittle tattle” and gossip:
A much greater investment went into covering the weekend soccer [than celebrities].
11.19 Asked again why he appeared so keen to protect Rebekah Brooks, Rupert says:
I was concerned for Rebekah Brooks, who was seeking to resign, and under pressure… and I was seeking to keep her confidence, I mean her self-confidence…
11.16 Jay asks: Why did you say when you were here in July last year, what your priority was, ‘this one?’ pointing to Rebekah Brooks?
I don’t know if you’ve seen the video of that… we were mobbed by journalists and paparazzi… I had a microphone stuck in my mouth and I said, yes, her, here…
Jay: Are you saying you were under duress? Rupert:
Well, if you’ve got journalists and paparazzi… you are under duress.
Leveson says he might come back to that later. [This is obviously deeply ironic given that many of Rupert's newspapers rely on such behaviour by their own journalists to get stories].
It’s part of the game… Harassment.
Jay: Part of the game of harassment and intrusion are recurring themes in the behaviour of the press for decades?
Yes, it can take different forms but yes.
Journalists are very competitive.
11.15 Jay asks about an allegation in Tom Waton’s new book, Dial M for Murdoch, in which it says that Gordon Brown had called Mr Watson to tell him that Rupert had spoken to Mr Blair and asked him to tell MPs to back off. Was this true?
Rupert says he doesn’t remember.
11.13 Jay asks whether if it wasn’t for the Guardian, the phone hacking story might never have entered the public domain. Rupert says he doesn’t know. But you weren’t investigating it, says Jay.
Jay: You have to accept, Mr Murdoch, if it wasn’t for the good work of The Guardian, all of this woudl have remained concealed wouldn’t it? Rupert:
I don’t think so, but perhaps.
Jay: How would it have come out? Rupert replies, in a somewhat sulky tone:
I don’t know. There are plenty of investigative journalists around. Maybe the police would have – the police were sitting on Mulcaire’s diaries at the time.
11.10 We’re back. Jay is asking about Rupert’s comments that he relied on the police. Jay seems to be correcting that, and pointing out that News International’s internal investigation was also relied on. Rupert agrees.
11.08 Interesting tweet from Andrew Neil, once editor of The Sunday Times:
11.04 Just to retrace a few interesting points from this morning so far. Rupert at one point [see 10.36 update] talked about blaming “one or two people” specifically at the News of the World for a cover up of phonehacking at the newspaper:
We were all misinformed… I blame one or two people that perhaps I should not name… for all I know they may be arrested yet… Maybe even the editor, but certainly beyond that, someone took charge of a cover-up.
Another interesting moment was when Rupert said that James had been given “two boxes to tick” with regards to the Gordon Taylor settlement (see 10.52)
Yes, and James said he was given a short time, he was given two boxes – which one do you tick. A relatively low amount of money or one infinitely bigger. His advice was to take the higher one. And that’s what he did. He was relatively inexperienced at the time and Crone and Myler put it to him in a relatively short conversation.
11.01 A short break.
10.59 Rupert says he took the word of the police over that of The Guardian.
10.56 Jay says to Rupert, weren’t you were aware there was a confidential agreement with the Gordon Taylor settlement? You may have assumed it wasn’t worth the paper it was written on. Rupert:
I didn’t think about it.
Jay: Was there any discussion about the need to avoid reputational risk to the company?
Not in those terms, no… anything that involves ethical behaviour or unethical behaviour is non reputational behaviour.
Jay asks whether Rupert had a conversation with James along the lines of, ‘look Dad this guy was blackmailing us, we had to pay him a lot of money to keep him quiet, there was a real reputational risk to our company’? Rupert replies:
No he did not say that.
10.52 Jay asks about a Guardian article. Rupert says the police dismissed it. Jay says that James said yesterday he had discussed the story with Rupert.
Jay asks whether the Gordon Taylor settlement surprised him. Rupert says:
It did indeed… the size of it. I didn’t know who’d hacked him or if he’d really been hacked… but it did seem incredible.
Jay: Did you ask your son, why the hell have we paid him so much money? Rupert:
Yes, and James said he was given a short time, he was given two boxes – which one do you tick. A relatively low amount of money or one infinitely bigger. His advice was to take the higher one. And that’s what he did. He was relatively inexperienced at the time and Crone and Myler put it to him in a relatively short conversation.
10.48 Leveson suggests: Quite apart from the commercial aspect of this… wouldn’t you really want to know what the hell was going on because… printing was running through your veins… the way I would ask the question that Jay was asking: this wasn’t just a commercial interest to you, it was at the very core of your being, so weren’t you intensely concerned to know what was going on? Rupert replies:
I have to admit that some newspapers are closer to my heart than others, but I have to say… [a long pause] I’m very sorry about it.
I understand that you have made that clear… but it doesn’t actually quite answer the question, whether you tried to understand what was going on, or whether you felt, I don’t need to understand, it’s over, let’s just move on. That’s the question.
Well I think when the police said they were satisified this was a rogue reporter, we’re closing our file… probably if I’d been in [Hinton's] place I have to admit that I’d have closed it too. But with hindsight… I can only say what I should have done.
My point is, I wonder wouldn’t you want to know, what was the atmosphere or the climate within your newspaper, that had encouraged the reporter to think that this was a correct way to proceed – that this was justifiable – quite apart from how he got away with it, that’s a separate question. But that the paper would be prepared to let this happen, would be prepared to go that extra illegal mile to get a story?
I think reporters do act very much on their own, they do protect their sources… you had the Times’ nightjack case… that didn’t reflect the culture at the Times but… I am guilty of not paying enough attention to The News of the World… I was more excited in building a new newspaper… and the challenges of The Times and the Sunday Times… all I can do is apologise, to a lot of people, including a lot of innocent people, who lost their jobs…
10.44 Jay says Rupert described it as a very very serious matter, that its poison was capable of seeping far further. Was this not an issue that required your personal attention? Rupert replies:
In hindsight… I said that the buck stops with me, so I have to agree with you.
Jay: Well, we’ve got to be clear, in one sense the buck always stops with the chairman of the company, that is axiomatic… but I’m trying to find out why you didn’t try to find out whether Mr Myler was discharging his brief?
I don’t know what I was doing at the time but I trusted Mr Myler, I had delegated to him.
Jay: Some might say this picture is consistent with a desire to cover up rather than a desire to expose? Rupert says quickly:
Yes, to people with minds like yours.
Jay gasps a little. Rupert apologises and Jay says not to worry, he has a thick skin.
10.43 Rupert says Andy Coulson came forward and said as it had happened on his watch, he would have to go. He denies having a conversation with Mr Coulson about the hacking issue.
I think [Hinton] called me and told me this, and thought that Mr Coulson was doing the honourable thing. And we all agreed, the fact that somebody – we thought one person – the police thought one person – had engaged in hacking, was a very very serious matter.
10.40 Jay asks: Were you directly involved in appointment of Colin Myler as editor of NOTW? Rupert:
He would not have been my choice but Mr Hinton felt that he was someone who had never had any contact with the NOTW and there wouldn’t be personal allegiances there… and that he could rely on him to report back to Mr Hinton.
Jay asks: Is it your assessment that Mr Myler was a weak individual and therefore the wrong man for this job? Rupert replies:
That’s not how I’d put it… I hoped that Mr Myler would do what he was commissioned to do, and certainly during the remaining 7 or 8 months of Mr Hinton’s regime, he did not report back to him. Maybe he didn’t find anything out. He certainly didn’t report back.
10.39 Jay suggests that there is a consistent theme of cover-up, by Burton Copeland, and then cover-up subsequently. He asks, from where does this culture of cover up emanate? Rupert:
I think from within The News of the World. There were one or two very strong characters there, who I think, they’d been there many many years, were friends of the journalists – the person I’m thinking of was a friend of the journalists, a drinking pal – a clever lawyer, and forbade them to… this person forbade this person to report to Mrs Brooks or James. That is not to excuse it on our behalf at all. I take it extremely seriously. That that situation had arisen.
10.36 Rupert talks about phonehacking:
We were all misinformed… I blame one or two people that perhaps I should not name… for all I know they may be arrested yet… Maybe even the editor, but certainly beyond that, someone took charge of a cover-up. That’s something I regret, I’m getting ahead of myself now perhaps – when I say that, we did take steps, after the conviction, and the resignation of Mr Coulson, a new editor was appointed with specific instructions to find out what was going on… he did I believe put in a few new steps but never reported back that there was more hacking than we’d been told. Harbottle & Lewis were appointed and given a file. It’s argued that they were only given a very specific brief, but I’ve got to say, that I have not gone through that whole file that they were given, but I have again tasted them, and I cannot understand a law firm reading that and not ringing the chief executive of a company and saying ‘You’ve got some big problems’.
10.33 Leveson interrupts, addressing Rupert quite sternly:
You appreciate that communications between a lawyer and a client are privileged, and the only way one can see what was said is if privilege is waived. Your company waived privilege so that Harbottle and Lewis were able to talk to the select committee about what they did. The other firm that were involved, were apparently very heavily involved, but in that case the company has not waived privilege.
I was not aware of that… but it doesn’t alter the fact that the police said they were satisfied this was a rogue reporter and they were closing the file.
10.29 Jay moves on to phonehacking. He says Rupert said in witness statement in paragraph 169-70, that Rupert learned of the arrests of Mr Goodman and Mr Mulcaire in August or September 2006, in a telephone call with Les Hinton. Rupert says:
Mr Hinton could reach me at any time, wherever I was…
Jay says Rupert recalled being told that News International were cooperating with the police. The evidence to the inquiry, says Jay, might have been said to demonstrate that they were not cooperating with the police. Rupert says:
We appointed a special law firm to look into this, and to aid our cooperation with the police, and when the police after the charging – not just the arrest – of Mr Goodman, said that was it they were closing… I can’t believe they would have done that if they were unhappy with our cooperation.
Jay: The evidence we’ve had conclusively demonstrates that the law firm… produced one document… one way or another NI were being obstructive. Does that not shock you? Rupert:
That shocks me deeply, and I was not aware of it or had heard of it until you just said that.
10.27 Rupert acknowledges that they lost the bid because of the hacking scandal, and then seems in some way to blame the police for the slowness of the details coming out:
I’m not making any excuses at all but… half of it has been [...] by the police. Half of it we didn’t know…The police had under lock and key the Mulcaire diary.
10.27 Jay asks whether it was true that the longer it went on, the higher the price it might be? Rupert says no – contradicting what his son James said earlier this week.
10.26 Rupert says he assumed that any responsible minister would be responsible and would deal with it in an unbiased way. He says he thought Cable was an exception.
10.24: Jay says – Were you not surprised by the success of Mr Michel’s own lobbying with Mr Hunt’s department?
I don’t think there was success. We were made to make very big concessions, for reasons which I can’t understand.
Jay: Were you not surprised by the degree of apparent closeness between Mr Michel and Mr Hunt’s office?
I don’t want to say anything bad about Mr Michel but… I think there might have been a little bit of exaggeration there.
10.22 Jay asks what Rupert knew about the lobbying efforts News Corp was employing.
Mr Michel’s… you call it lobbying… his seeking of information and the progress of it…
Jay interrupts: That’s something you only discovered recently, is that right?
I knew of Mr Michel’s existence a few months before that.
Jay: When you became acquainted with the emails, were you surprised by the extent of Mr Michel’s activities?
I didn’t see anything wrong with his activities. Was I surprised, that it had gone on so long, there were so many emails, yes… I was surprised at the success of our competitors lobbying and of course they would never have succeeded if it hadn’t coincided with the hacking scandal.
10.20 Jay asks: weren’t you concerned about all the delay? Rupert:
No, not intensely but I don’t remember my feelings exactly… In 2011 I was much more concerned about the unfolding hacking scandal.
Did your son not give you a progress report? Rupert says:
I don’t remember any conversation to be honest with you, but I’m assuming that he kept me up to date, to be honest with you… I delegated the situation to him, left it to him, and he had a lot on his plate, and he did not report perhaps as often, but we did talk, of course.
10.18 Jay says Rupert was clearly worried about the political element of the bid, because Cable had demonstrated there was a political dimension and an anti-Murdoch dimension. Jay asks: is it your evidence that when Cameron replaced Cable, you were quite oblivious to whether Mr Hunt was on side or offside?
We just.. we thought we’d probably get a fairer go from anyone other than Mr Cable.
Didn’t your son explain to you that Mr Hunt was very much on side, for example he had put on his website that he was a cheerleader for News International?
No I don’t believe so.
10.15 Jay is moving on to the BSkyB bid. In Rupert’s witness statement, Rupert denies having any discussions with Cameron about the bid. Did he have with Jeremy Hunt about the bid, asks Jay? Rupert replies:
I don’t know if I ever met him… I don’t know… but I certainly didn’t discuss it with him.
Jay says that Hunt was in New York in 2009, when he met representatives of News Corp – did he meet with Rupert?
I don’t think so, I have no memory of it.
Rupert says he’s never had any telephone conversations with Hunt.
Jay: Has your son spoken to you about Mr Hunt?
He told me when Mr Cameron removed Mr Cable and put Mr Hunt in charge… but I don’t believe he ever commented on it… we were shocked by both what Cable said… the fact the story was deleted in The Telegraph, which was clearly running that paper for their own commercial interest.
10.12 Jay asks about Michael Gove, the journalist turned cabinet minister. Rupert says:
He had a very distinguished career at The Times… I think he and his wife… they have come to dinner once in the last two or three years… I like to get a few people around me of interest, and different fields, not just politicians. [NB: yesterday Rupert said he didn't know many politicians.] But on education, we are passionate about it. We believe that it’s an absolute disgrace, the standard of public education here and in America. In America nearly 30% of children do not get through high school…
10.11 Jay goes on to Rupert’s relationships with politicians. He asks Rupert – has it occured to you that by the same process, that politicians will get to know you and what you want or are thinking, because over time they’ll work it out? Rupert agrees that could be true.
10.06 Jay says that yesterday he put to Rupert various view points of his editors including Harold Evans, Rebekah Brooks, Andrew Neil’s. One further perspective, he says, is Mr David Yelland, editor of The Sun in the late 1990s.
Jay quotes Mr Yelland as saying:
All Murdoch editors what they do, they go on a journey where they end up agreeing with everything Rupert says… They don’t admit they’re being influenced but they wake up in the morning, put on the radio and think: What would Rupert think of this? It’s like a mantra inside your head, it’s like a prison. You look at the world through Rupert’s eyes.
Jay asks Rupert about his comment yesterday that to find out his thinking politicians had only to read The Sun. Jay asks, how would The Sun know your thinking if you didn’t tell them about it?
I don’t flinch from my responsibilities… generally speaking, the issues that we get interested in, that we fight for, you will find them in The Sun and you will find that I agree with most of them, if not all.
Rupert does not seem to be answering the question. Jay asks again, a little impatiently, and suddenly Rupert replies:
They sit and talk to me. Or I call them. There are conversations pretty constantly.
Jay asks is the editors get to know Rupert quite well? Rupert replies:
If we’re talking about The Sun, yes, or papers like The New York Post.
10.03 Rupert replies on the question of Gordon Brown:
I said … under oath and I stand by every word of it… I would just point out that in the materials you put to me, the questions, Mr Mandelson – or Lord Mandelson – who was then the most senior member of the cabinet, charged News International with having done a deal with Cameron. And I think I pointed out in my answer, which I’d like to do now on the record, that Lord Mandelson, said he did this under order from Mr Brown, knowing it to be false. That’s in his own autobiography. He reluctantly went out and did what he was told. I think that reflects on Mr Brown’s state of mind at the time.
10.02 We’ve started. Jay says that Gordon Brown, the former prime minister, has strongly denied that he “declared war” on Rupert Murdoch (something that Rupert claimed yesterday).
09.51 How are the other newspapers covering this? A quick scan of three front pages:
- The Times [owned by News International, the UK newspaper arm of News Corp] goes with the headline: “I’ve never asked a prime minister for anything: Murdoch tells Leveson about his relationships with political leaders over decades“
- The Guardian puts a column by Harold Evans – the ex-Sunday Times editor who was mentioned by Rupert in his evidence yesterday – at the basement of its front page: “Myth, memory and Murdoch’s imagination.”
- The Telegraph leads with a story on “Cameron’s five secret Murdoch meetings“
Downing Street has previously acknowledged only that the Prime Minister had met the media tycoon twice since May 2010 and the contents of Mr Murdoch’s diary will add to concerns about Mr Cameron’s relationship with News Corporation executives.
09.45 It’s day two of Rupert Murdoch at Leveson. Before we get started, the FT’s sketch-writer Matthew Engel was in the inquiry room yesterday, and his report is a must-read. A quick excerpt:
Ga-ga? Rupert? Eyes bright, sharp as a tack – and in control of the situation. “I hope I’m like that at 81,” said a young man in the public gallery. Normally a barrister on his feet cuts an intimidatory figure when cross-examining a seated witness. This time Mr Jay looked like a supplicant backing away from the boss’s desk…
Mr Murdoch arrived with various strategies... There were lots of pauses for thought, but these were not vacant pauses; he was selecting which trick to employ – humorous self-deprecation, cleverness, mock-stupidity or sheer brass-neck brazenness.
John Gapper, the FT’s business columnist, was not taken in by those tricks:
The polite way to describe Mr Murdoch’s evidence – on the heels of his son James’s disclosures about private communications with the office of Jeremy Hunt, the culture secretary – is implausible. It was belied by his presence. Droll, dismissive and impatient, he was not the “deaf, doddery, proud old man” observed by Tom Watson, the Labour MP, in parliament last July.