Today’s session of the Leveson Inquiry into UK media ethics was a slightly less riveting affair than yesterday, but there were some highlights. Former Prime Minister John Major told the hearing that in a 1997 meeting with Rupert Murdoch, the media mogul said, “I would like you to change your policy and if you don’t change your policy, my organization cannot support you.” According to Major, Murdoch was referring to stances on Europe. In his written statement to the inquiry, Major said, “Both Mr Murdoch and I kept our word. I made no change in policy and Mr Murdoch’s titles did indeed oppose the Conservative party. It came as no surprise to me when soon after our meeting, The Sun newspaper announced its support for Labour.” Referring to Major’s evidence, a News International spokesperson said, “News International titles did not act in unison in the 1997 election. The Sunday Times supported John Major, The Times was neutral, and The Sun and the News Of The World supported Labour.”
An employee at News Corp’s British publishing unit was arrested today on suspicion of conspiring to corrupt public officials with illegal payments for stories, Bloomberg reports. Police didn’t identify the 37-year-old but the Telegraph newspaper said she was …
Erstwhile News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks faced a grueling five hours of questioning Friday at the Leveson Inquiry into UK media ethics. The session focused largely on the relationship between politicians and the press and, as expected, it was confirmed that Brooks has had close dealings with senior British politicians. Those include current Prime Minister David Cameron, who, Brooks said, used to sign his text messages to her “DC” or “LOL” – which he thought meant “lots of love” until she corrected him that it meant “laugh out loud.” She did however refute the idea that Cameron at one time called her as many as 12 times a day. “That’s preposterous,” she said. Cameron did contact her regarding the phone-hacking scandal in 2010 she said, amid news reports of a bevy of civil suits against the ultimately-shuttered News Of The World. She maintained the conversations were general.
Brooks also said she spoke frequently with Rupert Murdoch – “sometimes every day” — when she was one of his senior executives. It’s been well-documented that Murdoch and Brooks were very tight, but she stopped short of confirming that the pair used to swim together during the News Corp chief’s visits to London as was put to her by inquiry counsel Robert Jay. “You need better sources,” she told Jay to laughter in the hearing room.
UPDATED: The UK parliamentary committee charged with looking into the phone-hacking scandal at Rupert Murdoch’s now-shuttered News Of The World released its findings this morning. Shortly thereafter, News Corp said it was “carefully reviewing” the report. In today’s earlier statement it also said: “The Company fully …
EXCLUSIVE: Deadline has learned that American legal action in the News Corp phone-hacking scandal could come as early as the end of this week. UK lawyer Mark Lewis, one of the first to pursue allegations of hacking at the now-defunct News Corp-controlled News Of The World tabloid, will hold a press conference in Manhattan with his U.S. colleague Norman Siegel, former head of the New York Civil Liberties Union. A source close to the lawyers’ camp says the duo will announce what actions — legal and otherwise — it plans to take against Rupert Murdoch’s empire in the U.S. We are told that no names will be given regarding the three stateside hacking cases Lewis and Siegel are contemplating. However, we have learned that despite speculation neither David Beckham, nor Jude Law (nor one of his associates), nor Princess Diana’s former butler Paul Burrell are among potential litigants. “People are getting the names completely wrong,” the insider says. One of the individuals is, however, an American citizen. The lawsuits would be the first to be filed in the U.S., where News Corp has so far limited its exposure to the ongoing hacking investigations in Britain.
Richard Horton, a detective who formerly penned an anonymous police blog, filed suit on April 11 in London against Times Newspapers Ltd, a unit of News Corp’s News International, Bloomberg reports. Horton was exposed by The Times as …
The embattled News Corp scion’s decision over his future as chairman of BSkyB is balancing on a “fine line,” The Daily Telegraph reports. Murdoch’s position will become tenuous if Parliament’s Culture, Media and Sport Committee censures him for not fully investigating the phone hacking …
This is sure to add fuel to Wall Street’s hopeful speculation that News Corp might sell its scandal plagued UK newspapers. Deputy COO James Murdoch, Rupert’s son, has wiped the ink off his hands by resigning from the boards of the company’s UK print operations, according to multiple news reports citing News Corp filings at Companies House, which regulates corporate activities. He left Times Newspaper Holdings — the institution that was supposed to protect the independence of the Times of London and the Sunday Times when Rupert Murdoch bought them in 1981 — as well as News Corporation Investments and News International Publications Limited. These moves follow James’ resignation last month from the executive chairman job at News International, which oversees the UK print operations. He said at the time that the decision made sense following his move to New York to expand “my commitment to News Corporation’s international television businesses and other key initiatives across the Company.” Murdoch has also
The News Corp Deputy COO, and son of CEO Rupert Murdoch, is holding fast to his position that others are to blame for the News Of The World hacking scandal — as well as his company’s effort to downplay the extent of the lawbreaking when executives testified to Parliament about the matter in 2009. ”It would have been better if I had not relied on the people who had assured me that thorough investigations had been carried out and that further investigations were unnecessary,” he said in a seven-page defense sent Monday to the Culture, Media and Sport Committee. Murdoch sent the letter, released today, as committee members prepare to decide whether he and other News International executives misled Parliament in 2009 when they said that phone hacking was limited to one rogue reporter. Murdoch acknowledges that “it would have been better if I had asked more questions, requested more documents and scrutinised them carefully.” But he still points the finger at other execs, especially former legal adviser Tom Crone and former NOTW editor Colin Myler who told Parliament that they warned Murdoch that the scandal was bigger than he had publicly acknowledged. Their testimony ”displays inconsistencies on this subject, while my evidence has always been consistent,” Murdoch writes. Before taking charge of the UK print unit in late 2007 he “did not follow the details” of earlier arrests. Even afterward he was ”never intimately involved with the workings of News Of The World, or any of the other newspapers within News International” in the belief that “a newsroom should be run by the editor.”
UK media say that two unnamed journalists from Rupert Murdoch‘s The Sun tabloid newspaper have attempted to commit suicide. Although details are sketchy and come from unnamed sources, here’s what’s being reported: The Independent newspaper says the people were senior journalists and had recently been arrested (in total, 11 current or former Sun employees have been arrested on suspicions that they bribed police for news tips). The pair has been checked into hospital and News International is paying for their care, according to Financial Times sources. Reuters, citing people close to News International, also reports the journalists appeared to have tried to take their own lives. The Sun is controlled by News Corp’s News International, which has been rocked by a phone-hacking scandal and allegations of illegal payments to public officials for information. News Corp last year established a Management and Standards Committee to oversee an internal probe and has been cooperating with the police in their ongoing investigations. Some Sun journalists were previously reported to be mulling legal action against News International that would claim their right to freedom of expression was breached when evidence about their sources was turned over to investigators, and these latest developments — though they remain unconfirmed — are unlikely to soothe tensions.
That question seems to intrigue News Corp watchers far more than any debate about succession plans following today’s announcement that Deputy COO James Murdoch is relinquishing his role as executive chairman of the UK publishing unit. News Corp shares are up about 2% at mid-day, a contrast to the overall market which is slightly down. And many believe it’s because James’ departure from the publishing business gives investors a little more reason to hope that Rupert might ditch some or all of his newspapers. He loves the assets, but the Street considers them to be growth-challenged distractions. Wells Fargo Securities analyst Marci Ryvicker calls the news about James “one sign” that newspapers “may be spun, sold or otherwise shed.” Yesterday COO Chase Carey said that News Corp recognized such a move might help its stock price, which he says is “woefully undervalued.” But he tried to douse any belief that a plan to unload newspapers is on the company’s front-burner. “Our focus is on managing these businesses and improving profitability,” he said.
Why so little attention to James and his role in the line of succession? It’s now a foregone conclusion that
He’ll focus on News Corp’s pay TV operations once he moves to New York, the company says. It makes no mention of the fact that under James Murdoch’s watch at News International the UK publishing operation became embroiled in a humongous phone hacking and bribery scandal. But it’s telling that Tom Mockridge, who became CEO of News International in July, will now report to COO Chase Carey — not Murdoch, who retains his title as News Corp’s Deputy COO. Also noteworthy: CEO Rupert Murdoch’s citation of James’ accomplishments doesn’t include his management of UK publishing. James credits the unit’s “tremendous momentum” to ”the leadership of my father and Tom Mockridge.” News Corp has scoffed at speculation that it might dump its troubled newspapers — a move that some investors believe would boost the stock price. “Our focus is on managing these businesses and improving profitability,” Carey told investors yesterday.
Here’s today’s release about James:
New York, NY February 29, 2012 – News Corporation today announced that, following his relocation to the Company’s headquarters in New York, James Murdoch, Deputy Chief Operating Officer, has relinquished his position as Executive Chairman of News International, its UK publishing unit. Tom Mockridge, Chief Executive Officer of News International, will continue in his post and will report to News Corporation President and COO Chase Carey.
Today brings more potential bad news for Rupert Murdoch’s embattled News International. British Labour Party MP Tom Watson tweeted this morning that the Metropolitan police have confirmed to him they are investigating News International-owned The Times newspaper over email …
The names of at least 28 employees of News Corp’s U.K. subsidiary appear in notes seized from a private investigator who specialized in phone hacking, the chief counsel for the government’s inquiry into the scandal surrounding News International and the shuttered News of the World tabloid says. “At least 27 other NI employees” in addition to the jailed former royal editor Clive Goodman appear in notes of Glenn Mulcaire, the PI who was also jailed for intercepting voicemails in January 2007. Chief counsel Robert Jay said the number of names that appear scribbled on Mulcaire’s notes “suggests wide-ranging, illegal activity within the organization.” Police also now suspect that phone hacking may have continued until 2009, which would include Murdoch’s tenure that began in 2007. Suspicion of wrongdoing has also spread to another News International paper, the Sun, and to a competitor, the Daily Mirror, whose parent Trinity Mirror’s spokesman said the company has no knowledge of ever using Mulcaire.
BSkyB Board Backs James Murdoch Following Testimony MPs Appear To Accept As Spectacularly Ill-Informed
James Murdoch can breathe a little easier, if Parliament’s conclusion about his and former employees’ roles in phone-hacking plays out the way the Guardian predicted Friday. While Murdoch’s MP inquisitors seem inclined to believe the News International chairman’s assertions …