Rupert Murdoch has sent a letter to employees of News Corp following today’s release of a UK select committee’s findings on phone hacking at News Of The World. Murdoch’s note comes a week after he testified before the Leveson Inquiry into UK ethics and says in part, “We certainly should have acted more quickly and aggressively to uncover wrongdoing.” However, he adds that News Corp’s internal Management and Standards Committee has completed its review of the Times, The Sunday Times and The Sun and has found no illegal conduct “other than a single incident reported months ago, which led to the discipline of the relevant employee.” He also gives a shout-out to his embattled son, noting “News International, at the instigation of James, instituted important governance reforms.” Below is Murdoch’s full letter:
Early in Rupert Murdoch‘s testimony today, he said “Someone took charge of a cover-up which we were victim to and I regret.” He was talking about the phone hacking scandal at the News Of The World on his 2nd day of giving evidence to the Leveson Inquiry into UK press ethics. Questioned on the cover-up, Murdoch said he thinks it came from inside the newspaper, from a “friend of the journalists, a drinking pal” who was a lawyer “who forbade people to go and report to (Rebekah) Brooks or to James (Murdoch).”
Although today’s affair touched on politics and the aborted bid for BSkyB, the proceedings focused more heavily on phone hacking than any of the other days of Murdoch testimony this week. Counsel for the inquiry Robert Jay and Lord Justice Leveson spent a great deal of time trying to work out how high the knowledge of questionable journalistic tactics went at the paper. Leveson pressed Murdoch at one point saying, “Print ink was running through your veins…this wasn’t just a commercial interest…this was the very core of your being, so that’s why you’re being asked: were you not intensely concerned about what was going on?” Murdoch replied that some papers are closer to his heart than others, “but, I also have to say that I failed,” he added. When asked why he closed NOTW rather than “tough it out,” he answered that when the Milly Dowler situation was first given huge publicity, “you could feel the blast coming in the window and I’ll say it succinctly, I panicked.”
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When Rupert Murdoch settles into Lord Justice Brian Leveson’s hearing room in London today, it will be the mogul’s first such appearance since last July when he sat before the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee. In the thick of the phone hacking scandal at the News Of The World and the revelations of intercepted voice mails on the phone of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler, Murdoch told that panel it was the “most humble” day of his life. He was later the target of an attack by a shaving foam pie thrower. It’s unlikely such a thing will occur again. What will come up again, though, are the phone hacking scandal, Murdoch’s relationship to British politicians and News Corp’s bid for BSkyB. The political and BSkyB aspects of James Murdoch’s testimony yesterday ended up overshadowing the proceedings where many thought phone hacking would be the focus. It’s likely today that unflappable counsel to the inquiry Robert Jay QC will hone in on Murdoch’s association with government. Let’s follow along, shall we? (All times below are local UK time.)
10:05 The hearing is off to a late start, but Murdoch has arrived at the High Court.
10:11 Lord Justice Brian Leveson begins by reading a statement saying he is approaching the proceedings with an impartial stance. He also says he understands the press will draw their own conclusions. In light of the reaction yesterday and this morning to James Murdoch’s testimony, he wants to explain something of the judicial process. “I understand some of the reactions yesterday,” but he says he is “acutely aware” documents such as the emails read yesterday can’t be taken at face value. He says he’s not taking sides but wants to say he needs to hear all sides before his findings. He says everyone involved will appear, seeming to hint that culture secretary Jeremy Hunt may give evidence at a later date. Leveson’s heard calls for other inquiries but feels this one needs to end before further investigation.
Murdoch is sworn in, he has legal aid by his side to help with documents.
10:14 Jay says: Is it fair to say you’ve been following British politics for 60 years? Murdoch answers yes, laughs and says “with varying intensity.”
The state of media in this country is vital to all its citizens, Murdoch says. He welcomes the opportunity to appear at the hearing to “put certain myths to bed.” He says abuses go further than phone hacking.
James Murdoch Testimony Analysis: Political Ties Are Main Focus As UK Culture Secretary Comes Under Fire
James Murdoch sat for more than five hours today to answer questions on the phone-hacking scandal and News Corp‘s acquisition of BSkyB. But the Leveson Inquiry into UK media ethics seemed to be focusing on someone other than the embattled scion. And therein lies the twist: The person who is likely to come out of this hearing with the most to answer for is not a Murdoch, but UK Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt. Reams of emails show possibly inappropriate exchanges between Hunt, who was involved in approving the BSkyB deal, and Murdoch, who contended a “very large public affairs engagement is normal in such a big merger.” The Labour Party has called for Hunt’s resignation in the wake of the revelations.
Almost 50 new civil claims have been filed in the phone hacking scandal that has rocked Rupert Murdoch’s UK newspaper division. In London this morning, Hugh Tomlinson, the attorney representing a large part of the claimants said he had 44 new cases and that 2 others had been filed separately, The Guardian reports. The alleged voice mail interceptions concern the now-shuttered tabloid News Of The World, which was controlled by News Corp division News International. Tomlinson told the High Court today that there were 4,791 potential phone hacking victims. Police are said to have identified 1,174 likely victims out of 1,892 who have been contacted, says The Guardian. About 60 cases have already been settled including one brought by Jude Law. Citing an attorney at News Corp’s UK press unit, The Wall Street Journal says the company is determined to settle all possible civil suits. The news of the civil suits comes as lawyers are considering whether to pursue cases in the US. Both James Murdoch, who was formerly the head of News International, and his father Rupert are scheduled to give evidence next week at the Leveson Inquiry into UK media ethics.
Rupert Murdoch is in for a lot of embarrassment tonight based on this clip from the documentary about the UK hacking scandal that will air on PBS’ Frontline. It describes how important News Of The World and other UK tabloids were to Murdoch’s rise, his love of gossip, and how his papers “monstered” — meaning, destroyed — those who got in his way. Veteran reporter Lowell Bergman led the investigation for the episode titled “Murdoch’s Scandal.”
When Harry Potter author JK Rowling gave evidence to the Leveson Inquiry into UK media ethics last November, she called the Press Complaints Commission “toothless.” Now, the British newspaper watchdog is to be formally defanged as it moves to shut down. The org has faced continuing criticism over the past several months, largely for what many consider an inadequate investigation into the phone-hacking scandal at the now-defunct News Of The World. The PCC has handled complaints about the editorial content of newspapers and magazines in the UK for 21 years, but will quickly wind down operations with a transitional body overseeing press regulation until a new system is established. More details are expected to emerge in the next six weeks. When the decision was made in principle to shutter the PCC last month, chairman Lord Hunt said, “We’re very much now on the front foot and listening to all sides and determined to bring forward the sort of independent self-regulatory structure that everyone will approve of.”
An FBI probe into a company formerly controlled by News Corp suggests U.S. investigators are looking at a wider swath of the conglomerate’s activity than had been thought. News Outdoor Russia, a billboard company that News Corp divested itself of last July, has come under scrutiny from FBI agents as investigators seek to ascertain whether it paid bribes to local officials, The Wall Street Journal reports. News Corp has been under fire in Britain over a phone-hacking scandal at its now-shuttered News Of The World tabloid and is also facing allegations of bribes paid to public officials in the UK by journalists at The Sun newspaper. Thus far, the conglomerate has not had charges leveled at it in America, but the FBI probe into its Russian dealings follows on from the opening of an investigation last July to explore an unsubstantiated claim that 9/11 victims had their voicemail hacked on behalf of the News Of The World.
With Rupert Murdoch’s UK newspapers under increasing fire, it has seemed almost inevitable that the mogul would be called to testify in the ongoing inquiry into the nation’s media ethics. According to a report today, the Leveson Inquiry is now preparing to call Murdoch and other newspaper owners to give evidence in late April or early May. News International, a division of Murdoch’s News Corp, controls its British newspaper interests including The Sun – and also controlled the now-defunct News Of The World, which was shuttered this summer amid the phone-hacking scandal. Embattled scion James Murdoch resigned as executive chairman of News International yesterday, citing his relocation to News Corp’s New York headquarters. Rupert Murdoch, whose company has set up an internal committee to aid British police in their investigation of illegal practices by journalists, is believed to be keen to cooperate. In a December session of the inquiry, witness Piers Morgan was asked to elaborate on a discussion he had previously had with Murdoch. When the CNN talk show host and former News Of The World editor said he couldn’t answer on Murdoch’s behalf, the inquiry’s chief counsel said, “I can ask him for his impression when we get there.”
It’s the latest and potentially most high-profile lawsuit yet to come out of the UK phone-hacking scandal that has engulfed News Corp’s British newspapers. The company has already settled more than 50 lawsuits related to probes that uncovered the widespread hacking of celebrities’ and political figures’ voicemails by News Of The World journalists — and officials think the number of victims is much higher. But Cherie Blair’s suit, filed yesterday against News Corp’s News International unit and convicted hacker Glenn Mulcaire, could shine a spotlight onto just how high the illicit practices might have gone; already, News Corp settled claims by then-Prime Minister Tony Blair’s former press chief and Deputy PM. “If it is true that a former prime minister’s family have been targeted by Rupert Murdoch’s hackers, then it is clearly a significant moment in the scandal,” said Labour Party MP Tom Watson, a vocal leader of a parliamentary committee investigating the scandal, wrote in an e-mail to Bloomberg. The scandal has resulted in several different investigations, and most recently eight journalists at Murdoch’s The Sun newspaper were arrested and suspended for their alleged roles in bribing police officials. Murdoch lifted that ban last week and announced The Sun would launch a Sunday edition to replace News Of The World’s now-defunct Sunday tabloid. It debuts this week.
With Rupert Murdoch arriving in London this week amid the deepening crisis in his UK news empire, Bloomberg reports the mogul could also face unhappy staffers at The Sun who have demanded an audience with him. Scotland Yard is currently investigating alleged bribes paid to police officers by Sun journalists with 9 so far arrested. (Per The Guardian, claims are now being made that certain public officials were on what essentially amounted to a £10,000 annual retainer.) Sun employees want reassurance they will not face the same fate as their colleagues at News Of The World which was shuttered this summer when the phone-hacking scandal blew wide open. What’s more, some Sun journalists are reportedly mulling legal action against News International, the News Corp arm that runs the UK papers, based on the Human Rights Act and with the help of the National Union of Journalists. The Independent says reporters are looking to build a case claiming the Sun‘s parent company breached the workers’ right to freedom of expression by giving evidence about their sources to investigators. News Corp has been cooperating with the investigations via its internal Management and Standards Committee.
Hacking Update: Hugh Grant Accused Of Hijacking Inquiry By Daily Mail Editor; More News Corp Unit Emails Uncovered
It was a busy day at the Leveson Inquiry into UK media ethics. This morning it was confirmed that police have recovered millions of emails from the main server of News Corp’s News International unit that were thought to have been deleted, while Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre in the afternoon continued to refute Hugh Grant’s earlier testimony that the Sunday newspaper had hacked into the actor’s voicemail for a 2007 story. Sue Akers, the police chief in charge of three investigations into alleged press misconduct, testified that investigators are working to search through the recovered emails, which News Corp’s UK newspaper arm said had been deleted, but that the work will take a few more months. She also noted that the police have a “cooperative working relationship” with News Corp’s management and standards committee, which the group set up when the phone-hacking scandal at the News Of The World blew wide open this summer.
Meanwhile, Dacre spoke to events from November last year when Grant, in the first allegation against a paper not controlled by News Corp., told
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 hacking. Watson, who is also a member of the Parliamentary committee for Culture, Media and Sport, had written to the police last month asking if they would investigate after the newspaper’s editor, James Harding. He told the Leveson Inquiry into U.K. media ethics that a Times reporter had been given a formal warning after accessing private emails without authorization. A police spokesman told the BBC officers were in contact with Watson regarding the specific issues he seeks to raise, but said they would not provide “running commentary.”
New revelations in the News Of The World phone-hacking scandal have emerged over the past day. A 2008 email from the paper’s then-editor Colin Myler to James Murdoch — in which Myler alerted Murdoch of alleged rife phone hacking practices — was deleted from Murdoch’s account in January 2011, less than two weeks before Scotland Yard launched Operation Weeting, the investigation into phone hacking at the newspaper. The deletion resulted in the email not being a part of the initial evidence in the investigation. In a letter to the U.K.’s Culture Media and Sport Committee, lawyers for News International say Myler’s copy of the email was lost in a “hardware failure” in 2010 and that Murdoch’s copy was deleted by a member of News International’s IT staff during an email stabilization and modernization program. Murdoch has previously acknowledged answering the email when he received it but has contended he did not read the entire chain.
Embattled News Corp scion James Murdoch is stepping down from the board of drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline, the company announced today. GSK said Murdoch would not stand for re-election in order to focus on his role at BSkyB and in light of his decision to move to the U.S. Amid the eruption of the News Of The World phone-hacking scandal in the UK this summer, there was speculation that Murdoch might leave the pharmaceutical giant’s ranks. At the time, a spokesman told Reuters: “With regard to the activities that are alleged to have taken place at News International, we believe that the full facts must be established and the ongoing investigations be allowed to take place and come to a considered conclusion.” Today, GSK chairman Sir Christopher Gent said: “James Murdoch has decided to stand down from the Board with effect from this year’s AGM. James has taken this decision to focus on his current duties as Non-executive Chairman of BSkyB, and following his decision to re-locate to the United States, as Chairman and Chief Executive, International, of News Corporation. On behalf of the Board, I would like to thank James for the very strong contribution he has made since he was appointed in 2009 and wish him well for the future.”
A UK parliamentary committee has published a letter from Surrey police about the investigation into the disappearance and murder of schoolgirl Milly Dowler. The letter is presented as evidence in the committee’s investigation into phone hacking and attempts to establish a timeline of conversations between the Surrey police and News Of The World reporters. The document demonstrates how reporters interfered with police progress on the missing persons case back in 2002 by misrepresenting themselves and making dodgy claims in the pursuit of a story. The letter further shows that reporters revealed knowledge of messages on the girl’s phone. However, the report stops short of elucidating the question of whether messages on her phone were deleted by the journalists, saying that’s still being investigted by the Metropolitan police. “When and the extent to which Milly’s mobile phone voicemail was unlawfully accessed (and whether any messages were deleted) are matters which form part of the MPS’s ongoing investigation.” In separate but related news, Rupert Murdoch tweeted the following this morning: “No excuses for phone hacking. No argument. No excuses either for copyright stealing, but plenty of ignorant argument!”
Following yesterday’s revelations of settlements in the News Of The World phone hacking scandal, it’s now reported that News Corp’s News International could face an FBI investigation over a possible offense on US soil involving Jude Law. According to The Telegraph, the potential FBI probe relates to a 2003 News Of The World article that News International has acknowledged was the result of phone hacking. The article contains references to phone calls Law’s assistant made to the actor when he arrived at an airport believed to be New York’s JFK. According to the Telegraph report, if Law’s phone was on a US network, it could mean an offense under US law. The FBI confirmed it was looking into the situation. In related news, News International has been ordered to search more computers for evidence of attempts by former employees to perpetrate a cover up of phone hacking schemes.
UPDATE, 10:30 AM: Payout amounts of some 15 of the now 37 claims to be settled today have been revealed. According to The Associated Press, Jude Law received £130,000 and his ex-wife Sadie Frost got £50,000, while other payments were in the tens of thousands of pounds. The AP says News Group Newspapers admitted that information for 16 articles about Law that ran in the News Of The World from 2003 to 2006 had been obtained by phone hacking, and that he had been placed under “repeated and sustained physical surveillance.” The company also admitted that articles in The Sun misused the actor’s private information. In a statement, Law said he considered the tabloids had been “prepared to do anything to sell their newspapers and to make money, irrespective of the impact it had on people’s lives.” He said despite changing his phones and having his house swept for bugs, private information continued to be published. He added: “For me, this case was never about money. It was about standing up for myself and finding out what had happened. I owed it to my friends and family as well as myself to do this.”
PREVIOUS, 3:51 AM: News Corp’s News International has settled 36 more News Of The World phone-hacking cases, including those of Jude Law, his ex-wife Sadie Frost, soccer player Ashley Cole and singer Dannii Minogue. The suits alleged that management at News Group Newspapers, the …
The Guardian in the UK is among those reporting that a woman who served as former News International CEO Rebekah Brooks’ personal assistant for 19 years has been arrested in connection with the News Of The World phone-hacking scandal. UK press report that Cheryl Carter was picked up this morning on suspicion of attempting to pervert the course of justice in a police probe. It’s the latest evidence that investigators are still focused in on the top brass of News Corp’s UK newspaper arm and have not backed away from looking at Brooks, who was arrested in July after the scandal that shuttered NOTW broke open. Carter no longer works for News International or Brooks, the Guardian said.