Britain’s Channel 4 News has obtained letters sent by Rupert Murdoch to two British MPs in an attempt to clarify statements he made to Sun staff that were secretly recorded in March and revealed earlier this month. In the correspondence to MPs Keith Vaz and John Whittingdale, Murdoch says he regrets his choice of words in a “highly emotional meeting”. In the original transcript, which was published by Exaro News, Murdoch says that the practice of making payments to police officers for news tips had “been going on a hundred years” and was the “culture of Fleet Street”. In the letter to Vaz (read it here), Murdoch says, “I did not intend to suggest that any violations of the law are tolerable or acceptable.”
UPDATE: News Corp Says Rupert Murdoch Accepts Invitation To Appear Before UK Parliament To Discuss Secret Tape
UPDATE, 2:30 PM: It looks like the UK Parliament’s committee will get its wish. A News Corp spokesman has said Rupert Murdoch will accept their invitation. “Mr Murdoch welcomes the opportunity to return to the select committee and answer their questions. He looks forward to clearing up any misconceptions as soon as possible.”
PREVIOUS, 10:46 AM: The secret recording of Rupert Murdoch addressing Sun staffers at a meeting last March has incited Parliament’s Culture, Media and Sport Committee to extend an invitation to the News Corp chief. “We’re inviting him to return to give evidence,” a spokesperson tells Deadline, and “to discuss” the “supposedly secretly recorded set of comments.” Those comments included Murdoch talking about his company’s handling of bribery and hacking charges. Any evidentiary hearing before the committee would be an official one, but there’s an interesting aspect to the panel’s wording: Murdoch is being invited, not compelled, to appear. Conversely, Murdoch was indeed summoned in July 2011 when the News Of The World hacking scandal was blowing wide open. Still, if Murdoch accepts the invitation, it is unlikely he would appear anytime soon. The House of Commons is about to go into summer recess until September when it reconvenes for two weeks and then closes down again for three weeks before opening again in October. I’m told it would be a “safe assumption” that there will be no further movement until …
British Labour Party MP Tom Watson, a vocal and enduring Rupert Murdoch critic, has called on the News Corp boss to be questioned by police following yesterday’s revelations about a secret recording of comments he made to Sun staffers last March. Speaking to Channel 4 News, Watson said he wants to know “what are they sitting on that they’ve not given the police” and “I hope that they’re going to be interviewing Rupert Murdoch about what he did know about criminality in his organization.” Enders’ senior analyst Douglas McCabe tells me Murdoch being questioned by police or ordered before Parliament again is “just about plausible” but adds, “I don’t feel that this in isolation would be comprehensive as a trigger to make that happen.” McCabe sees Murdoch’s comments to Sun staff as being blown out of proportion. “Fundamentally, should we be surprised that privately the chair of a large media organization is trying to rally the troops and be sympatheic with different situations he acknowledges in public?” He allows, “I think one can say he shouldn’t be saying whatever he is about the UK police operation,” but “I can’t read any impact on News Corp.” News Corp yesterday said, “The unprecedented co-operation granted by News Corp was agreed unanimously by senior management and the board, and the [Management and Standards Committee] continues …
Geoff Webster, the former deputy editor of News Corp‘s UK tabloid The Sun, is the latest to be charged with conspiring to commit misconduct in public office. Britain’s Crown Prosecution Service said today that Webster was charged with two offenses, one related to allegations he authorized £6,500 in payments for information supplied by a public official to one of his journalists, the other related to an allegation that he OK’d a £1,500 payment for information provided by an unknown public official. The crimes are alleged to have taken place between July 2010 and August 2011. The charges fall under Scotland Yard’s Operation Elveden, which stems from News Corp’s handing over 300M internal emails in an effort to cooperate with police amid the phone-hacking scandal. Webster is the fourth Sun journalist to be charged under the investigation. Former editor and News International chief Rebekah Brooks also faces charges under Elveden. Webster will appear in a London court next week.
Former Rupert Murdoch lieutenant Rebekah Brooks and former News Of The World editor Andy Coulson appeared in a London court today on charges of allegedly conspiring to bribe public officials. While both of their cases were adjourned to another date, according to BBC News, four others pleaded guilty to selling information to the News Corp.-owned Sun tabloid. Two former police officers, an ex-prison officer and a public official (who was not named for legal reasons) are the first to plead guilty to misconduct in a public office under Scotland Yard’s three linked investigations into illegal acts by journalists. Brooks, formerly chief of News Corp. press arm News International, and Coulson, also both face charges in the phone-hacking investigation. The provisional trial date is September 9 this year.
Meanwhile, in a bit of good news for News International, The Times and Sunday Times were awarded nine UK Press Awards on Thursday night, including Newspaper of the Year and Scoop of the Year for The Times and Sports Team of the Year for the Sunday Times. Occasional Twitter user Murdoch sent out a few missives about politics yesterday, but there was no shout out for the wins.
After Times Newspapers independent directors refused to approve Rupert Murdoch’s appointment of editors to The Times and Sunday Times last week, the News Corp. chief has flown to London to hold a summit meeting, The Guardian reports. The visit is expected to include “clear-the-air” talks with the Times Newspapers directors who were given oversight under the terms that allowed Murdoch to acquire the papers in 1981. Creating a potential standoff, the directors on Friday refused to accept News Corp.’s nominations of John Witherow and Martin Ivens for permanent appointments at The Times and Sunday Times, respectively. Witherow, who has been editor of the Sunday Times for 18 years, is replacing James Harding at the helm of The Times on an acting basis for now, but that’s understood to be a source of some consternation. Harding left the paper in December saying, “It has been made clear to me that News Corporation would like to appoint a new editor of The Times. I have, therefore, agreed to stand down.” Murdoch was seen in the newsroom at The Sun and The Times on Monday. In separate but related news, the Crown Prosecution Service said today it will charge defense editor of The Sun, Virginia Wheeler, with conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office as part of the ongoing Operation Elveden inquiry. Both former News International chief Rebekah Brooks …
Global Showbiz Briefs: More Sun Arrests, BBC News Changes, Nine Debt Crisis, Turkish ‘Private Practice’
Two Sun Journalists Arrested
Fifty people have now been arrested in Scotland Yard’s ongoing investigation into allegations of inappropriate payments to public officials. Two journalists from News Corp. tabloid The Sun were detained this morning as was a police officer. The arrests were the result of information provided by News Corp.’s Management Standards Committee, the Metropolitan Police said. They relate to suspected payments to a public official and suspected disclosure of confidential information by a police officer.
New BBC Chief To Boost News Women, Keep Lid On Salaries
George Entwistle is making headlines in the UK during his first week as the BBC’s new director general. He said he would install more female news presenters in an interview with Radio 4. Male TV hosts have nothing to fear, he said, as he wouldn’t “remedy one inequity by indulging in another, turfing out a whole load of blokes who might be doing their job brilliantly with a view to getting women in.” Regardless, nobody should be looking for a star salary. The BBC has been in a period of austerity since its revenues were cut sharply through 2016 due to a freeze on the TV license fees that help support it. Entwistle told Radio Times the network will not “bankrupt” itself to hold onto to big names.
Controversial naked photos of Britain’s Prince Harry are available on the Internet, but after Rupert Murdoch‘s Sun newspaper published them on Friday, the Press Complaints Commission logged over 850 gripes. Murdoch responded – and launched what looks like a challenge to the Leveson Inquiry on UK media ethics – by defending the tabloid’s decision via Twitter. On Sunday, he tweeted: “Simple equation: free, open uncontrollable Internet versus shackled newspapers equals no newspapers. Let’s get real.” In October, Lord Justice Brian Leveson will file what is expected to be a critical report from the inquiry and make suggestions for press regulation spurred on by the phone-hacking scandal at Murdoch’s UK newspaper division. Also on Sunday, Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who’s been criticized for his cozy relationship with James Murdoch’s office, told the BBC, “We can agree with what someone like Mr Murdoch does or you can disagree with it. But in the end that is not for politicians to tell editors what to publish.”
Simple equation:free, open uncontrollable Internet versusshackled newspapers equals no newspapers. Let’s get real.
— Rupert Murdoch(@rupertmurdoch) August 26, 2012
Eight months of testimony are finally winding down at the Leveson Inquiry into UK media ethics. The panel, convened in the wake of the phone hacking scandal at the News Corp-controlled News Of The World, heard again today from Metropolitan police deputy commissioner Sue Akers. Akers has been leading the probes into alleged illegal activities by journalists including phone and computer hacking and bribery. In February, she told the inquiry there appeared to be “a culture of illegal payments” at News Corp’s The Sun newspaper. Today, she said police had determined that public officials, including a high-security prison guard, have received payments from more than one newspaper, expanding the field to those owned by Trinity Mirror and Express Newspapers along with News Corp’s News International. (In Express chief Richard Desmond’s earlier statement to the inquiry, he said he was unaware of any such activity at his papers.) When Akers appeared in February, News Corp said the practices she’d described were “ones of the past.” Akers confirmed today to Lord Justice Brian Leveson that there has been a change in the culture and practice of News International. Akers also told the inquiry that News Corp’s internal Management and Standards committee has proffered significant
This is shaping up to be a big week at the Leveson Inquiry into UK media ethics: Several high-level politicians are set to take the stand, offering evidence on the relationship between government and big media. Off to a roaring start today with a game of “he said-he said”, former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown told the hearing room that there was no evidence of a phone conversation between he and Rupert Murdoch in September of 2009. During the disputed call, Brown is alleged to have threatened the mogul. He also took shots at Murdoch’s News International and its former executive chairman, James Murdoch, who Brown said drove an “aggressive public agenda.” He further contradicted testimony given by former Murdoch lieutenant Rebekah Brooks, and said he had never been influenced by Rupert Murdoch. If he had suported Murdoch’s policies, Brown quipped, the UK wouldn’t be part of the European Union, England would be the 51st state of the U.S. — with Scotland the 52nd — and Murdoch “probably would have had us at war with France and Germany.”
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 Clodagh Hartley, a government editor for The Sun tabloid. She was released on bail. News International confirmed the woman arrested today was an employee but declined to comment further. Her arrest was the result of new information provided to police by News Corp’s Management Standards Committee which is handling the company’s internal investigation.
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.
The new Sunday edition of Rupert Murdoch’s Sun newspaper sold 3.26 million copies when it debuted in the UK yesterday, according to the News Corp chief’s Twitter feed. Yet the most interesting new development involving the tabloid is a charge today that came from Sue Akers, the deputy police commissioner overseeing investigations into alleged illegal practices by journalists. Akers told the Leveson Inquiry into UK media ethics that there “appears to have been a culture at The Sun of illegal payments” to police officers as well as members of the military, the government and other public organizations. (The Sun is controlled by the News Corp-owned News International.) According to The Guardian, Akers suggested there was a “network of corrupted officials” that journalists at The Sun could call upon and that one official received more than $126,500 (£80,000) over several years. Following Akers’ testimony, Murdoch gave the following statement: “She said the evidence suggested such payments were authorised by senior staff at The Sun. As I’ve made very clear, we have vowed to do everything we can to get to the bottom of prior wrongdoings in order to set us on the right path for the future. That process is well under way. The practices Sue Akers described at the Leveson inquiry are ones of the past, and no longer exist at The Sun. We have already emerged a stronger company.”
The News Corp boss will stay in London to oversee the launch of a Sunday edition of The Sun next week. That’s the replacement for the corporation’s previous Sunday tabloid, News Of The World, which was shuttered in July after it became the focal point of what is now a wide-ranging phone-hacking scandal. In an email to Sun staff Sunday, Tom Mockridge, the CEO of News Corp’s UK newspaper division News International, said “every one of us will seize the opportunity to pull together and deliver a great new dawn” for the newspaper. The news comes after Murdoch flew to London on Friday to meet with Sun employees and play peacemaker after eight journalists were arrested for allegedly bribing police officials. Sun staffers were prepared to revolt after learning that News Corp had provided police with evidence that led to the arrests. Murdoch lifted the suspensions of the journalists, said News Corp would cover their legal expenses and announced the launch “soon” of a Sunday edition. Said Mockridge in today’s email: ”The commitment of News Corporation to invest in a new edition is the strongest possible message of support we could wish for.”
The News Corp chief sought to reassure journalists at The Sun today by announcing his plan to launch a Sunday edition of the UK tabloid — and by offering to help the staffers who were arrested last weekend for allegedly paying cops for tips and information. “We are doing everything we can to assist those who were arrested — all suspensions are hereby lifted until or whether charged and they are welcome to return to work,” he said in a letter to employees. “News Corporation will cover their legal expenses. Everyone is innocent unless proven otherwise.” He added, though, that the company also will cooperate with a police investigation into the scandal and “will turn over every piece of evidence we find — not just because we are obligated to but because it is the right thing to do.” Sun staffers were prepared to revolt after learning that News Corp had provided police with evidence that led to the arrests. The paper’s Trevor Kavanagh likened the police actions to a “witch-hunt” and added in a column that “some of the greatest legends in Fleet Street have been held, at least on the basis of evidence so far revealed, for simply doing their jobs as journalists on behalf of the company.” Here’s Murdoch’s letter:
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.
After watching his Sunday paper News of the World fold over a phone hacking scandal, Rupert Murdoch is now weathering another newspaper storm, this one brewing around his cash cow daily The Sun. Five senior staffers were arrested. This time, the allegations are they paid cops for tips and information. According to a Reuters report, Murdoch will head to London next week to meet with staff. Given the fast fold of News of the World, Sun staffers are understandably nervous about the prospect of seeing another Fleet Street paper get an obit.
Per Reuters, News International chief executive Tom Mockridge sent a memo to staff saying: “I have had a personal assurance today from Rupert Murdoch about his total commitment to continue to own and publish the Sun newspaper.” The BBC confirms that Murdoch will continue to back the tabloid. Besides a thorough grilling (and a pie in the face) for Murdoch and son James, the scandal has so far forced the resignation of Murdoch’s top newspaper exec Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson, the Murdoch editor Andy Coulson, who became media adviser to Prime Minister David Cameron. Seems like a few more cowboys who allegedly ran roughshod over accepted journalistic ethics are in for a rough time of it and there is sure to be further argument of whether Murdoch should get out of the newspaper game altogether, at …
Four current and former staff members of the popular British tabloid The Sun and a policeman were arrested today as part of the continuing investigation into corruption that arose out of phone hacking at News Corp’s shuttered News Of The World, Reuters reported. The five arrests involved suspected payments by journalists to police officers for information. Police also searched London offices of Sun publisher News International, the British arm of News Corp, whose Management and Standards Committee said today’s operation was the result of information it had passed to police. Said a Sun reporter, who asked not to be identified: “Everyone is a bit shocked, there is disbelief really. But there is a big difference between phone hacking and payments to the police.” Today’s operation raises to 13 the number of arrests in the police bribery probe, which is separate from the phone-hacking inquiry that has resulted in three criminal investigations.
So now no member of the Murdoch family sits on the boards of News Corp’s marquee British newspapers. The London Evening Standard is reporting from regulatory filings that James Murdoch in September “dramatically resigned” in a “surprise move” as a director of the various News Corp companies that publish The Times, The Sunday Times and The Sun. James faces calls to also quit as chairman of BSkyB at next week’s annual general meeting. But James is still enjoying his promotion to News Corp deputy chief operating officer in New York last April and a News International spokesman confirms that James remains chairman of the company. NI remains at the center of the UK phone hacking scandal.