More trouble for Uncle Rupert and his son James as the inquiry into the hacking scandal continues.
The long-running tabloid newspaper scandal that has shaken Rupert Murdoch’s global media empire delivered a new jolt on Tuesday as its powerful and lucrative television operations moved to the center of a British judicial inquiry with disclosures that a senior cabinet minister, or at least an aide claiming to speak for him, worked covertly to help win approval for a $12 billion takeover of the BSkyB network.
A trove of newly released e-mails pointed to hand-in-glove collaboration between a lobbyist for Mr. Murdoch’s News Corporation and the office of Culture Minister Jeremy Hunt, the official designated to pass judgment on the BSkyB bid. That deal, which would have crowned Mr. Murdoch’s 60-year media career, was scuttled last year as the scandal over illicit phone hacking exploded, and now appears out of his reach for years, if not permanently. Read on...
James Murdoch came to the Leveson inquiry to defend his reputation, and ended up spending much of the remaining six and half hours on the stand in effect defending the culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt.
But his robust defence of News Corporation's insider lobbying tactics was not matched by such a sure touch elsewhere, as his evidence revealed him to be incurious about phone hacking and uninterested in newspapers.
The media mogul said that his chief lobbyist, Frédéric Michel, was simply "doing his job" in his briefings again and again on titbits obtained from ministers and their special advisers with regard to the BSkyB bid. For all the information he received, Murdoch remained sceptical.
Rather than seeing the information that came out of Jeremy Hunt's team as particularly useful, he told the inquiry that he took all ministerial communications with a "grain of salt" and that, if anything, he was as sceptical about politicians.
Under questioning from Robert Jay QC, Murdoch argued that Hunt simply wanted political cover from News Corp during the critical time of January 2011 when the company was negotiating with the culture secretary over how to get the Sky deal through. He said he took Hunt's decision to co-operate with him as a reflection of the fact that "he didn't want to take any heat alone" because he had "never met a politician who did".
Murdoch said he had expected Hunt, and Cable before him, to take into account appropriate evidence when determining the outcome of News Corp's £8bn bid for BSkyB.
The sometimes fissile 39-year-old showed only one flash of anger. It was reserved for the business secretary, Vince Cable, for having shown "acute bias" once it emerged that he had told two undercover Telegraph reporters that he had "declared war on Murdoch". [...]
On 24 January, at 3.21pm while the stock market was still open, Michel managed to get information about the timetable next day for Hunt's parliamentary announcement at which he could consider concessions from News Corp to help get the bid through: the lobbyist added for colour that this was "absolutely illegal..>!"
Amid laughter around the courtroom Murdoch said simply that he "thought it was a joke", noting the unusual punctuation, which he described as "a wink".
Jay wondered why, Cable excepted, Murdoch was getting such help.
It was obvious why Hunt was being so helpful; it was because the Sun had backed the Conservatives before the election, the barrister said.
Murdoch argued differently, saying: "I simply wouldn't make that trade. It would be inappropriate to do so and I simply don't do business that way." It was a sentiment that had his wife, Kathryn, strongly agreeing from the public gallery. Read on...