Live blog – Murdoch at the Leveson inquiry, day two
Today he’s covered the period relating to the phone hacking scandal and the closure of the News of the World and admitted personally failure.
NUJ puts questions to Murdoch
13:08 – Hendy moves on to ask questions about unionisation at News International.
Murdoch says he would accept the democratic decision of his staff if they decided to join the NUJ.
He says that staff can complain to the News International Staff Association (NISA), which represents journalists News International.
Hendy says this is funded by News International and therefore not independent.
Were the NUJ permitted to represent members at News International titles it would be one step to eradication of unethical newsgathering purposes?
Murdoch says being a member of the NUJ would not stop unethical behaviour. He says a “conscience clause” condition of employment would be better.
13:03 – John Hendy from the NUJ asks Murdoch if there has been unethical treatment of journalists on his staff? Murdoch says his journalists are well paid and happy and can join the NUJ.
13:05 – Hendy talks about a News of the World journalist who claims to have experienced “constant bullying”.
“Why didn’t she resign?” asks Murdoch, saying News International journalists “have always struck me as a happy crowd.”
12:54 – The floor is opened to questions.
John Caplan, lawyer of Associated Newspapers raises Murdoch’s previous quote about the ethics of the Daily Mail being “commercially motivated”. He reads out an email showing that it was a statement relating solely to the campaign against BSkyB.
Bloggers, Huffpo, the Mail Online and the internet
12:54 – FT media editor, Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson tweets about Murdoch’s remark that the future of the internet was above his pay grade. Last year he earned $33.3m.
Last year’s compensation $33.3m @RobertsDan solving the challenge of internet publishing is above Rupert’s ‘pay grade’ apparently
— A Edgecliffe-Johnson (@Edgecliffe) April 26, 2012
12:50 – Murdoch is asked if only journalism done for profit be regulated?
“I think everyone’s doing it for money, including the bloggers”says Murdoch.
12:48 – Murdoch says the Huffington Post has developed from an online political pamphlet to be broader, but says it has done so by “stealing stories”.
He says the MailOnline is “unrecognisable as part of the Daily Mail”.
“They have their own gossip … it’s a great gossip site, or bad, whichever way you look at it. It comes right up to the barrier of fair use of what is acceptable.”
Murdoch: Not great understanding of tech, but sees future with billions of “smart telephones”
12:43 – “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 beg for some care. We want democracy rather than autocracy.”
Leveson agrees that digital content also needs to be regulated.
12:41 – Murdoch talks about how the large amount of advertising opportunities available online means that ad rates stay very low.
12:37 – Murdoch goes on to talk about the BBC Online. He says that the website has become many people’s sole new source affecting newspaper circulation and is the reason papers are closing.
He talks about the demise of the local newspaper and their contribution to our democracy. He says that it will be a “very sad day” if they disappear. He says that they could be saved by the BBC.
12:35 – Murdoch goes on to talk about privacy and technology. He says that because of smart phones and tablets you can find anyone anywhere now and that this information should not be published.
12:29 – Despite being on Twitter Murdoch says he does not have a great understanding of technology. He says that since the internet came along as a source of the news, he says he thinks it has been responsible for the loss of circulation.
“We’re seeing everybody under extreme pressure. We’ve seen only this week, three newspapers seizing publication as dailies and becoming weeklies.”
He says the internet cannot be regulated. He also says that regulations that are put in place could cause there to be no press in 10 years time.
He says that in less than five years there will be billions of tablets and “smart telephones” in the world.
“I like the tactile experience of reading a newspaper and a book. I think we’ll have both for five, ten, 20 years,” Murdoch says
12:28 – Murdoch says: “We should not have had one legal officer at the News of the World for 20 years, those types of people should be changed at worst every 10 years.”
“The News of the World, to be quite honest is an aberration and it’s my fault.”
12:20 – Jay is trying to get Murdoch to see newsgathering a scale from unethical activity, to civil wrongs, to criminal behaviour.
12:15 -From the BBC News, Political correspondent, Ross Hawkins: BBC News on the evidence so far, says Murdoch sees himself as a victim, do you agree?
In essence Rupert Murdoch sees himself as “the victim” of the phone-hacking scandal. He says there was no attempt at his level to engineer a cover-up, and blames “one or two people” below him. There was humility however as Mr Murdoch apologised to a lot of innocent people “who lost their jobs”.
#Leveson break: Murdoch is growing testier, more belligerent, laying blame widely among employees. He’s even trying to cover up the cover-up
— Roy Greenslade (@GreensladeR) April 26, 2012
We’re now a new company, says Murdoch
12:06 – Does Murdoch see the link between ethical misbehaviour and legal misbehaviour?
He says yes, he never asked Prime Ministers for favours because it would have been unethical, but it “probably wouldn’t be criminal”.
12:03 - Murdoch says he is “greatly distressed” at the hurt caused to the families of the journalists who were arrested as part of phone hacking.
“We are now a new company with new rules, with compliance officers, we are showing with the Sun we can still produce the best newspaper without the bad practices that were exposed.”
11:59 – Again Murdoch is asked whether they covered up phone-hacking?
“We set up inquiry after inquiry, employed legal firm after legal firm – perhaps we relied too much on the conclusions of the police.”
Murdoch says he pledged to clean up phone hacking and he that he has done.
He says spent hundreds of millions of dollars and passed anything vaguely suspicious to the police – going way beyond what they had asked them to do.
11:56 – Murdoch is asked whether in 1995, 2005 or in any earlier year he thought about the financial risk of a disaster on the scale of the impact oh phone hacking.
Murdoch says that they always thought about delivering papers people would want to read.
Murdoch says he wished he’d closed NotW years ago
11:57 – Jay says that closing the News of the World was a disaster “reputationally”.
Murdoch says Jay loves the word, reputation, and says the Sun has great sales.
Murdoch disagrees saying that it hasn’t stopped sales of The Sun. He says that the News of the World is a blot, however, on his reputation.
11:55 - Jay asks why did you close the NotW rather than tough it out?
Murdoch says: “When the Millie dowler situation was first given huge publicity…. It made people all over the country aware of this. You could feel the blast coming the window. I panicked. I’m glad I did. I’m sorry I didn’t close it years before and put a Sunday Sun in.
“I will tell you what held it back. The news o the world readers, only a quarter read the Sun.”
11:53 - Jay asks Murdoch if he has ever promoted his other interests in his papers.
Murdoch says that there is self promotion of newspapers and there always has been. He says he does not tell his newspapers to promote his TV channels or films. Jay says Murdoch’s intersts are other papers.
“You ought to read the critics at the New York Post about our Fox films – they kill them.”
11:50 - Murdoch says generally he doesn’t agree with privacy laws. There always there to protect the great and the good, not the mass who make up our democracy.
11:42 – Jay asks is ensuring ethical standards costly? Murdoch says failure to keep ethical standards can be immensely expensive. Murdoch says this scandal has cost NI “100 millions” compared with the “peanuts” maintaining standards cost.
11:36 - Murdoch has a pop at rival the Daily Mail and comments made by editor Paul Dacre.
He says he does not feel like newspapers are free to do whatever they want. He says that other newspapers always hold him to account and that the public can stop borrowing his papers whenever.
Murdoch: “I’m under strict instructions from my lawyers not to say this…
Jay: “I think you just caused three coronaries.”
“I’m going to say this –but I was really shocked by the statement by Mr Dacre the other day … I was shocked when he said the editorial policy of the Mail was driven by commercial interests. It’s about the most unethical thing I’ve read for a long time, and from the most surprising source as I have great respect for his abilities”.
Jay responds that that Dacre was talking about the BSkyB deal, but Murdoch disagrees.
11:35 – Jay returns to Murdoch’s relations with politicians considering he said that scratching each others back is normal human activity.
Murdoch says he never scratched the back of a politician:
“That’s a nice twist, but no, I’m not falling for it.”
11:27 – Leveson moves on to point made by Max Mosley about blackmail being used by News of the World journalists (one of the women in Mosley orgy offered to have face pixellated out if she co-operated.)
Mr Justice Eady – came to conclusion that your journalists committed blackmail against these two women.
Murdoch says: “A journalist doing a favour for someone and returning a favour back is pretty much everyday practise.”
Leveson asks Murdoch whether it’s okay for a journalist to offer a member of the public a choice between pubic embarrassment or co-operation and money? Murdoch says that he finds this approach “disturbing”.
Leveson says: “If it is the culture of the press that this is acceptable or justifiable then I would like to know that.”
Murdoch willing to give written considered view on the Justice Eady document as he hadn’t read it.
The Sun and News of the World are different, says Murdoch
11:25 – Murdoch: “I want to establish a difference between The Sun and The News of the World. You lump them together all the time and I think it’s grossly unfair.”
11:23 – Jay reads from autobiography of former PM, Sir John Major, about Fleet Street reporting gossip and lies to boost circulation.
Murdoch says: “We have a great vibrant press here, 10/11 newspapers, I don’t know why because only 3 or 4 are making money. There’s great competition, but I don’t think it leads to lying.”
Murdoch says that since Major lost an election, it’s likely he’d make “sweeping allegations against the press”.
11:20 – The Inquiry moves on to the brand definition of the News of the World.
Murdoch describes it as “A campaigning newspaper”.
“When I first went there is more interested in covering the courts which were not covered in other papers (apart from The Telegraph who covered them in grimier detail but in much smaller type)”.
Does Murdoch not include celebrity gossip in the definition?
“Coverage of celebrities, yes. Salacious gossip – meaning unfounded – no.”
11:19 – Murdoch says he didn’t say his main concern wasn’t cleaning up his company at that moment because he wanted to keep Brookes’ confidence up as she was thinking of resigning.
11:15 – Murdoch says that when he said his main concern was Brookes during the hacking scandal it was under pressure from paparazzi. Murdoch complains about harassment by the media and of cameras in his face as he tries to cross the street.
“If you’ve got 30 journalists and paparazzi and microphones under your mouth then yes you are under duress.”
Murdoch says he wouldn’t talk about hacking in an interview with Fox News in 2009 because he wasn’t across the facts.
Leveson: “I think we might come back to discuss that later.” Laughter around the court.
11:12 – Murdoch is asked about the Guardian investigation and whether he thinks if it hadn’t been for that paper the hacking story would ever have come out.
Jay asks “If it wasn’t for the Guardian we’d never have known about phone-hacking.” Murdoch : “I don’t know”
Murdoch says we had an investigating committee and we had Harbottle and Lewis (lawyers).
“We looked but we didn’t find anything.”
Jay says: “If it wasn’t for the good work of the Guardian, all of this will have remained concealed.”
Murdoch: “There are plenty of good investigative journalists around.. the Independent is pretty active”.
Jay says that Murdoch has a “visceral hatred” for the Guardian. Murdoch replies: “that’s a little too high. I have often expressed admiration for them.. They look after their audience very well.”
10:58 – Murdoch says: “We chose to take the word of the police over the word of the Guardian.”
10:53 – Murdoch says he learns of the £700,000 Gordon Taylor settlement in 2009 and the size of it surprised him. He says he asked his son why he paid Taylor, who was head of the Professional Footballers’ Association, so much money?
He says James had two boxes to tick from – lower or infinitely higher – he says his son ticked the one that didn’t lead to an appeal.
Murdoch says that he was never told that if he didn’t settle this case lots more would come out.
10:50 – Surely Murdoch would want to know the atmosphere or climate on his newspaper that would make a reporter think it was okay to phone-hack? He admits he did not know enough of what was going on at the NotW:
“I’m guilty of not paying enough attention to the News of the World probably for the whole time we’ve owned it….all I can do is apologise to a lot of people including all the innocent people on the News of the World who have lost their jobs.”
Murdoch: I failed
10:48 – Murdoch is asked – if his interest in print media is “in his being”, more than just commercial, surely, he would want to know “what the hell was going on”? He admits failure and apologises.
“I have to admit some newspapers are closer to my heart than others.
I also have to say that I failed.” Long pause. “I’m very sorry about it.”
This doesn’t answer the question of whether he felt he needed to know what was going on at the News of the World? Murdoch says he was satisfied that it was just a rogue reporter.
10:41 – Did Murdoch talk to anyone about Andy Coulson having to leave the company?
Murdoch says that he talked to Les Hinton that he thought Coulson had done the honourable thing when he resigned as News of the World editor.
10:36 - News International are refusing to waive privilege so lawyers can’t give full disclosure on actions – Murdoch says he didn’t know this.
10:31 – Once again the conversation changes direction, turning to phone-hacking.
Jay says that there is evidence that News International obstructed the police.
Murdoch says: “It shocks me deeply and was not aware of it until you just said that.”
Jay talks about law firms covering up for NI. Where does this come from?
Murdoch says from the News of the World. That “clever lawyers” were “drinking pals” of a couple of members of the paper.
10:28 – Murdoch says that the hacking scandal was not a great national thing until Millie Dowler story broke, leading to the closure of the News of the World, and it emerged her phone had been hacked. He says that if it were not for the hacking scandal the BSkyB deal would have gone through.
“Lobbying would never have succeeded if it wasn’t for the hacking scandal”.
10:22 – Murdoch is asked about News Corp’s Fred Michel who lobbied the office of Jeremy Hunt about the BSkyB deal. He says he didn’t see anything wrong with his activities, but he was surprised it had gone on so long.
Was Murdoch was surprised by “the apparent closeness” between Michel and Hunt?
“I don’t want to say anything against Mr Michel but I think there could have been a bit of exaggeration there.”
10:16 – Conversation moves on to the BSkyB deal.
Has your son (James Murdoch) spoken to you about Mr Hunt? Long pause.
“We were shocked by both what Mr Cable said and the unethical means in which that was deleted from the story in the Telegraph. They were clearly running a paper for their own commercial interests,” Murdoch says.
“I never saw anything wrong with what we were doing – why would we be worried about the politics?” He says that the big was entirely legal.
Did your son tell you about the replacement of Dr Cable – “Well we’ve got someone better now.”
Murdoch says he thought that anyone would be fairer than Cable and that he did not know about Hunt’s praise for the Murdochs.
10:13am - Moves on to talking to Michael Gove. Murdoch says that he might have met the education secretary, Gove, a few times during his “distinguished” career at The Times.
He is asked if he was close to Gove, Murdoch says no: “I wish he was closer to me”.
Murdoch says he is very passionate about education at that education in the UK and US is a disgrace.
10:10 – Jay asks Murdoch about his comment yesterday about reading the Sun he made on Wednesday: “If you want to judge my thinking look at The Sun.”
Murdoch says that The Sun does reflect his opinion.
“It’s not parallel on every detail but generally speaking issues we find interesting and we fight for, you’ll find them in The Sun and you’ll find that I agree with them.”
How do they work this out? Murdoch says they have conversations very regularly.
So editors get to know Murdoch’s thinking very well and so do advisors and confidants– like Mr Gove?
“They might know my thinking but they don’t have to agree with it. We might have quite vigorous discussions.”
Editors know his “philosophy”.
10:08am – The first big question of the morning is whether News International editors have to write what Murdoch thinks – as former Sun editor turned PR man David Yelland wrote in his autobiography.
Murdoch no and that Yelland wrote a very strange book.
Murdoch talks about David Yelland who claimed in a book that he was often drunk while editing The Sun.
Murdoch says he and others didn’t notice that @davidyelland was drunk when editing the Sun. Yelland has quit as editor of The Sun in 2003 making way for News of the World editor Rebekah Wade to take over as the daily’s first female editor from tomorrow.
Yelland admitted in 2005 that he was an alcoholic and had been drunk every night for 24 years.
10:05 – The morning begins with Rupert Murdoch standing by his comments yesterday that former Labour prime minister Gordon Brown said he was declaring war on News International.
Last night Brown’s denied that a phone call took place in which he threatened to “wage war” on News International. “I stand by every word of it,” Murdoch said.
If you missed anything yesterday, check out our blog coverage here as we reported on Murdoch talking about his links with government, through Margaret Thatcher, Tony Blair and David Cameron, and culture secretary Jeremy Hunt’s statement to the House of Commons on what he had and had not done with regards to News Corp’s BSkyB bid.
Hunt’s statement came after James Murdoch appeared at the Leveson inquiry on Tuesday.