Tag Archives: murdoch

Phone hacking update: Ex-employees ‘clarify’ Murdoch evidence

Chairman of News International, James Murdoch, was yesterday (21 July) seemingly forced to defend evidence he gave to the culture, media and sport select committee on Tuesday, after it was called into question by two former employees – ex-News of the World editor Colin Myler and lawyer Tom Crone.

According to reports, last night Crone and Myler released a statement seeking to “clarify” a significant piece of Murdoch’s evidence.

In the committee session, MP Tom Watson had asked James Murdoch if, when he signed off a settlement payment to Gordon Taylor, he had seen or was made aware of an email “suggesting hacking was more widespread than had been admitted”. And James Murdoch replied no, “I was not aware of that at the time”.

But in their statement, Myler and Crone claim his recollection of what he was told “was mistaken”.

In fact, we did inform him of the ‘for Neville’ email which had been produced to us by Gordon Taylor’s lawyers.

Following Myler and Crone’s statement, Murdoch issues a single line statement: “I stand behind my testimony to the select committee.”

According to a BBC report, Watson has said he will now ask police to investigate this evidence, while committee chair John Whittingdale, was quoted as saying that it will be asking Murdoch to respond and clarify this.

Prime Minister’s statement to House of Commons in full

David Cameron recalled MPs before the summer recess to discuss the developing issues relating to phone hacking.

Here is his full statement read to the House of Commons before the debate:

With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a statement.

Over the past two weeks, a torrent of revelations and allegations has engulfed some of this country’s most important institutions.

It has shaken people’s trust in the media and the legality of what they do, in the police and their ability to investigate media malpractice, and, yes, in politics and in politicians’ ability to get to grips with these issues.

People desperately want us to put a stop to the illegal practices, to ensure the independence and effectiveness of the police and to establish a more healthy relationship between politicians and media owners.

Above all, they want us to act on behalf of the victims: people who have suffered dreadfully – including through murder and terrorism – and who have had to re-live that agony all over again because of phone hacking.

The public want us to work together to sort this problem out, because until we do so it will not be possible to get back to the issues they care about even more, getting our economy moving, creating jobs, helping with the cost of living, protecting them from terrorism, restoring fairness to our welfare and immigration systems.

Let me set out the action that we have taken.

We now have a well-led police investigation which will examine criminal behaviour by the media and corruption in the police.

We’ve set up a wide-ranging and independent judicial inquiry under Lord Justice Leveson to establish what went wrong, why and what we need to do to ensure it never happens again.

I am the first prime minister to publish meetings with media editors, proprietors and senior executives to bring complete transparency to the relationship between government ministers and the media – stretching right back to the general election.

And the House of Commons, by speaking so clearly about its revulsion at the phone-hacking allegations, helped to cause the end of the News Corp bid for the rest of BSkyB.

Today, I would like to update the house on the action that we are taking.

First, on the make-up and remit of the public inquiry.

And second, on issues concerning the police service.

And third, I will answer – I am afraid Mr Speaker at some length – all of the key questions that have been raised about my role and that of my staff.

So first, the judicial inquiry and the panel of experts who will assist it.

Those experts will be:

The civil liberties campaigner and director of Liberty, Shami Chakrabarti;

The former chief constable of the West Midlands, Sir Paul Scott-Lee;

The former chairman of OfCOM, Lord David Currie;

The longserving former political editor of Channel 4 news, Elinor Goodman;

The former political editor of the Daily Telegraph, and fomer special correspondent of the press association, George Jones;

And the former chairman of the Financial Times, Sir David Bell.

These people have been chosen not only for their expertise in the media, broadcasting, regulation and policing, but for their complete independence from the interested parties.

Mr Speaker, I also said last week that the inquiry will proceed in two parts and I set out a draft terms of reference.

We have consulted with Lord Justice Leveson, with the opposition, the chairs of relevant select committees and the devolved administrations.

I also talked to the family of Milly Dowler and the Hacked Off campaign.

We have made some significant amendments to the remit of the inquiry.

With allegations that the problem of the relationship between the press and the police goes wider than just the Met, we have agreed that other relevant forces will now be within the scope of the inquiry.

We have agreed that the inquiry should consider not just the relationship between the press, police and politicians but their individual conduct too.

And we have also made clear that the inquiry should look at not just the press but other media organisations – including broadcasters and social media – if there is any evidence that they have been involved in criminal activities.

I am today placing in the library of the house the final terms of reference.

Lord Justice Leveson and the panel will get to work immediately.

He will aim to make a report on the first part of the inquiry within 12 months.

Mr Speaker, there should be no doubt:

This public inquiry is as robust as possible.

It is fully independent.

Lord Justice Leveson will be able to summon witnesses under oath.

Mr Speaker, let me now turn to the extraordinary events we have seen over the past few days at Britain’s largest police force – the Met.

On Sunday, Sir Paul Stephenson resigned as commissioner of the Metropolitan police.

I want to thank him for the work he has carried out in policing over many, many years in London and elsewhere.

On Monday, assistant commissioner John Yates also resigned and again I want to express my gratitude for the work he has done, especially in improving our response to terrorism.

Given the sudden departure of two such senior officers, the first concern must be to ensure the effective policing of our capital – and that confidence in that policing – is maintained.

I have asked the home secretary and mayor of London to ensure that the responsibilities of the Met will continue seamlessly.

The current deputy commissioner – Tim Godwin – who stood in for Paul Stephenson when he was ill, and did a good job, will shortly do so again.

The vital counter-terrorism job, carried out by John Yates, will be taken on by the highly experienced Cressida Dick.

The responsibilities of the deputy commissioner – which the house will remember include general oversight of the vital investigations both into hacking and into the police – Operations Weeting and Elveden will not be done by someone from inside the Met, but instead by Bernard Hogan-Howe who will join temporarily from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary.

We are also looking to speed up the process for selecting and appointing the next commissioner.

But Mr Speaker, we cannot hope that a change in personnel at the top of the Met is enough.

The simple fact is that this whole affair raises huge issues about the ethics and practices of our police.

Let me state plainly – the vast majority of our police officers are beyond reproach, and serve the public with distinction.

But police corruption must be rooted out.

Operation Elveden and Lord Justice Leveson’s inquiry are charged with doing just this.

But I believe we can, and must, do more.

Put simply there are two problems.

First, a perception that when problems arise it is still “the police investigating the police”.

And second a lack of transparency in terms of police contacts with the media

We are acting on both.

These were precisely the two points that my Rt Hon Friend the home secretary addressed in her statement to this house on Monday.

We believe this crisis calls for us to stand back and take another, broader look at the whole culture of policing in this country, including the way it is led.

At the moment, the police system is too closed.

There is only one point of entry into the force.

There are too few – and arguably too similar – candidates for the top jobs.

As everyone knows, Tom Winsor is looking into police careers, and I want to see radical proposals for how we can open up our police force and bring in fresh leadership.

The government is introducing elected police and crime commissioners, ensuring there is an individual holding their local force to account on behalf of local people.

And we need to see if we can extend that openness to the operational side too.

Why should all police officers have to start at the same level?

Why shouldn’t someone with a different skill-set be able to join the police force in a senior role?

Why shouldn’t someone, who has been a proven success overseas, be able to help turn around a force at home?

I think these are questions we must ask to achieve the greater transparency and stronger corporate governance that we need in Britain’s policing.

Finally let me turn to the specific questions I have been asked in recent days.

First, it has been suggested that my chief of staff was behaving wrongly when he didn’t take up then assistant commissioner Yates’s offer to be briefed on police investigations around phone hacking.

I have said repeatedly about the police investigation that they should purse the evidence wherever it leads and arrest exactly who they wish.

And that is exactly what they have done.

No 10 has now published the full email exchange between my chief of staff and John Yates and it shows my staff behaved entirely properly.

Ed Llewellyn’s reply to the police made clear that it would be not be appropriate to give me or my staff any privileged briefing.

The reply that he sent was cleared in advance by my permanent secretary, Jeremy Heywood.

Just imagine, Mr Speaker if they had done the opposite and asked for, or acquiesced in receiving privileged information – even if there was no intention to use it.

There would have been quite justified outrage.

To risk any perception that No 10 was seeking to influence a sensitive police investigation in any way would have been completely wrong.

Mr Yates and Sir Paul both backed this judgment in their evidence yesterday.

Indeed, as John Yates said: “The offer was properly and understandably rejected.”

The cabinet secretary and the chair of the home affairs select committee have both now backed that judgement too.

Next, there is the question as to whether the ministerial code was broken in relation to the BSkyB merger and meetings with News International executives.

The cabinet secretary has ruled very clearly that the code was not broken – not least because I had asked to be entirely excluded from the decision.

Next, I would like to set the record straight on another question that arose yesterday – whether the Conservative Party had also employed Neil Wallis.

The Conservative Party chairman has ensured that all the accounts have been gone through and has confirmed to me that neither Neil Wallis nor his company has ever been employed by or contracted by the Conservative Party – nor has the Conservative Party made payments to either of them.

It has been drawn to our attention that he may have provided Andy Coulson with some informal advice on a voluntary basis before the election.

To the best of my knowledge I didn’t know anything about this until Sunday night.

But as with revealing this information, we will be entirely transparent about this issue.

Finally Mr Speaker, there is the question whether everyone – the media, the police, politicians – is taking responsibility in an appropriate manner.

I want to address my own responsibilities very directly – and that brings me to my decision to employ Andy Coulson.

I have said very clearly that if it turns out Andy Coulson knew about the hacking at the News of the World he will not only have lied to me but he will have lied to the police, to a select committee, to the Press Complaints Commission and, of course, perjured himself in a court of law.

More to the point, if that comes to pass, he could also expect to face severe criminal charges.

I have an old fashioned view about “innocent until proven guilty”.

But if it turns out I have been lied to, that would be a moment for a profound apology.

And, in that event, I can tell you I will not fall short.

My responsibilities are for hiring him – and for the work he did in Downing Street.

On the work he did, I will repeat, perhaps not for the last time, that his work at Downing Street has not been the subject of any serious complaint.

And, of course, he left months ago.

On the decision to hire him, I believe I have answered every question about this.

It was my decision. I take responsibility.

People will, of course, make judgements about it.

Of course I regret and I am extremely sorry about the furore it has caused.

With 20:20 hindsight – and all that has followed – I would not have offered him the job and I expect that he wouldn’t have taken it.

But you don’t make decisions in hindsight; you make them in the present.

You live and you learn – and believe you me, I have learnt.

I look forward to answering any and all questions about these issues – and following the statement I will open the debate.

But the greatest responsibility I have is to clear up this mess – so let me finish by saying this.

There are accusations of criminal behaviour – by parts of the press and potentially by the police where the most rapid and decisive action is required.

There are the issues of excessive closeness to media groups and media owners where both Labour and Conservative have to make a fresh start.

There is the history of missed warnings – select committee reports, information commissioner reports – missed by the last government but yes also missed by the official opposition too.

What the public expects is not petty point scoring, but what they want, what they deserve, is concerted action to rise to the level of events and pledge to work together to sort this issue once and for all.

And it is in that spirit that I commend this statement to the house.

Reaction round-up on News of the World closure

The morning after the announcement that News International is to scrap the News of the World has predictably spawned a variety of reaction from the blogosphere.

Despite rumours that folding the newspaper in favour of a seven day Sun had been on the cards for a while (TheSunOnSunday.co.uk, TheSunOnSunday.com and SunOnSunday.co.uk were all registered on July 5, albeit by a private individual), a source at News International confirmed today that a Sunday edition of the paper wouldn’t be on the cards for several weeks to come.

This morning Times today led with a story that the collapse in advertising was due to online protest and the final nail in the coffin for the paper.

The withdrawal of advertising appeared to be in response to a public backlash that had been led primarily on the internet. Thousands of people had used Twitter and Facebook to express their outrage at allegations of phone hacking at the paper.

This was after a list of the News of the World’s advertising clients had been published online, encouraging people to send Twitter messages to the companies to express concern at the activities of the paper’s journalists.

You can read the full article here (behind the paywall).

Emily Bell, director of the Tow Centre for Digital Journalism and former director of digital content for Guardian News & Media sees the decision as part of a long line of bold and audacious moves from the Murdochs, from the bid to buy the Times, to the launch of Sky News, and recently the proposed takeover of BSkyB.

James’s Wapping moment sees him making a gesture he hopes will be grand enough to soften the focus of any phone-hacking inquiry, bold enough to allow the company to extricate itself from present trouble and, in the process, allow him to reshape News International around the digital television platforms he feels both more comfortable with and which are undoubtedly more profitable.

But what about the wider implications? Many are agreed that the decision is brutal and the loss of 200 journalists terrible, but Andrew Gilligan, London editor for the Sunday Telegraph, argues that it could also give way to a muzzled British press in the future. As talk turns to how press regulation should be managed, Gilligan says:

For be in no doubt: hateful as the behaviour of some journalists has been, we may now face something even worse. For many in power, or previously in power, the News of the World’s crimes are a God-given opening to diminish one of the greatest checks on that power: the media.

Regulation was also on Alan Rusbridger‘s mind yesterday, when he took part in a live Q & A regarding phone hacking (before NI announced the News of the World’s closure). Rusbridger drew attention to alleged weaknesses of the PCC (the code committee of which Rusbridger quit in November 2009) and the quandary of state v self-regulation. Today the Press Complaints Commission sought to defend its work following calls for it to be scrapped by both Labour leader Ed Miliband and prime minister David Cameron.

This hasn’t been a wonderful advertisement for self-regulation. The short answer is that, no, the PCC can’t go on as it is. Its credibility is hanging by a thread.

We did say this back in November 2009 when the PCC came out with its laughable report into phone-hacking. We said in an editorial that this was a dangerous day for press regulation – and so it’s turned out.

The PCC has this week withdrawn that report and has a team looking at the issues and at the mistakes it’s made in the past.

I don’t know how Ofcom could do the job without falling into the category of statutory regulation. Does anyone else?

On her blog former Channel 4 presenter Samira Ahmed also draws some comparisons with the past, saying that the affair is “only my second major moral outcry against the news media” during her twenty years in journalism, the first being the death of Princess Diana. Hugh Grant has won public approval over the last week or so because of his overt opposition to phonehacking, but Ahmed is wary of putting people like Grant on a pedestal.

Many celebrities understand the privacy trade-off with press coverage, or get their lawyers to settle a payoff. Incidentally we should be wary of deifying celebrities, such as Hugh Grant, who have publicly defended the principle of rich people taking out superinjunctions to cover up their bad behaviour, when there might be a legitimate public interest. But I’ve met ordinary people over the years whose suffering has been deeply compounded by salacious press intrusion.

Guardian: Telegraph journalists ‘provisionally cleared’ by leak investigation

The Guardian has reported that journalists at the Telegraph have been ‘provisionally cleared’ by an internal investigation reportedly being carried out to look into how taped recordings of Vince Cable “declaring war” on Rupert Murdoch were picked up by the BBC.

Some of the comments made by the business secretary in relation to News Corporation’s bid for BSkyB, which were recorded by undercover reporters from the Telegraph and had not been published by the paper at the time were instead reported by BBC business editor Robert Peston on his blog.

According to the Guardian the inquiry, which it claims was being carried out by private investigation firm Kroll, has “initially concluded that none of the paper’s editorial staff were involved in the leak of the explosive recording”.

The Telegraph Media Group previously told Journalism.co.uk that it does not comment on internal security matters.

The Press Complaints Commission is currently investigating the ‘use of subterfuge’ in the Cable expose, under Clause 10 (Clandestine devices and subterfuge) of the Editors’ Code of Practice.

Guardian: Murdoch and Jobs teaming up for iPad newspaper

The Guardian reports that Murdoch’s News Corporation is thought to be working with Apple to launch its new iPad newspaper, called ‘the Daily’, later this month.

According to the report, the newspaper will combine “a tabloid sensibility with a broadsheet intelligence” and that there is no print or web edition planned.

According to the US elite fashion industry journal Women’s Wear Daily, the Murdoch-Jobs “newspaper” will be run from the 26th floor of the News Corp offices in New York, where 100 journalist have been hired, including Pete Picton, an online editor from the Sun, as one of three managing editors. The editor of the Daily has not been announced, but observers are assuming it will be Jesse Angelo, the managing editor of the New York Post and rising star in the News Corp firmament.

Telegraph: Blocking Sky bid may jeopardise News Corp UK investment, warns James Murdoch

Rupert Murdoch’s son James, who heads News Corporation’s Europe and Asia operations, warned that it could relocate some of its most innovative projects to more “welcoming” countries if its bid for Sky is blocked by the UK, according to a report by the Telegraph.

Earlier this month, business secretary Vince Cable issued an intervention notice ordering Ofcom to investigate the impact on media plurality of News Corporation’s proposal to acquire the remaining shares of BSkyB.

Speaking at the Morgan Stanley conference in Barcelona yesterday, James Murdoch said the Government must decide whether it wants to risk “jeopardising an £8 billion investment in the UK”, the Telegraph reported today.

Telegraph: European Commission raises rights questions over News Corp Sky bid

Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation is believed to be days away from formally notifying the European Union of its interest in the remaining 60.9 per cent of BSkyB that it does not already own.

According to a report by the Telegraph, the EU has “informally questioned how News Corp will manage future rights deals if it were to fully acquire BSkyB”.

A formal investigation by the competition commissioner, Joaquín Almunia, will not begin until News Corp makes its notification. Rupert Murdoch, chief executive, said on 4 August that News Corp would notify the EU “very shortly” and sources have now said it is “imminent”.

In September, Journalism.co.uk reported that News Corp’s rumoured bid had led to calls on business secretary Vince Cable to issue an intervention notice in the interest of media plurality from the NUJ and founder of Enders Analysis Claire Enders.

Guardian: Murdoch’s media fightback over letter to Cable

A letter signed by numerous media organisations including the BBC and sent to business secretary Vince Cable earlier this week, calling on him to intervene with a planned bid by Murdoch for the remainder of BSkyB, has sparked quick responses from Murdoch’s other media outlets.

According to a report by the Guardian, it was first an editorial in News International’s The Times yesterday, which claimed that BBC director general Mark Thompson had made a “serious and surprising error”.

By lending his name to the campaign to prevent News Corp from purchasing those Sky shares that it does not already own, Mr Thompson has made a serious and surprising error. He has embroiled his taxpayer-funded organisation in a political and commercial battle that it should have nothing to do with.

Then today the Sun’s columnist Kelvin MacKenzie added that Murdoch should be encouraged, not stopped.

The fact that Sky is so successful is due to his three-word mantra: invest, invest, invest. When you look at the list of business duds opposing him, what’s quite clear is they have chosen to survive by three other words: Cut, cut, cut. …It’s hard to know why Vince Cable wouldn’t nod the deal through as Rupert has always run Sky thanks to his near 40% equity ownership and the right he has to pick the chief executive.

… The reality is that Sky owns very few of the channels it broadcasts and many of the stations have minute audiences – especially compared to the state monopolists at the BBC. The issue for our nation should not be how to stop Mr Murdoch investing in Britain but how to encourage him – and many more like him.”

BBC News: Media rivals join forces against Murdoch

The BBC reports this morning that rival media groups have come together and called on business secretary Vince Cable to consider blocking Murdoch’s planned bid for the remainder of BSkyB.

Signatories are said to include the heads of the BBC and Channel 4 and chief executives of newspapers including the Telegraph, the Guardian, the Mail and the Mirror. The letter argues that any such bid would “reduce diversity in the industry”.

In June, News Corp told the board of BSkyB that it was prepared to pay 700p a share to take full control of the leading satellite broadcaster. BSkyB’s directors said the offer was £1 per share too low, but agreed to resume negotiations after regulatory hurdles have been cleared.

News Corporation has been confident that it could demonstrate that the combination of BSkyB with News Corporations’ UK newspapers – the Sun, the Times, the News of the World and the Sunday Times – does not pose a serious threat to competition.

This follows news last month that similar calls on Vince Cable were being backed by the National Union of Journalists while founder of Enders Analysis Claire Enders wrote to Cable to voice her concerns over the future plurality of the media.

Re-tweet rumours: Is the Times and Sunday Times up for sale?

It looks like everyone knows about as much as we do on this one – from Michael Wolff’s tweets alone. On Saturday the Vanity Fair columnist and Murdoch biographer suggested, via Twitter,  that News Corp could be looking to sell the Times and the Sunday Times: “Rumor in London banking circles: Times and Sunday Times up for sale.”

Before long, @michaelwolffnyc’s short message was on the re-tweet circuit:

But if Wolff knows more detail, he’s keeping it to himself for now. Meanwhile he’s asking other journalists if they know more…

@johngapper [Financial Times columnist] Working it right now. Being characterized as “strong rumor among private equity” that Times and Sunday Times could be on block.

@janinegibson [Guardian.co.uk editor] Funny how that happens. Have you heard anything – beyond tweets?

Michael Wolff on Twitter…