News Corp.’s U.K. publishing unit has stopped using private detectives in the aftermath of the phone-hacking scandal, Tom Mockridge, News International’s chief executive officer, told a media inquiry.
Reporters must get permission to use investigators and he hasn’t approved any requests, Mockridge told the judge-led inquiry into press ethics today. The company has come under fire after employees hired a detective to hack into mobile phones for stories.
Mockridge’s predecessor, Rebekah Brooks, was arrested in July as part of a police probe into hacking. Mockridge joined News International from News Corp.’s Sky Italia and he’s been tasked with overseeing changes that will prevent a repeat of the scandal, which led to the closure of the group’s most successful tabloid, the News of the World.
“It might be over-ambitious to say culture has changed entirely in six months, but I think there’s a change in structure and governance,” the 56-year-old Mockridge said.
The company’s Management and Standards Committeee was initially prevented from conducting its own internal probe into hacking at News International papers, Mockridge said in his written testimony to the inquiry. The Metropolitain Police Service, which had said an internal inquisition might prejudice the police investigation, relented just before he submitted the document dated Oct. 14 and released publicly today.
The committee, formed in July, had initially said that its primary purpose would be to assist in external investigations by police and politicians into News International. The internal probe is being led by law firm Linklaters LLP and is looking for evidence of hacking at the Sun, the Times and the Sunday Times. Two people close to the investigation said in October that the team is interviewing employees for signs they might have hacked into voice mails or e-mails or hired private detectives improperly.
Rupert Murdoch, CEO of the parent company News Corp. (NWSA), often checks in with Mockridge several times a week to discuss advertising rates, top stories in Britain and the Leveson inquiry, Mockridge said. The News International board also has monthly meetings on compliance policy, he said.
Judge Brian Leveson is overseeing the inquiry, called for in July by Prime Minister David Cameron. It is separate from dozens of civil lawsuits filed by phone-hacking victims and three police investigations that have yielded more than 20 arrests in the last year.
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