Murdoch to Testify to Parliament as Police Seek TapeRobert Hutton and Thomas Penny
News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch agreed to testify before the U.K. Parliament a second time as London police sought a recording of him discussing probes of bribery and phone-hacking at company newspapers.
“Murdoch welcomes the opportunity to return to the Select Committee and answer their questions,” New York-based News Corp. said yesterday in a statement. “He looks forward to clearing up any misconceptions as soon as possible.”
Parliament’s Culture, Media and Sport committee said yesterday it would write to the 82-year-old Murdoch, asking him to give evidence about the scandals again. Lawmakers asked for Murdoch to be recalled after a transcript of the tape, in which Murdoch told reporters at the Sun newspaper that bribery had been a routine practice, was published by Exaro News last week.
“We are seeking to obtain the tape of the meeting in which Rupert Murdoch appears to have been recorded,” Cressida Dick, a Metropolitan Police assistant commissioner, told a separate group of lawmakers yesterday.
Police have made more than 100 arrests, including former News Corp. journalists and staff, in probes of wrongdoing at the company’s U.K. publications triggered by the discovery two years ago that the now-defunct News of the World listened to messages on the mobile phone of a murdered teenager. News Corp. split its broadcast and newspaper units into different companies following the scandal.
Exaro, based in London, said today it was preparing to hand over 23 minutes of audio recordings of Murdoch in the meeting, which they’ve already published online.
“We have put all the audio that we have of that meeting up on the website,” editor-in-chief Mark Watts said in an interview. He said that while he’d made a transcript of the full meeting, his source had refused to let him publish portions of the recording where people other than Murdoch spoke.
A spokeswoman for the Culture, Media and Sport Committee declined to discuss what lawmakers want to ask him about. The committee also agreed yesterday it’ll take evidence from Brian Leveson, the judge who led a yearlong inquiry into the practices of the press, on Oct. 10.
“I don’t know why they would bring Murdoch in again unless it’s to treat him like a school boy and give him another slap on the wrist,” said Alex DeGroote, a media analyst at Panmure Gordon & Co. in London.
News Corp. said last week that it would be “absolutely false” to suggest Murdoch knew of payments to police.
News Corp., the publishing arm of Murdoch’s empire, fell 1.5 percent to $15.71 yesterday in New York. 21st Century Fox Inc., the new film and TV company, fell 0.9 percent to $30.09.
Murdoch told Parliament during his last appearance in 2011 that it was “the most humble day of my life,” as he and his son James Murdoch blamed staff for not bringing phone-hacking to their attention.
In one section of the transcript published last week, Murdoch tells his staff, some of whom have been arrested in the bribery probe: “payments for news tips from cops: that’s been going on a hundred years, absolutely. You didn’t instigate it.”
He said one of the first things he saw when he bought the News of the World tabloid in 1969 was a safe full of money that he was told was for bribes, according to the tape published by Exaro, an online news service.
Elsewhere on the tape, Murdoch criticized the probes and said that the company “hadn’t given them anything for months.”
While Dick declined to comment on the content of the recording, she said that since May voluntary cooperation from the company and its Management Standards Committee had diminished.
“In terms of cooperation that is related to requests for new material, those are now always supervised by the court,” Dick told the lawmakers.
“The only person who could give evidence that could be used to investigate Rupert Murdoch is Rupert Murdoch,” said Mark Lewis, a lawyer for some phone-hacking victims, including the family of murdered school girl Milly Dowler. “When he spoke to his colleagues, he didn’t think it would be reported.”
One highlight of the 2011 testimony was a comedian attempting to attack Murdoch with a shaving foam pie, only to be fought off by Murdoch’s wife, Wendi Deng. Murdoch and Deng are now divorcing.
News Corp. competes with units of Bloomberg LP, owner of Bloomberg News, in selling financial news and information.