James Murdoch Denies Improper Lobbying in BSkyB Takeover

Is quizzed on voicemail hacking scandal and News Corp. BSkyB takeover during testimony in London before Leveson inquiry
Author:
Publish date:

James Murdoch faced tough questions over from the Leveson inquiry Tuesday in London over News Corp.'s lobbying during the failed BSkyB takeover, his close ties to British politicians and the company's involvement in illegally hacking into voicemails.

During four hours of testimony, he denied seeking to improperly influence political leaders over the BSkyB takeover, which was eventually derailed by the voicemail hacking scandal, and continued to maintain he had been misled by subordinates on the extent of wrongdoing at the now defunct News International tabloid, News of the World.

James Murdoch resigned as executive chairman of the company's U.K. newspaper arm in February of 2012 and in early April resigned as chairman of BSkyB.

He remains on the board of News Corp. and BSkyB.

The Leveson inquiry into press ethics in the U.K. has released a number of emails and documents detailing close ties between senior British politicians and the Murdoch family.

According to the Associated Press, the documents and testimony covered "20-odd dinners, lunches, breakfasts and other meetings with Prime Ministers David Cameron, Cordon Brown and Tony Blair between 2004 and 2010. Murdoch was also in close contact with British treasury chief George Osborne...and Conservative minister Jeremy Hunt, who went so far as to describe himself as 'a cheerleader for Rupert Murdoch's contribution to British television.'"

The documents prompted the opposition Labor party to call for the resignation of Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Jeremy Hunt, who was involved in assessing the BSkyB takeover.

The deal had been opposed by some, including the head of the BBC, as concentrating too much power in one company.

Documents also showed that Hunt's office was in touch with News Corp.'s head of public affairs Frederic Michel, though the BBC reported that Michel's written submissions "to the inquiring suggested he had never had direct contact with Mr. Hunt."

Also according to the BBC, one email from Hunt's advisor, Adam Smith to Michel stated that "the U.K. government would be supportive throughout the process" of the proposed BSkyB takeover, which would have increased News Corp.'s control of the U.K.'s largest multichannel operator from 40% to 100%.

During his testimony, James Murdoch repeatedly denied that he had attempted to influence government decisions affecting the BSkyB takeover or other News Corp. interests by offering the support of his company's papers or media outlets.

"I would never have made that kind of crass calculation," Murdoch said. "It just wouldn't occur to me."

Following James Murdoch's testimony Tuesday, Rupert Murdoch is expected to testify on Wednesday and Thursday before the inquiry.

The Leveson inquiry was set up following news that News Corp.'s papers had hacked into voicemails and takes its name from Lord Justice Leveson, who is the chairman of the inquiry.

It is charged with examining the media ethics; relations between the press, politicians and police; and possible wrongdoing by News Corp. and other media organizations. Based on those inquiries it is expected to make a series of recommendations on how the system for regulating the press and media might be improved.

Related