James Murdoch appears again at Leveson Inquiry
James Murdoch, Deputy Chief Operating Officer of News Corporation, admitted for the first time that did have discussions with David Cameron regarding a BSkyB bid, when he appeared at the Lord Leveson’s inquiry into media ethics today.
Murdoch, 39, told the counsel of the inquiry Robert Jay QC that he had a “tiny, side conversation” about the controversial takeover of BSkyB bid with the Prime Minister ahead of a dinner for up to 15 people at the home of Rebekah Brooks, former chief executive of News of the World.
The media mogul talked briefly to Cameron about the removal of Business Secretary Vince Cable’s powers to oversee News Corporation’s bid to take over broadcaster BSkyB after the coalition had come to power.
The inquiry heard that Murdoch met Cameron at least 12 times between June 2006 and January 2010 when Cameron was the leader of the opposition, including eight times for dinner, twice for breakfast, once for lunch, once for drinks and four of these meetings also attended by Brooks.
Cameron was accused last year of breaking Parliament’s ministerial code of conduct by failing to avoid a possible conflict of interest in attending the Christmas dinner. Downing Street insisted this was a “private engagement”.
The inquiry, ordered by Prime Minister David Cameron, will also examine the relationship between the Murdochs and politicians to evaluate proper ethical behaviours between the press and politicians, after outraged allegations of hacking phone messages of murdered girl Miley Dowler.
Murdoch stepped down as chairman of News International in February and resigned from his post as chairman of British Sky Broadcasting Group PLC earlier this month. He told Leveson that he left his position at BSkyB because “I wanted to avoid being a lightning rod.”
Murdoch faced questions over The Sun’s switching allegiance from Labour to Conservative after Cameron invited Murdoch for a drink at a club in Mayfair in 2009, three weeks before The Sun enraged Gordon Brown by announcing “Labour’s lost it”.
Murdoch told the inquiry that the former editor of the News of the World, Colin Myler, had consistently assured him there was no evidence of phone hacking. Murdoch denied failure of governance by saying that he would have “cut out the cancer” of phone hacking had he been presented with evidence that it involved more than one rogue reporter.
Rupert Murdoch, Chairman and Chief Executive of News Corporation, will appear before the Leveson Inquiry tomorrow.