Anyone reading my blogs over recent months will know that I’m not a great lover of the Murdoch family and/or News Corp. I found James Murdoch’s evidence to the Leveson Inquiry (and his manner) yesterday both annoying and depressing. Murdoch insisted (well almost: “I wouldn’t describe it that way”) that Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, was NOT a “cheerleader for Rupert Murdoch's contribution to British television". Certainly, from News Corp emails, it appears to show Hunt’s support for News Corp's bid for BSkyB (now withdrawn). Hunt apparently claims that he has acted in a “quasi-judicial role at all times” – despite the fact that there were a whole series of emails from News Corp's director of public affairs, Frederic Michel, sent to James Murdoch and other executives revealing, via Hunt’s “special advisor”, his thoughts about the controversial takeover plans (it’ll be very interesting to see how he copes with Leveson and vice versa).It all sounds very fishy and inappropriate as far as I’m concerned – or am I just being incredibly naive?
You may recall that Business Secretary Vince Cable was stripped of his responsibility for overseeing the BSkyB bid, after he had been secretly recorded saying he had "declared war" on Rupert Murdoch. Murdoch said he discussed the BSkyB bid with Mr Cameron over dinner at the home of former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks on 23 December 2010 – just two days after Cable was removed from the BSkyB bid responsibilities. Mr Murdoch said he spoke briefly to the prime minister about the removal of Mr Cable, saying it was a "tiny conversation" and not a discussion.
A spokesman for the Prime Minister’s Office was quick to maintain that Mr Cameron stood by previous comments that he had had no inappropriate conversations with James Murdoch about the BSkyB bid and "had done nothing wrong."
Of course not.
Yes, I appreciate that the Labour government were far from squeaky clean when it comes to cosying up to the Murdochs... and I readily accept that politicians and the media DO need to speak to each other!
My problem is that I’m concerned about the massive amounts of power, influence and (in the case of the BSkyB bid) financial gain that an organisation like News Corp can render (oh, and don’t forget their relationships with various member of the Metropolitan Police). I find it VERY scary.
One of the key issues for the Leveson Inquiry is to focus on the relationship between the press and prominent politicians as part of its examination of the ethics, culture and practices of the UK's newspapers and media. Whatever James Murdoch and the Prime Minister may say, it all feels like totally inappropriate behavior as far as I’m concerned.
Of course, BSkyB bid has been now withdrawn and James Murdoch resigned from News International in February – largely as a result of public concern and the whistle-blowing from other sections of the media(?).
With Rupert Murdoch due to appear before the inquiry over the next two days, his top lawyers will no doubt have been working overtime advising News Corp/News International, so Rupert M can put forward a massive “justification” for all its actions. He KNOWS that the future of his UK businesses (and their worldwide credibility) will be at stake.
He’s a very clever (and dangerous) man, so he’ll clearly be very well briefed and will come out fighting (expect the phrase “we’ve done nothing wrong” to crop up a number of times)!