Afternoon Hearing on 25 April 2012

Rupert Murdoch gave a statement at this hearing

Hearing Transcript

(2.00 pm) LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes, Mr Jay. MR JAY Mr Murdoch, may we move to Mr David Cameron?
A. Certainly.
Q. When asked in 2006 when you thought of him, you are reported as having said, "Not much". Is that correct?
A. I don't remember that. I certainly could give you my recollection of him. I first met him once, maybe even twice, at family picnics at my at weekends at my daughter's house in the grounds of Blenheim Castle, where he came with his family, and my we were overrun by children, there were no politics, but I was extremely impressed at the kindness and feeling he showed to his children and particularly to his retarded son. I came away talking about him as a good family man.
Q. Did you feel that he was lightweight?
A. No. Not then, certainly. No. He hasn't had I think it's too early to make that judgment.
Q. When he was leader of the opposition, we know from one of the documents you've put in that you saw him on a number of occasions. It's our exhibit KRM29. That will be turned up for you. Might be tab 28 in that bundle. It's page 01907.
A. Thank you, Mr Jay.
Q. We can see, Mr Murdoch, that there are a number of meetings with him. In 2006, there were two, a lunch and a breakfast. You were discussing
A. 2000 and?
Q. 2006. Politics and policy. In 2007, it's less clear whether that breakfast took place. In 2008
A. It's unclear. I don't have a memory, but go ahead.
Q. It's just the general flavour of it. The exact dates probably don't matter for this purpose. 2008, breakfast. Rebekah Brooks is quite often there, isn't she? Or sometimes.
A. Once, I think it's stated.
Q. And then you attended and he attended the wedding of Rebekah Brooks to Charlie Brooks, we can see that.
A. Yes, together with Mr Brown and Mr Blair and Mr Cameron, they were all there.
Q. If you turn over the page to 01908, there was a breakfast meeting with Mr Cameron on the day the Sun endorsed him. Do you see that? 30 September?
A. Was that the day we endorsed him?
Q. Yes.
A. No, that's not possible. The day we declared for the Tories, I believe, was at the time of the Labour Party Conference, or the end of it, and I was certainly in America.
Q. I've been working on the basis for the last two days with your son and with you that the right date was 30 September 2009. Are you saying that's incorrect?
A. I think so. If that was the date of the Labour Party Conference, it's certainly wrong.
Q. I'm as sure as I can be that it was 30 September 2009 that the Sun came out
A. Well, for the sake of argument I'll accept you. Oh yes, we came out, yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON We'll sort it out eventually, anyway.
A. I wasn't here the day we came out for the Tories. MR JAY You're sure about that in your mind, are you?
A. Oh yes.
Q. When you refer to "policy" here, Mr Murdoch, did you discuss with Mr Cameron issues such as broadcasting regulation?
A. No. Mr Jay, you keep inferring that endorsements were motivated by business motives, and if that had been the case, we would have endorsed the Tory Party in every election. It was always more pro business. I could have been like the Telegraph. I could even have texted him every day. But I didn't. I was interested in issues.
Q. But
A. As it says here, we probably discussed Afghanistan.
Q. If, Mr Murdoch, part of your thinking involves an assessment of who's going to win the next election, of course you wouldn't always be voting the same or wouldn't always be supporting the same party, would you?
A. If that had been the case, but I've explained that was not the case.
Q. Do you remember discussing with Mr Cameron the issue of BBC licence fees?
A. No, not at all.
Q. Did you discuss with him the role of Ofcom?
A. No.
Q. Did you discuss Mr Coulson in the context of his becoming Director of Communications for the Conservative Party and then the Coalition government?
A. No. I was just as surprised as anybody else.
Q. Were you not interested to know what Mr Cameron's position was on the various matters I've just put to you?
A. No. Well no. You mentioned Ofcom?
Q. BBC licence fees and broadcast regulations
A. No, I wasn't involved in the BBC licence fee. I'd been through that with previous prime ministers and it didn't matter what they said, they all hated the BBC and they all gave it whatever they wanted.
Q. Well, did you just assume with Mr Cameron
A. I did think that the idea of slicing it and giving it to commercial competitors I'd never heard of that before and sounds strangely crazy. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Mr Murdoch
A. I don't believe they had that policy, did they? LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I'd like to ask you to separate out in your mind the question whether you might be discussing some topic or issue for commercial advantage you've told Mr Jay that you never did from the separate question: whether in fact these were topics that were worthy of discussion and on which you had a view. So, for example, you've mentioned that you talked about Afghanistan, and it would be perfectly reasonable for you to have a view on that. Lots of people will. And your view may be informed by your worldwide contacts through the businesses that you operate. That's merely your view. But, therefore, your view on, for example, the regulation of television would itself be of value and may be of interest to those who are formulating policy, not because it necessarily would affect News Corp, but because this is a business to which you have devoted your life, therefore it's not surprising you will have strong views and I'm just slightly surprised
A. I understand. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON if nobody did ask your view.
A. I understand, sir. I just wish to say that I'd long since become disillusioned and it was a waste of time to talk to politicians about the BBC, and that was about all there was to it. And Ofcom, no, I did not speak to him about that. It would have been asking for something, probably, and I didn't do that. MR JAY May you
A. I'll just repeat that if I may?
Q. Of course.
A. If I'd been interested in commercial interests, I would have supported the Tory Party in every election, because they were always more pro business
Q. And less in favour of regulation
A. but maybe against my better interests, but I don't think so. I think it was the interests, as Justice Leveson pointed out, that it was also in my interests to reflect the views or to talk to our readers, and maybe attract more readers. And Afghanistan I felt very strongly about. First, I thought it was right this was, I think, beyond us going in there. I felt very strongly, particularly when I came here and saw the photographs of the great young British soldiers who'd either been wounded or killed there, I felt very strongly when the charge was made that they weren't being properly protected, and I was dissatisfied with Mr Cameron's answer that they were better protected than any other Europeans. Our argument was that they should be as well protected as the Americans. And although we kept the relationship always with Mr Cameron I'm sorry, Mr Brown, you'll note in the letters between he and I, we always finished with best wishes to our families.
Q. Yes. In terms then of how your bid for the remaining shares in BSkyB would be treated, you would work from the not unreasonable default position that the Conservative government would be more favourable to the bid than a Labour government, is that fair?
A. No, I didn't think it was the business of government. It happens every day when controlling shareholders decide to take in the outstanding shares.
Q. I understand
A. I didn't think there was any legal thing at all. The only thing that was worrying me, I was sitting in America. What was worrying me was that the independent directors were driving up the price to something unrealistic, many, many billions of dollars. I think close to 13 billion. They didn't even settle for that. There was nothing ever settled. That's a lot of money to bring into this country. It's also a lot of money to find.
Q. You said, Mr Murdoch, that you didn't believe it was the legitimate interest of government, but surely your experience over the years would tell you that governments for political reasons would be interested in bids of this sort, particularly if you're involved in them, and how those bids should be treated. Would you agree with that?
A. No. Because it didn't change anything. Ofcom had ruled that we were in charge, that we controlled the company. We weren't saying we were getting rid of control. We were just going to continue with it. We did hope to make it stronger, make it a greater force in Europe, put it together with Sky Deutschland and Sky Italia, where we were having plenty of political difficulties, but that's another story.
Q. Yes. But the whole experience of what happened on 27 January 1981 this is a heated debate in Parliament over your acquisition of the Times and the Sunday Times what happened with Today in 1987, what happened with the BSkyB merger in 1990, there was always a political frisson around your bids, mergers and acquisitions
A. I think I welcome that question.
Q. and therefore in relation to BSkyB it was wholly predictable, wasn't it, there would be?
A. I welcome that question, Mr Jay, because I want to put it to bed once and for all, that that is a complete myth.
Q. Sorry, what's the myth, Mr Murdoch?
A. That I used the influence of the Sun or the supposed political power to get favourable treatment.
Q. The reason why we have what I've called the political frisson at the very lowest is there's the perception about that you do use your influence impermissibly. Even if you wholly repudiate the factual basis for that, that is what we see constantly, 1981, 1987, 1990, and again in 2010. Don't you agree that that's a recurring theme?
A. What, in the Guardian? And maybe the Independent? But not everywhere. And, you know, after a while if these lies are repeated again and again, they sort of catch on, and particularly if we're successful, it sort of you know, there are people who are a little resentful and grab onto them. But they just aren't true.
Q. Okay. We don't have in this list we've been looking at Mr Cameron flying out to Santorini and your yacht on 26 August 2008, which you tell us in your witness statement your wife remembers but not you. You have no recollection of that at all, do you?
A. No. It's coming back to me vaguely. Actually, I checked it with my daughter, because he was being flown, I believe, by my son-in-law's plane, on his way to holiday in Turkey, and he did stop in Santorini and she says that I in fact met him on her boat. But it doesn't matter. There were a couple of boats together.
Q. Here's Mr Cameron taking quite significant steps to meet you, a detour from his private holiday to Turkey. What's your reaction to that sort of scenario? Do you think that that's wholly normal?
A. Yes.
Q. What's your view on it? And why do you say that?
A. Well, I think I've explained that politicians go out of their way to impress people in the press, and I don't remember discussing any heavy political things with him at all. There may have been some issues discussed passingly. It was not a long meeting. As I say, I don't really remember the meeting. I think that's part of the democratic process. They all politicians of all sides like to have their views known by the editors of newspapers or publishers, hoping that they will be put across, hoping that they will be that they will succeed in impressing people. That's the game.
Q. Yes, but doesn't the game go somewhat further than that, that it's not just providing the politician with a large megaphone, it is also powerful institutions like the Sun endorsing the politician and therefore, so the argument might run, the votes of British people might be affected? Do you see that?
A. Of course. I think they certainly would like us to carry their views in a favourable way. I think that's totally normal. And that goes for both parties or all parties. And, you know, we're very lucky in this country that we have ten vibrant national newspapers to keep the national debate going. I mean, I don't Mr Cameron might, of course, think stopping in Santorini would impress me. I don't know. But I certainly didn't
Q. But perhaps he, like you, Mr Murdoch
A. I didn't I don't have any fealty to the Tory Party or to the Labour Party. Unlike Mr Barclay I don't get invited to dinner at 10 Downing Street.
Q. It's the importance of the face-to-face meeting, isn't it, Mr Murdoch, importance which you appreciated when you invited yourself to Chequers on 4 January 1981? He was seeking that access to you, wasn't he?
A. Let me be quite honest, Mr Jay. I enjoy meeting let's call them our leaders. Some impress me more than others. And I meet them around the world. And I could tell you one or two who particularly impressed me.
Q. I mean, you mentioned the
A. If one looks at their personalities, their knowledge, their policies, their principles, or one hopes their principles.
Q. Can I bring you back to the issue of the democratic process? Do you feel that there's any validity at least in the perception that there is an implied trade-off here? People think, and have been thinking over 30 years, that the support you give to politicians, through the endorsements in the Sun in particular, is met with a quid pro quo after they attain power
A. No, I
Q. Just wait for the end of this, Mr Murdoch.
A. Sorry, I beg your pardon.
Q. If that is right, then the democratic process is distorted. I'm not really interested, because we understand your evidence, that there's no empirical basis to this, you say, but do you see at least the perception of that?
A. Oh, the perception certainly irritates me, because I think it's a myth. And everything I do every day, I think, proves it to be such. Have a look at well, it's not relevant, but how I treat Mayor Bloomberg in New York. Sends him crazy. But we support him every time he runs for re-election.
Q. Shortly after the Coalition government was set up, you went for tea at Number 10 on 18 May 2010.
A. Yes.
Q. On that occasion and possibly other occasions you go in through the back door; is that right?
A. That yes. There are reasons for that. They always seem to don't want me to be photographed going out the front door or I don't want to be, but it also happens to be a shortcut to my apartment, so it's quite okay.
Q. All right. Why do you think
A. And the car park is usually parked behind there, there's a car park behind 10 and 11 Downing Street.
Q. You deal with this fairly short encounter over tea at paragraph 110 of your witness statement, don't you, Mr Murdoch?
A. Do you want it here? I can't tell you everything from memory.
Q. Page 03015.
A. Oh.
Q. Paragraph 110.
A. Yes?
Q. You say most of the way through that paragraph
A. Which one?
Q. 110.
A. I'm sorry? Yes. It's about Mrs Thatcher?
Q. Yes, that's at the top, but if you go halfway down, the sentence beginning: "I do recall that Do you see that, Mr Murdoch? shortly after his election, Mr Cameron invited me in for tea at Number 10 he thanked me for the support of our papers [I'm sure he did that]. I congratulated him and told him that I was sure our titles would watch carefully and report whether he kept all of his campaign promises." Is that the extent of it, Mr Murdoch?
A. Yes. If I could add that Mr Coulson was present.
Q. At that stage, of course, the BSkyB bid was about to be announced. It was announced in June 2010. May I ask you this: was there no link in your mind between your support for Mr Cameron and the BSkyB bid?
A. None at all.
Q. Were you not fearful that if your guess was wrong and that Mr Brown had won that election, that the BSkyB bid would hit choppier waters?
A. No, I never gave it any thought. It was a legal bid. It was a commonplace sort of bid. And I didn't see any problem.
Q. Were not your advisers in the United Kingdom briefing you constantly as to what was happening here politically, what was likely to happen in the election, all in the context of how the bid would be confronted in June 2010?
A. No. The two things were not linked at all.
Q. I think the first thing is correct then, Mr Murdoch. You do have advisers here in the United Kingdom briefing you on the current political situation, don't you?
A. Well, editors and people I speak to and gossip with. There's no sort of formal advice, but yes.
Q. The way it works, a corporation with worldwide interests, the chairman can't possibly have his metaphorical fingers in every pie. You have advisers scattered around the world who are capable of feeding you relevant information about the political situation, the economic situation, everything which might be relevant to your company. That's right, isn't it?
A. You talk about them as advisers. I would call them senior executives, but yes.
Q. Why was the bid announced one month after the election?
A. I don't know. I'd have to go and look at my records. I know that Mr at their sort of away weekend of directors, which takes place I think some time around June, Mr Carey had raised the question with the outside directors that we would like to find a way to move forward on this, but there wasn't I don't think there was ever a formal bid as such.
Q. No. What interests me, Mr Murdoch, it's a multi-billion pound acquisition. It needs very careful planning. You need to get all your finances in place. It probably takes years to conceive, in one sense, and then serious consideration is given internally to this bid in 2009. Surely in strategic terms you're also being advised as to when best to announce the bid. Isn't that right?
A. I don't think we gave any thought to the timing of it, except that it would be good to talk to all the directors when they were together.
Q. So it follows, then, it's pure coincidence it's a month after the General Election; is that right?
A. Yes.
Q. Can I deal with one more topic and then we might break, let's see how we get on, and that's Mr Alex Salmond. Can we just deal with some history. I can do this very shortly. The Scottish Sun was pro-SNP in 1992 but it was anti-SNP in 2007. The headline was: "Vote SNP today and you put Scotland's head in the noose." Do you remember that?
A. No. I do know that in 2007 that they did support the Labour Party.
Q. You did support the Labour Party?
A. Am I right about that?
Q. Yes, you are.
A. And then in 2010, the next election was it?
Q. Yes.
A. When we supported Mr Salmond and his party.
Q. After the 2007 election, your relationship with Mr Salmond, one might suggest, improved. If you look at your exhibit KRM28, which is going to be tab 27
A. Yes?
Q. can you see, Mr Murdoch, that between 17 November 2000 and 12 October 2007 there was no contact between you and Mr Salmond?
A. 17 November 2000?
Q. And 12
A. There was a telephone call, possibly.
Q. Yes.
A. And the same as for 12 October 2007, so they were seven years ago apart for two perhaps telephone calls.
Q. Yes. I think the point was more: there was absolutely no contact between you and Mr Salmond, but from certainly 30 October 2007, there is I won't say frequent contact, but there's far more contact, isn't there, and we can see this is page 01904
A. Well, you can see here that on 30 October, we opened a large and very modern printing plant in Scotland, and Mr Salmond, along with many other notables, were invited to be present.
Q. Then there's a breakfast meeting on 4 April 2008, which must have been either one to one or certainly more intimate where you discussed your family's Scottish roots. Do you see that?
A. I forget that, but it's possible. It doesn't say where that was held.
Q. No.
A. He might have been visiting New York or something.
Q. Well, the location isn't given
A. Breakfast meetings tend to take place much more in New York than here.
Q. Then there are a series of telephone calls. On 20 June 2011, you discuss Mr Salmond's interest in Scottish independence, do you see that?
A. Yes.
Q. Then there's another meeting, December 2011, this time you discuss News Corp's investments in Scotland, do you see that?
A. I don't know who wrote this, but
Q. Well, it's reconstructed.
A. it wasn't to ask for anything. It might have been to apologise because we reduced Sky's employment numbers quite dramatically in Scotland. We decided to break up our call centre from many, many thousands of people into three different ones around the United Kingdom. Just for security reasons.
Q. Having, in your eyes, perhaps
A. But we are, you know, we still remain a very large employer in Scotland through that and through the Scottish Sun.
Q. Yes.
A. And, of course, the lesser activities like distribution of films and books and so on.
Q. How would you describe your relationship with Mr Salmond? Is it warm or is it something different?
A. Today?
Q. Yes.
A. I would describe it as warm.
Q. And over this period, is the general impression we might derive that your relationship is continuing to improve throughout? That's the period 2007 to the present day.
A. Yes. I mean, I don't know Mr Salmond well, but we've had three meetings here and he's an amusing guy and I enjoy his company, I enjoy talking with him, or listening to him.
Q. Can I invite you, please, to look at some correspondence that Mr Salmond's office has released? It's in my tab 93 of the second file. The first page says: "Alex Salmond releases Rupert Murdoch papers." Unfortunately, this isn't paginated. But on 24 October 2007, which is a number of pages through this, Mr Murdoch, Mr Salmond writes to you in New York. See if you can find that, please.
A. This is BBC News.
Q. Yes. BBC News are announcing that Mr Salmond's office has released the papers which we're about to look at. I wonder if you might be given some assistance on this to find this letter of 24 October 2007. It's about six pages into this bundle.
A. Yes. Is this the
Q. This is Mr Salmond
A. October 2007?
Q. That's right.
A. 24th, I think it says.
Q. Yes. He met you in New York in early 2007, we can see that, can't we?
A. Yes.
Q. And he found your views both insightful and stimulating, there was a reference to a book by Mr Webb which you gave him to read, and then he's telling you about GlobalScot. Then on 31 October 2007, which is the next page
A. This was a book by well he's now temporarily Senator Webb, who wrote some years ago talking about the Irish Scots and their persecution, it was very fascinating, and how they had gone but they were great fighters, but how they went and settled in Virginia and Tennessee and so on, but who if you go through the names of casualties in American wars, you see a disproportionate number of them there.
Q. Okay. He writes to you again on 31 October, which is the next page, inviting you to go to see a play called "Black Watch" in New York, but warning you that it's quite challenging: "A rough, tough production." Did you go and see that play?
A. I'm afraid not.
Q. There are other letters which pass between you. I'm not going to look at all of them, I'm just going to pass over them. Mr Salmond to you in February 2009. Then in
A. Sorry, excuse me, I'm not with you.
Q. It doesn't really matter, Mr Murdoch. I'm just passing over it.
A. Okay.
Q. Then the Scottish Sun supports the SNP in the Scottish election of 2011, I think it is, although the Scottish Sun is neutral on the issue of independence. You follow me?
A. I don't see that in this letter.
Q. No, you don't, because I'm moving on.
A. Oh.
Q. It's a matter of public record that the Scottish Sun supported the SNP in the Scottish election, although it was neutral on independence. Was that a decision you contributed to?
A. I don't remember, but probably, yes.
Q. And why did you support Mr Salmond's party? Can you recall?
A. Well, it's a little emotional, but I am attracted by the idea, but I'm not convinced, and so I said we should stay neutral on the big issue, but let's see how he performs.
Q. Of course your emotions have taken you to a different place previously. As we've seen, in 2007 you didn't support the SNP. Indeed, there was the head in the noose headline, wasn't there, which I mentioned about ten minutes ago?
A. I didn't write that.
Q. You wouldn't have been responsible for the detail of the headline, but would you have been responsible for the general tenor of the political endorsement in 2007?
A. I think we decided to support Labour, yes, throughout.
Q. The emotional attraction to the SNP was not manifested by you in any way in your choice of endorsement in 2007, was it?
A. I don't know much about the SNP. I just have met Mr Salmond a few times, and find him an attractive person, and as I say, I said to you, it's a nice idea.
Q. There's only one further point arising out of this, and I don't think it's necessary to turn up the letter, Mr Murdoch. But Mr Dinsmore, the general manager of News International Newspapers Scotland, wrote to Mr Salmond on 9 May 2011 congratulating him on last Friday's "quite astonishing victory", and points out that the result was "born out of a desire for change and the reinvigoration of Scotland". He says: "I look forward to News International playing its part in helping to make the country a place where outward looking, forward thinking and risk taking are the norm."
A. What letter is that?
Q. 9 May 2011.
A. Yes.
Q. It might be said
A. Short letter.
Q. that you had an ally in Mr Salmond now and you were pointing out what News International rather, Mr Dinsmore was pointing out what News International hoped to achieve in Scotland in the future; would you agree with that?
A. Well, Mr Dinsmore may have gone a little too far in his enthusiasm. I can only tell you, as a matter of interest, that if we didn't continue to support Mr Salmond at this stage, I really would have an insurrection up there. MR JAY Mr Murdoch, I am certainly beginning to flag, whether you are or not I don't think matters. I think it's probably right, as I'm going to move on to a LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Mr Murdoch, this is my decision. I think we've probably had enough today. I'm sorry to have to inconvenience you tomorrow as well
A. It's quite all right. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON but I think it's more important that we take this in a measured way, without getting too tired. So thank you very much indeed. 10 o'clock tomorrow morning.
A. Thank you, sir, for your consideration. (2.48 pm)


Gave statements at the hearings on 25 April 2012 (AM) 25 April 2012 (PM) and 26 April 2012 (AM) ; and submitted 176 pieces of evidence


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