'For Neville' email topic of discussion for Murdoch at Parliament
News Corp. Deputy Chief Operating Officer James Murdoch spent much of his appearance before Parliament on Thursday explaining what he did and didn't know with regard to a culture of phone hacking at the company's now-shuttered News of the World tabloid.
A major topic of discussion was a meeting Murdoch had in June 2008 with News of the World officials. Murdoch said the meeting focused primarily on a settlement with Gordon Taylor, chief executive of the Professional Footballers Assn., over phone hacking.
However, that contradicts others' recollections about the level of detail provided to Murdoch about the extent of hacking done by the paper.
Much of the questioning of Murdoch focused on an email dubbed "For Neville."
The For Neville email displayed just how widespread the paper's practice of hacking into voicemail accounts of celebrities, athletes and other prominent personalities was. Neville Thurlbeck was a reporter at News of the World who was fired in the wake of the ethics scandal.
Murdoch told Parliament's Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee that it was "not made clear to him" that the complete contents of the "For Neville" email would indicate "wider spread knowledge" of phone hacking at the company. He stressed that he was given information to authorize an increase in settlement offers to Taylor and not shown an incriminating piece of evidence that has become pivotal to the Parliament investigation.
Asked about the difference of opinion between Murdoch and News of the World editor Colin Myler and legal counsel Tom Crone about what he knew and when he knew it, Murdoch told Parliament, "what they never did was clearly tell you that they showed me those emails." He called the September Parliament session that Myler and Crone appeared at "a very confusing and muddled session, to be honest with you."
The News Corp. executive, who was a solo act as no other members of his famous media family including his father, Rupert Murdoch, were at the hearing, had a hard time convincing some of his questioners that his knowledge of what went on at the company was so limited.
"This really is pretty lapse," Parliament member Philip Davies said of the company's handling of the matter.
"These are things I take very, very seriously," Murdoch replied. "It's something I'm determined to sort out."
-- Joe Flint and Meg James
Photo: James Murdoch testifies before British parliamentary committee on Thursday. Credit: Reuters