News Corp.'s relations with British politicians, regulators questioned
LONDON -- Part of being a media mogul is schmoozing with politicians and regulators who have oversight over the industry, but there is a fine line between lobbying for your business and inappropriate contact. Now Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. is being accused of crossing that line when it was attempting to take over British Sky Broadcasting.
Details of contact between News Corp. executives, including James Murdoch, Rupert's son and the company's deputy chief operating officer, emerged Tuesday during a judge-led inquiry into press ethics prompted by the scandal at the media giant's tabloid newspapers. Operatives for News Corp. papers, including the now-closed News of the World, have been accused of hacking into voice mails and paying off police for stories.
At issue are News Corp.'s interactions with Jeremy Hunt, the secretary of media and culture who had oversight over News Corp.'s proposed deal to buy the 61% of BSkyB it didn't already own. News Corp. withdrew that bid after the phone-hacking scandal exploded and put a dark cloud over the company.
During Tuesday's hearing, James Murdoch denied implications that News Corp. engaged in improper discussions with Hunt while seeking approval of the deal, and bristled at the idea that the company would use its media clout to persuade politicians to advance its corporate agenda.
"The question of support of an individual newspaper for politicians one way or another is not something that I would ever link to a commercial transaction like this," Murdoch said. "Nor would I expect ... political support one way or another ever to translate into a minister behaving in an inappropriate way -– ever. I simply wouldn’t do business that way."
-- Henry Chu and Joe Flint
Photo: James Murdoch: Credit: Matthew Lloyd / Bloomberg