24 April 2012

Leveson Inquiry - Hearing - James Murdoch

Lord Justice Leveson

Useful Links:
Leveson Inquiry Witness Statements HERE 
Leveson Inquiry Witness Lists HERE
Video Recordings of each day's proceedings HERE
Live Feed From Leveson Inquiry Site HERE
BBC Democracy Live Feed HERE 
Guardian Live Blog HERE
Telegraph Live Blog HERE 
Links to articles, comment and information relevant to the Leveson Inquiry

    Paul McMullan. Former news of the world 'privacy is for paedos' reporter in court 73

    From Guardian Live Blog:
    Tom Watson, the Labour MP and prominent critic of News International, has said that the culture, media and sport select committee report on phone hacking could be published as early as next Tuesday.
    He has just tweeted:
    Government bracing itself for embarrassing revelations at #leveson about relations with Murdoch in lead up to BSKYB takeover bid.
    @afneil,  Twitter 2:31 p.m.:
    Westminster air thick with speculation re Jeremy Hunt's future in light of Murdoch testimony 

    Tuesday, 24th April 2012

    Today's Witness:
    James Murdoch
    To be Read:
    Frederic Michel Witness Statement in Full
    Link to Emails from Frederic Michel, James Hunt etc HERE

    James Murdoch    Witness Statement in Full


    Guardian Live Blog HERE
    Telegraph Live Blog HERE 

    James Murdoch swears in 10:00 a.m.
    Mr Jay beginning his questioning of James Murdoch
    Mudoch left UK role with Sky because he didn't want to become a "lightning rod" for criticism
    Murdoch: Max Mosley sex orgy story in NoW "shouldn't have been run"
    Asked if he encountered an open business culture at News Int, Murdoch said these things always take time to foster
    Murdoch says it is self evident that whatever news gathering controls were in place at News International, they were deficient

    News International and its ethos, practices:

    JM: Self-evident that in hindsight, whatever controls were in place failed to create the sufficient transparency.
    JM: Had a reasonable expectation that having the senior legal management closely associated with the newsrooms…
    JM: Tried to familiarise myself with what was in [the Sun]. Read NoW occasionally.
    JM: Ethical risk and the legal risk something that was very much in the hands of the editor. 

    At time, I didn't have a view if therey were sufficient safeguards about legal and reputational risks or not, James Murdoch tells
    James says he didn't read either the Sun or NotW every issue. 
    Murdoch statement: 'problems with a relatively small part of a business can have serious consequences'. Quite.
    Jay asking JM whether he saw NOTW brand carrying any ethical risks which could lead to legal risks
    Murdoch's competence at helm of News Intl being questioned
    James Murdoch said he received assurances about editorial training & ethics
    Murdoch: asked qs about Mosley case but wasn't told about the "specific ruling and the like" 
    James Murdoch says he was told paper had been investigated on hacking, no new evidence; again his long standing position

    James: "I wasn't in the business of deciding what to put in the newspapers". First dump on NI editors, 
    Here comes the "News International was just a tiny bit of my giant empire, couldn't be expected to be on top of everything " bit
     JRM: If May 27 meeting had gone into all the issues in the Pike note of meeting, I would have remembered it
    Jay asks if JM aware of Dominic Mohan's political leanings: "I didn’t and to be honest with you I don’t."
    JM: Was given assurances by Myler and others that paper investigated thouroughly, no new evidence found and police closing case.
    JM: Understanding in Dec 2007 was isolated issue in the past, had resulted in two people going to jail and the editor resigning,
    Jay moves on to Pike's notes of phone call with Myler in May 2008 [also examined by select committee].
    JM denies knowing about Clive Goodman's allegations of others involved [Myler put it as "bombs under the newsroom floor" to #Leveson].
    James Murdoch being asked about the Crone/Myler email-string

    #leveson asks: did you ask why the internal governance had failed to prevent phone hacking?
    Jay QC starting to lose patience with Murdoch's fuzzy memory tactics
    JMurdoch says he was unaware of Goodman unfair dismissal claim - where Goodman alleged several people were involved in
    Myler in memo says we need to cut out cancer. Murdoch: I don't recall this conversation with mr Myler
    Murdoch: there wasnt a proactive desire to bring me up to speed re settlement with Gordon Taylor

    JRM: Execs didn't tell me about extent of hacking because "I would say cut out the cancer and there was some desire not to do that"
    Don't know if James Murdoch plays cricket but he would be formidable opening batsman

    Murdoch: Why didn't Myler and Crone tell me [abt the 'cancer' in NI]? Perhaps because they thought i wd cut it out
    Jay working through the Pike/Crone/Myler/Murdoch email chain (June 2008). JM says not a proactive desire to bring him up to speed.
    Jay says JM must have been told highest figure would be 250k + costs for Taylor settlement. Why not question 350k?  
    This is almost word for word from JM's letter to MPs on not being told significance of For Neville email in terms of hacking
    Essentially Murdoch reasserting claims that he wasn't told about extent of phone hacking at NOTW
    From Guardian Live Blog:
    In a key exchange, Jay puts to Murdoch that there was either a cover up or a failure of governance.
    Jay says:
    There are two possibilities here. Either you were told of the evidence that linked others at the News of the World to Mulcaire and this was in effect a cover up, or you weren't told and you didn't read the emails properly and there was failure of governance at the company do you accept that?
    Murdoch maintains that Myler and Crone gave him "sufficient information" to settle the Gordon Taylor case at a higher figure, but not sufficient information "to go and turn over a whole lot of stones".
    He adds: "I was given repeated assurances newsroom had been investigated, that there was no evidence. I've been very consistent about it."
    Lachlan Murdoch still smiling as he watches his brother James put under pressure at #Leveson
    Lachlan Murdoch now leaning forward, concentrating on his brother James' evidence. 

    Jay reads out memo from Crone to Pike suggesting Myler was angry because he knew Taylor was attempting to blackmail
    LJ Leveson asking why J Murdoch didn't query more what he was told by management
    Why doesn't QC doesn't ask Murdoch: why would royal correspondent be interested in Taylor? Surely meant another reporter involved
    Taylor was football not royalty. His case was to cost a fortune to settle secretly. Both clear signs rogue reporter defence wrong.

    From Guardian Live Blog:
     Murdoch says that evidence exposed during the Sienna Miller litigation was a "great concern", which is why the employees concerned were suspended and new counsel were brought in.
    He is asked about the culture of the News of the World, in reference to its aggressive response to the Guardian and select committee reports on phone hacking.
    He says: "The culture between these papers is very tribal and the competition between them is a zero-sum game".
    He concedes that News International should have been more "dispassionate and forensic" about the evidence laid bare by the Guardian in 2009. 
    Murdoch: I thought Select Cttee report into NI was "over the top".£1m settlement w Max Clifford " a small detail"

    News International and Politicians:

    #leveson now looking at Murdoch's meetings with Blair, Brown and Cameron

    Murdoch also told George Osborne he was concerned about the "slow" progress of regulators during BSkyB bid

    Court hears about conference call with JMurdoch and Blair re: rumours broadcasting rights to Premiere league were to be split
    James Murdoch says he met David Cameron as leader of the opposition at social events 'dinners at other persons house'
    Further meetings with David Cameron - 8 2006-9, initiated by JM, RM, DC and others. Jay asks if macro-economic policy discussed.

    From Guardian Live Blog:
    The inquiry has resumed. We are talking sports rights and the possibility that the Premier League live TV rights would be split by the EC, in particular James Murdoch's conference call to Tony Blair on 7 October 2005.
    Jay asks whether the purpose of the call was to bring Blair onside?
    Murdoch says it was "just to make the PM aware of these issues. It's a major British franchise".
    Did it involve a "direct request" to the PM asks Jay? "You are subtly communicating your concerns on behalf of BSkyB?"
    "The purpose would be for senior policy makers to understand that some of these policies might have adverse consequences for English football."
     Jay asks about the purposes of his meetings with Cameron.
    Here's a tweet fromthe Guardian's Lisa O'Carroll:
     But you would have been keen to know where Cameron stood in relation to issues that affect your company? "Not really," says Murdoch.
    Not even regulation - TV, Ofcom, the press, competition?
    I think more generally an approach to enterprise, not so much macroeconomic but to business, how they work.

    James Murdoch personally told David Cameron The Sun was switching allegiance from Labour to Tories in 2009, he says in statement to #leveson
    James Murdoch told Osborne at 29 Nov 2010 meeting there were "no plurality issues" raised by BSkyB takeover bid - #Leveson stmnt

    J Murdoch met w Cameron on 10/9/09 to discuss Sun's proposed endorsement of Tories (as BSkyB bid being considered)
    JM: BSkyB bid discussed but only as a "tiny side conversation" ahead of dinner.

    Murdoch 23 Dec 2010 chat to PM was "tiny side conversation, not really a discussion" about BSkyB bid
    Murdoch BskyB bid was 'an all cash offer, we needed to save up'. James wife looks around and smiles.
    From Guardian Live Blog:
    Moving on to Sun's endorsement of Tory party and meeting with David Cameron in December 2009.
    "It was made clear to me the Sun would be endorsing the Conservative party or moving away from support of Labour," says Murdoch.
    Welcome news to Cameron? "It seemed that way."
    Did Murdoch discuss the timing of the endorsement? He says the editors said it would be at the end of the conference season.
    Jay says, wasn't there a discussion they would endorse Cameron on very day of Gordon Brown's speech to conference?
    "I don't remember the specifity of that. I think it was the day after, the article. It was focussed more on Labour's record than endorsement of Conservatives."
    What about other meetings with Cameron, in run-up to election. Regulatory issues on agenda?
    "I think actually more politics, leading up to election," says Murdoch. "I don't believe we discussed any specific regulation."
    Jay moves on to the meeting between Cameron and James Murdoch on 23 December 2010 at home of Rebekah and Charlie Brooks.
    How many people were there? "In the teens, maybe 15 people."
    The meeting was two days after Vince Cable was absolved of his responsibility of the News Corp/BSkyB merger after, in Murdoch's words, he showed "acute bias".
    "There was no discussion with Mr Cameron other than he reiterated what he said publicly, that the behaviour had been unacceptable," says Murdoch.
    I imagine I expressed the hope that things would be dealt with in way that was appropriate and judicial. It was a tiny side conversation, it was not a discussion. 
    JM says cannot recall whether 2010 phone calls to Jeremy Hunt regarded BSkyB or not.Would have raised concerns over Cable comments.
    JM: I haven't spent that much time with politicians personally, most interaction around BSkyB. 

    Hunt's website "Cheerleader for Murdoch's contribution to British TV" - yet Cable had to recuse himself for bias? Odd balance here
    Ofcom reduced in line with James' demands. <--more interesting coincidence
    Jay: Jeremy Hunt was great ally of News Corporation wasn't he? JRM: "I wouldn't describe it that way...I don't think so."
    How Number 10 twisted and turned over Cameron-Murdoch Xmas dinner chez Brooks mid BSkyB bid  
    Hah! I was right about James Murdoch the cricketer: "You have to play with as straight a bat as you can..."

    Two days after Cable removed J Murdoch meets Cameron at Rebekah Brooks dinner & briefly discusses bid

    James Murdoch says he's friendly with G Osborne, has been to grace & favour country house

    From Guardian Live Blog:
    Jay asks whether Murdoch is friendly with the chancellor George Osborne.
    "We have been friendly. I wouldn't say I was a close friend," Murdoch says, and confirms he has visited Dorneywood, Osborne's grace-and-favour home, once with his family.
    Did Murdoch discuss the BSkyB takeover bid at this Dorneywood meeting with Osborne, asks Jay?
    Murdoch says:
    "I had one discussion where it might have come up, which was during the process which to be grumpy about was taking a long time. Nothing I said to Mr Osborne would have been inconsistent with our public advocacy on the subject."
    Murdoch is asked whether he attempted to achieve an unfair advantage over rivals because of his relations with politicians.
    "That would not be the way that I would do it," he says, describing his method as "legitimate advocacy".
    Leveson asks: did you obtain greater access because of the weight of press interests?
    "I don't know what all of the other meetings that the PM and these people take in general," says Murdoch. "It's true to say politicians and people around the political class are very eager to get their point across, they do talk to the press.
    "As a business person I don't think I've personally experienced that, I haven't actually spent that much time with politicians personally."
    James laughs at the famous angry #Independent confrontation - though various witnesses claim otherwise
    Jay moves into BSkyB bid. "Quite intricate.. don't need to delve into.... legal issue competition in Europe, pluralism in UK.
    James maintains opposition to BSkyB bid concentrated on dynamic future impact on plurality, which wasn't the test.

    James Murdoch at the Independent: 'Like a Scene Out of Dodge City' - Guardian

    Murdoch recalls confrontation with Indy editor over paper's 'Rupert Murdoch won't decide this election You will' campaign

    On his Indy visit, Murdoch admits 'colourful language', denies 'storming'. Says Kelner had enjoyed Murdoch hospitality for years.
    From Guardian Live Blog:
    Jay asks about James Murdoch's personal visit to the Independent newsroom in 2010 after the newspaper launched a billboard campaign, headed "Rupert Murdoch won't decide this election".
    Murdoch says he had a meeting in the same building as the Independent and wanted to raise this as an issue with Simon Kelner, then editor of the Independent, because he was "upset and concerned" at the campaign.
    The Guardian's Ian Katz wrote about David Cameron's dinner with Rebekah Brooks and James Murdoch in February 2011 which at the time Downing Street refused to disclose any details of.
    Internal News Corp notes from public affairs exec Michel said DCMS sec Jeremy Hunt wd be supportive of BSkyB bid #Leveson
    Michel to JM: [Hunt] said shouldn’t be media plurality issues and UK government would be supportive throughout the process. 
    Robert Jay calls Jeremy Hunt "your cheerleader". Notes Murdoch unable to get meeting with v Cable 
    'I simply wouldn't do business this way!' - J Murdoch barely hides his anger
    163 pages of material dealing with dealings btwn Murdoch's PR man, Michel, and Jeremy Hunt's adviser, Adam Smith
    Murdoch hired PR man called Fred Michel in 2009 to do News Corp lobbying over BSkyB bid over plurality concerns
    Ooh, this is looking sticky for Jeremy Hunt. More than a whiff of him acting as Murdoch's nark in the Coalition. 
    Ooh, JMurdoch says Michel was also receiving calls 'unprompted' from peopel in Govt. Who did *that* then?

    From Guardian Live Blog:
    An email sent on 27 September 2010, after Michel spoke to Cable's junior minister, Lord Oakeshott, says Cable was feeling "very strong political pressure" over the way News International had treated the Lib Dems and Labour over the previous 12 months.
    Jay says it "looks as if a strong political flavour" was entering the debate.
    Murdoch says it was "very alarming" and had "nothing to do with the proper legal test" over whether News Corp should be allowed to take over the whole of BSkyB.
    "Call me naive I thought senior ministers were serious people who try to do their jobs," says Murdoch.
    Jay says this is "absolutely key".
    "You have one government minister saying I don't like the Murdoch press [Cable] and another government minister [Hunt] who is treated in a rather different way by the Murdoch press, his thinking is going to be converse to Mr Cable's".
    Murdoch says Hunt "at every turn took the advice of independent regulators Ofcom and the OFT in particular at every single decision point".

    Break for lunch - back at 2:00 p.m.
    Back into the emails from Frederic Michel (News Corp's director of public affairs in Europe) on BSkyB.
    Michel email: You could have a chat with him on his mobile which is completely fine, I will liase with his team privately as well.
    14/12/10 email Michel to JRM: We are going to try to find a way for you to meet with [Hunt] one/one before Xmas.
    Email from Brooks to Michel/JRM: Same from GO [George Osborne] - total bafflement at response.
    JRM: This is a large scale transaction in hands of CMS…entirely reasonable to try to communicate with the relevant policy-makers

    Murdoch's PR "Salmond keen to put issues to Cable & will brief Scottish press on economic importance of News Corp"
    "Jeremy has also asked me to send him relevant documents privately"
    Hunt is "pretty amazed" by Ofcom public interest findings & "clear bias"...wants to meet one to one
    Clegg re Telegraph sting on Cable "He is absolutely furious..comments unacceptable..Cable abt to be blackmailed"
    Hunt's adviser offers to be back channel of contact with News Corp now his boss in quasi-judicial role re Sky bid
    News Corp got private feedback from Hunt re competition commission referral & confidentail discussions w Ofcom
    Two days after Cable removed J Murdoch meets Cameron at Rebekah Brooks dinner & briefly discusses bid
    Hunt's office were in regular touch with Michel while Cable was still in charge of BSkyB bid
    Hunt took over BSkyB bid regulatory role on Dec 21. Hunt 'very happy' to stay in touch with News Corp through his SPAD
    Jeremy Hunt was 'frustrated' not to be allowed to meet with James Murdoch from Nov 2010 according to a News Corp note.
    This #Leveson round is fascinating. The Mr Michel emails are fascinating. We should see those to his boss, Graham McWilliam.
    I've been on this inquiry for three years, and *still* I am shocked. The web of connections between gov and NI is incredible.

    News Corp's bid for all of BSkyB was known inside company as Project Rubicon. Apparently without irony. 
    How did J Hunt not declare/admit this secret contact with when asked to take over quasi-judicial process after Cablegate.
    Hunt cancels meeting with Murdoch on legal advice nov On 14 Dec he meets Murdoch adviser Michelle and notes 'clear bias' of Ofcom  
     Twitter, from 2:16 p.m.:

    This sounds like a clear breach of Hunt's quasi-judicial obligations regarding the merger decision. Very serious. 

    11 Jan - Michel email: Hunt wants us to take the heat with him in the next 2 weeks, says he wants same outcome 

    Hunt asks News Corp help draft statement "and offer some possible language." NC man says "Tt's really good news"
    Email fm Hunt's man"Managed to get info [on next day's market sensitive announcement] although absolutely illegal" 
      [So Hunt's office slipped James Murdoch - Sky and News Corp - "illegal" access to market sensitive information]
    Jay:"It's obvious what's going on here. [Hunt's] giving you a nod and a wink." 
    News Corp man "I managed to get JH quickly before he went into see Swan Lake and have a further chat"
    Murdoch man re Alex Salmond: AS noticed Sun's "major change" in coverage."Will call Hunt whenever we need him to" 


    Murdoch people claiming they had Salmond lined up to put pressure on Hunt re BSkyB 
    Pretty sure its Jeremy Hunt rather than James Murdoch who'll be in headlines tonight and tomorrow
    #leveson QC implies Scottish Sun backing Salmond in return for him lobbying Hunt re BSkyB
    Why would NI have special foreknowledge of decisions?

    Salmond didnt release that email when he said he was publishing all correspondence with Murdoch in the summer.
    Given revelations of Salmond apparently offering 2 lobby Hunt for Murdoch, surely Salmond now has to appear at #leveson to clear up on oath
    Michel email 2/3/11: Alex Salmond will "make himself available to support the debate if consultation launched".

    "Alex Salmond called. Dinner w ed of the Sun in Scotland. Sun now keen to back SNP.Can we help smooth the process"
    March 10: Hunt passes private conversation re BSkyB bid with Paul Dacre to James Murdoch [Dacre won't like that!]
    [Jay asks Murdoch if he thinks Hunt behaved in quasi-judicial manner] #Leveson Murdoch thinks he was v rigorous
    July 7: james Murdoch given private information about mtg between Cameron and Hunt to discuss setting up #Leveson inquiry
    Jay suggests Murdoch blind to the obvious:Sun support for Tories in Sept 2009 quid pro quo for easing of BSkyB bid 
    Opponents of BSkyB had exactly one ("wooden") meeting with Hunt. rest of time got "rudimentary procedural guidance"

    [So even #leveson arrangement was leaked by Hunt's office to News Corp before others]

    Press Regulation:

    @nataliepeck: Moving on to press regulation. JRM calls it "necessary and appropriate".
    #Leveson jumps in."What you were doing wasn’t merely invading somebody's privacy, it was breach of the criminal law."
    From Guardian Live Blog:
    Murdoch says he has had "cause for reflection" on the effectiveness of regulation of the press.
    As the subject of media coverage, Murdoch says he has questions about the prominence of corrections and right of reply. He claims that the Guardian has made more than 40 corrections in last 10 months about News Corp.
    Ian Katz, the Guardian's deputy editor and head of news, has just tweeted:
    JMurdoch says he discussed with his father in 2009 after piece in the Guardian  
    Faces betray the aftermath of a long and arduous day!
    Questioning of James Murdoch now complete. 4:18 p.m.