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James Murdoch faces UK press inquiry grilling

By Agence France-Presse
Tuesday, April 24, 2012 7:24 EDT
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James Murdoch, son of media mogul Rupert Murdoch (AFP)
 
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Former News International executive chairman James Murdochbegan giving testimony under oath Tuesday at the British inquiry into press standards set up after the tabloid phone-hacking row.

In the day-long session at the Leveson Inquiry, Murdoch was being quizzed about his stewardship of News International, which published the now-defunct News of the World.

The tabloid was closed down in July as the voicemail hacking scandal exploded.

While most witnesses have walked into the Royal Courts of Justice, Murdoch, wearing a suit, white shirt and striped tie, was driven in in a black sports utility vehicle. The courtroom was packed for his appearance.

Settling in his chair, he gave his full name before respected lawyer Robert Jay recounted the 39-year-old’s early career.

Asked about how closely he read the News of the World, Murdoch said: “I wouldn’t say I read all of it but I read it from time to time.

“The News of the World brand was an investigative newspaper with exposes and the like. It wasn’t only concerned with celebrities and salacious gossip but also uncovering real wrongdoing.”

He said the ethical and legal risks were largely down to the editorial team.

“I wasn’t in the business of deciding what to put in the newspapers,” he said.

“The profitability of the News of the World did not save it,” he added.

News Corporation boss Rupert Murdoch, James’ father, will also appear before the Leveson Inquiry on Wednesday and Thursday to answer questions over the operations of his British newspapers and his links to British MPs.

Rupert Murdoch, 81, shut the News of the World down in July following revelations that its journalists had illegally accessed the voicemails of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler.

Both Murdochs appeared before a British parliamentary committee in July to answer questions about phone hacking, and James Murdoch was recalled in November to explain discrepancies in his testimony.

The July hearing had to be halted when a protester attacked Murdoch senior with a shaving foam pie.

This week’s hearings are more formal with witnesses swearing an oath promising to tell “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth”.

Rupert Murdoch’s youngest son was executive chairman of News International, the arm of his News Corp. which published the scandal-hit tabloid, until he quit in February amid questions about what he knew about hacking.

Despite denying any knowledge that the practice went beyond a reporter and a private detective who were jailed in 2007, James Murdoch has relinquished all his major media roles in Britain in the past few months.

Once considered the heir to the News Corp. empire, he resigned his job at News International, which also publishes The Times, The Sunday Times and The Sun, Britain’s biggest-selling newspaper.

And earlier this month, he also quit as chairman of BSkyB, the British pay-television giant in which his father’s company has a 39-percent stake.

However, James Murdoch remains deputy chief operating officer of News Corp., which is based in the United States.

The Leveson Inquiry was set up by Prime Minister David Cameron after the hacking scandal exploded last July.

Led by judge Brian Leveson, the inquiry is now in its third of four modules, which is focusing on relations between the press and politicians. It is also calling in the chief media proprietors at this stage.

The first module looked at the relationship between the press and the public and also concentrated on phone hacking.

Module two examined relations between the press and the police.

The final module will come up with recommendations for a more effective policy and regulation that supports the integrity and freedom of the press while encouraging the highest ethical standards.

Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse
AFP journalists cover wars, conflicts, politics, science, health, the environment, technology, fashion, entertainment, the offbeat, sports and a whole lot more in text, photographs, video, graphics and online.
 
 
 
 
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