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The Parliament hearings: the "humblest" day of Rupert Murdoch's life

The Parliament hearings: the "humblest" day of Rupert Murdoch's life

The phrase "I don't have direct knowledge" has been thrown around often in today's Parliament hearings with Rupert and James Murdoch.

In the conference, British lawmakers grilled the Murdochs on financial details of settlements, facts about earlier phone hacking cases, political influence, and who exactly was responsible for the illegal phone hacking. Rupert Murdoch prefaced the questions with the statement, "This is the humblest day of my life."

He then distanced himself from responsibility, saying that News of the World represented just one percent of his company and that he was not told by editors about large payments to settle phone hacking cases out of court. His answers were slow and he appeared to have trouble remembering details. His son, James, kept trying to jump in and answer questions, but one Parliament member kept redirecting corporate responsibility questions back to Murdoch senior.

When asked, Rupert Murdoch said that he was "not really in touch". He claimed to talk to his senior editors about once a week, but later revised the answer to once a month. According to him, the conversations remained informal, opening with his question, "What's doing?" and stayed on topics of news stories. He insisted that he did not influence the stories. He later revised his account again, saying that he would not normally pay that much attention to British newspapers that make up just 1 percent of his business.

Reuter paints a very different picture of Murdoch as a micro-manager. The article is based on the testimony of a one-time Murdoch editor, who describes Murdoch manipulating newspapers' political leanings and expressing opinions on news stories.

James answered most of the questions, as he works more closely with News Corporation than his father. He knows how to craft an answer, deftly avoiding using the term phone hacking, preferring "illegal phone interception". He often blames legal advice for previously presenting inaccurate information. He defers back to the ongoing "important" police investigations for some questions, but adds that the company is collaborating with the police to get to the bottom of the scandal. For the most part, he does his best to address the questions answered to him unambiguously.

When asked at what point he found out criminality was endemic at News of the World, Murdoch senior answered, "Endemic is a very hard, wide-ranging word."

According to James, for now the priority is to restore trust with the public, operate in the right way, and be the company it has aspired to be. He says the decision to close News of the World and remove the bskyb offer is a reflection of that.

Towards the end of the conference, there was an off camera disturbance. According to CNN, Rupert Murdoch was attacked. A man threw a pie pan full of shaving cream at his face, a trick usually reserved for clowns at festivals and circuses. Members of Parliament apologised profusely to the media mogul father and son.

Sources: Reuters, CNN



Florence Pichon


2011-07-19 19:16

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