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Rupert Murdoch’s “Most Humble Day”

  • July 20th, 2011
  • Posted by EUEditor

rupert-murdoch.jpg“This is the most humble day of my life”, said Rupert Murdoch, Chairman of News Corporation, on Tuesday, at the commencement of a parliamentary hearing in London into the affairs of his company.

Well into the hearing, a member of the public lunged at him with a shaving cream “pie” on a plate, causing a ten-minute recess, a young man ending up in handcuffs, (and journalists there saying Wendy Murdoch, defending her husband, took on the assailant).

The Select Committee on Culture and Media said it had reconvened because it had been misled in a 2009 investigation into the hacking of private telephones by the Murdoch group newspaper, The News of the World.

WE ARE SORRY AND HUMBLE

At the start of proceedings, Mr Murdoch interrupted his son, James Murdoch, responding to a question, to provide the line likely to be useful to headline writers in many countries.

It would be a long and gruelling exchange, Mr Murdoch, 80, at times emotional; digressing at one time to recall his father, Sir Keith Murdoch, a “great journalist”, who uncovered the “scandal of Gallipoli”, which had made him unpopular in some quarters in England.

Later, he said the personnel involved in the News of the World scandal represented only some 1% of his 50000 employees, saying he always sought to appoint people who were “ethical and distinguished professionals”.

He said he had ordered the closure of the mass circulation Sunday newspaper, News of the World, because “we were ashamed of what happened; we had broken our trust with our readers.”

At other points Mr Murdoch was more taciturn, notably under detailed questioning from a Labour MP, Tom Watson.

OTHERS DOWN THE LINE DID IT

Offering one-word responses at times he said that as fresh information became available his company in England, News International, had cooperated with police, and considered its responses adequate.

Was he responsible for the whole fiasco?

“No”

Who was? “People I trusted… It’s for them to pay. I’m the best person to clean this up”.

BBC commentators monitoring the appearance said the News Corporation Chairman was “not coping with questions well”; it was “incredible” that in one instance, he had not been aware one of his reporters had been guilty of blackmail.

“It is a hear-no-evil, see-no-evil kind of defence.”

“Are you familiar with the term ‘wilful blindnesss’?”, asked a questioner of James Murdoch, ” …where there is knowledge you could have had, and should have had, and chose not to have, you are still responsible.”

“We are not ever guilty of that”, Mr Murdoch senior intervened.

WE DID NOT KNOW MUCH

A consistent line of response was taken up by James Murdoch, as chief executive of News International.

Apology and contrition would be offered in response to the fact that agents of the company had obtained information for news stories by illegally listening to the voice mails of some 1000 people, many vulnerable, as children in trouble or the tragically bereaved.

Responses to the details of who knew what, and took what action, could not be so rhetorical; “I do not have knowledge of that”, a response, a number of times.

“It is a matter of huge and sincere regret”, said James Murdoch, of the malpractice at News of the World.

“What happened at News of the World was wrong; we have apologised profusely.

“This is a very serious matter.

“We have tried to establish the facts and we are working with the police as they come out.

“We have admitted liability and we have set up appropriate third party compensation schemes…

“We would like to be judged on the action the company makes to put things right, and put that in place.”

In the three hours occupied by the Select Committee hearing, open to the public and broadcast live, MPs probed details of large discretionary payments authorised by executives of the company for out of court settlements with victims of the telephone hacking.

They also probed payments made to employees who left the company after getting into trouble with the law.

ARRESTS – AND POLICE CONNECTIONS IN THE LINE OF FIRE

The News International principals were called to the inquiry after information came to light, during civil court proceedings late last year, that an earlier criminal process had not uncovered the full scope of evidence on the telephones operation.

Police investigations have seen 10 arrests.

Police themselves have been accused of working in the pay of News International newspapers.

The former News International editor Rebekah Brooks appeared at a late session of the inquiry, and denied having prior knowledge of police payments, or sanctioning such payments.

See also EUAustralia Online:”Updating ‘News of the World'”, 18.7.11; “Troubles of News Corporation”, 16.7.11.

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