News / Europe

Records Show Britain's Cameron Kept Close Ties to Murdoch Officials

Newspapers at a news vendor in central London, with the advertisement apology for News International, July 16, 2011. News Corporation chairman Rupert Murdoch signed the company advert entitled
Newspapers at a news vendor in central London, with the advertisement apology for News International, July 16, 2011. News Corporation chairman Rupert Murdoch signed the company advert entitled "We are sorry", which appears in British national newspapers.

In Britain, newly released records show that Prime Minister David Cameron has kept a close relationship with key executives from Rupert Murdoch's media empire at the center of a phone-hacking scandal.

Mr. Cameron has disclosed that he met 26 times with officials of Murdoch's News Corporation since he became the country's leader 14 months ago, more than twice the number of visits he has had with any other media organization. The records showed that Rebekah Brooks, who resigned Friday as chief of Murdoch's British press operations, is the only person he had invited twice to his weekend retreat Chequers.

The leader of Britain's Conservative government also hosted Andy Coulson at Chequers in March, two months after he left as his spokesman. Coulson is the former editor of the News of the World tabloid that Murdoch closed a week ago and is at the heart of allegations that journalists hacked into the cell phones of a murdered teenage girl, dead soldiers and others. Coulson was charged earlier this month with corruption and conspiring to intercept communications, one of nine arrested so far in the scandal.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said that it was not surprising that in a democratic society there would be "some contact" between Britain's leader and media executives. But the opposition Labor Party said the frequent meetings showed Mr. Cameron's "extraordinary lack of judgment."

The revelations of Mr. Cameron's contacts with Murdoch officials came as the 80-year-old tycoon embarked on an effort to apologize for the phone hacking and journalists' payments to police for information.

In a letter signed by Murdoch published in the British press on Saturday, he says he and his international media conglomerate, News Corporation, are sorry "for the serious wrongdoing that occurred" and the "hurt suffered" by those affected by some of his journalists' widespread phone-hacking and payments to police for information.

The apologies come after Les Hinton resigned Friday from his post at the head of the U.S. media group Dow Jones Friday in the wake of the scandal, just hours after Brooks quit.

Dow Jones is owned by Murdoch's News Corporation.  But Hinton's resignation is tied to his previous role overseeing News Corporation's British newspapers, including News of the World, while journalists there illegally accessed cell phone conversations.  

In a staff memo announcing his departure, Hinton apologized to those hurt by the News of the World journalists' actions, though he said he had been ignorant of what was going on at the time.

Aside from closing News of the World, the firestorm over the scandal also has forced Murdoch to abandon efforts to push through a $12 billion bid for British Sky Broadcasting, a satellite television company.

Brooks has agreed to testify before the British Parliament next week about the scandal. Murdoch and his son, James, who heads News Corporation's international operations, will also testify before parliament next week, after initially refusing to do so.  

In the U.S., the Federal Bureau of Investigation has begun a probe into whether News Corporation employees tried to hack into the phones of victims of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and their families, or tried to bribe police for information.

 

Media tycoon Rupert Murdoch has published an apology in the British press to the victims of the News of the World phone-hacking and police bribery scandal.

A letter signed by Murdoch and published Saturday says he and his international media conglomerate News Corporation are sorry "for the serious wrongdoing that occurred" and the "hurt suffered" by those affected by some of his journalists' widespread phone-hacking and payments to police for information.

The apologies come after Les Hinton resigned from his post at the head of the U.S. media group Dow Jones Friday in the wake of the scandal.

Dow Jones is owned by Murdoch's News Corporation.  But Hinton's resignation is tied to his previous role overseeing News Corporation's British newspapers, including News of the World, while journalists there illegally accessed cell phone conversations.

In a staff memo announcing his departure, Hinton apologized to those hurt by the News of the World journalists' actions, though he said he had been ignorant of what was going on at the time.

Hinton's resignation came just hours after Rebekah Brooks, a former News of the World editor who currently oversees News Corporation's British newspapers, also stepped down.

Murdoch shut down News of the World last week.  The firestorm over the scandal also has forced Murdoch to abandon efforts to push through a multi-billion-dollar bid for British Sky Broadcasting, a satellite television company.

As News Corporation announced the public apology, the 80-year-old Murdoch visited at a London hotel with the parents of Milly Dowler, a 13-year-old British murder victim whose phone was hacked by News of the World. A lawyer for the family described Murdoch as "very humbled" and "very shaken" as he offered his apology.

Brooks has agreed to testify before the British parliament next week about the phone-hacking and police bribery scandal. Murdoch and his son, James, who heads News Corporation's international operations, will also testify before parliament next week, after initially refusing to do so.

In the U.S., the Federal Bureau of Investigation has begun a probe into whether News Corporation employees tried to hack into the phones of victims of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and their families, or tried to bribe police for information.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder told reporters in Australia Friday the Justice Department has received a number of requests from lawmakers to look into the allegations involving News Corporation, and is "progressing in that regard" through the appropriate law enforcement agencies.

Murdoch's company has several lucrative news and entertainment outlets in the U.S., including the country's top business newspaper, The Wall Street Journal, and a major television news outlet, Fox News Channel.

Some information for this report was provided by Reuters.

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