From daily News Line in England:
Saturday, 26 May 2012
Blair at Inquiry on Monday
Under-pressure Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt will give evidence on Thursday, when he will be asked about his office’s links with News Corp during its bid to take over satellite broadcaster BSkyB. Prime Minister Cameron yesterday claimed he did not ‘regret’ asking Hunt to rule on the abortive deal and asserted that Hunt had acted ‘impartially’.
Blair will be questioned over whether his relationship with News Corp owner Rupert Murdoch and the company’s News International subsidiary was too close. Blair’s former trade minister Lord Mandelson told the Inquiry on Monday that the relationship had ‘arguably’ become ‘closer than wise’ but dismissed claims of a ‘Faustian pact’ involving commercial concessions for News Corp in return for support from its newspapers.
Blair travelled to Hayman Island in Australia to address News Corp executives in 1995, as part of a Labour strategy to win over newspapers that had unfavourably portrayed previous leaders Michael Foot and Neil Kinnock. He is also godfather to one of Murdoch’s children.
Current home secretary Theresa May is expected to face questioning about police handling of phone-hacking allegations when she appears on Tuesday along with Education Secretary Michael Gove.
Business Secretary Vince Cable and Justice Secretary Clarke will give evidence next Wednesday.
Gove, a former Times journalist, a newspaper owned by News Corp, is expected to be asked about the frequency of his contacts with senior News Corp executives, as 11 meetings were recorded between the May 2010 general election and July 2011.
Hunt will face questions about whether his overt support for the bid was compatible with his job in overseeing it.
Cameron claimed yesterday that there was no ‘great conspiracy’ between him and Rupert Murdoch in return for support for his government but admitted that the relationship between politicians and the press had become ‘too close’. His comments came as Hunt’s former special adviser Adam Smith began his second day of questioning at the Leveson Inquiry.
Smith told the Inquiry that he was ‘bombarded’ with information from News Corp lobbyist Fred Michel. Smith admitted that he was aware that Michel was trying to extract information during News Corp’s bid for broadcaster BSkyB.
Smith resigned last month after admitting his contact with News Corp had got too close. He told the Inquiry that he had ‘no specific instructions’ on the limits to information he could provide to News Corp.
He added: ‘It wasn’t uncommon to give advance notice of certain statements but I would use my judgement on what to say or what not to say.’
Smith said that officials at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport knew that Michel was his point of contact at News Corp and they would have mentioned Michel by name to Hunt on the ‘odd occasion’.
Counsel to the Inquiry, Robert Jay QC, asked Smith why he resigned, saying ‘no one was criticising you – what did you think of that?’
Smith replied: ‘I thought by this stage that the perception had been created that something untoward had gone on, and that was why I’d offered my resignation the evening beforehand. “Everyone thought I’d have to go” was confirmation in my mind that everyone else thought that.’
British minister called Murdoch aide ‘papa’: here.
Prime Minister Cameron’s former director of communications Andy Coulson [ex-Murdoch empire] was detained by police investigating allegations of perjury yesterday. Coulson was detained at his home in the Dulwich area of London at 6.30am by seven officers from Strathclyde Police and taken to Glasgow for questioning: here.
PRIME minister Cameron claimed yesterday that Andy Coulson, who had resigned as editor of the News of the World and who currently faces charges of perverting the course of justice, misled him when he was interviewed for the job of Tory press chief: here.
The coalition rift began to gape even wider on Sunday after Liberal Democrats indicated they might not stop their MPs voting with Labour to launch an investigation into Jeremy Hunt.
Former Tory prime minister John Major has told the Leveson inquiry that Rupert Murdoch attempted to influence his government’s policy on Europe: here.
Labour MP Chris Bryant electrified the Commons today by accusing Culture Minister Jeremy Hunt of lying to Parliament over his contacts with the Murdoch empire.
David Cameron faced awkward questions about his decision to hire former News of the World editor Andy Coulson as his spin doctor today: here.
IT HAS emerged that Leveson, whose current inquiry was brought into being by Prime Minister Cameron, complained to the UK’s top civil servant after a cabinet minister, Tory Education Secretary Michael Gove, a former Murdoch employee at the Times newspaper, raised ‘concerns’ that his inquiry was targeting the freedom of the press: here.
UK Prime Minister Cameron given kid gloves treatment at Leveson inquiry: here.
The Australian arm of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp said today that it is making a AU$1.97 billion (£1.1bn) bid to take full control of TV company Consolidated Media Holdings.
Murdoch’s News Ltd intensifies media restructuring in Australia: here.
Rupert Murdoch’s media conglomerate News Corp. lobbied in favor of the new Panama free trade pact, according to federal lobbying disclosure forms — a pact that will make it more difficult for the U.S. government to crack down on Panama-related tax abuses. Panama is a notorious tax haven, and News Corp. also operates a subsidiary there. The company’s flagship American news outlets — The Wall Street Journal and Fox News — reported extensively on the three free trade deals passed by Congress last week without disclosing the parent firm’s lobbying activity: here.
Britain’s Leveson Inquiry hit by allegations of political interference: here.
David Cameron’s former spin doctor Andy Coulson and former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks will be charged with phone-hacking, the Crown Prosecution Service said today: here.
Andy Coulson, David Cameron’s former spin doctor, has been charged with illegally paying to get the royal family’s phone numbers: here.
MURDOCH’S POODLE HUNT GETS HEALTH PRIVATISATION JOB: here.
- Tony Blair jeered by students (dearkitty1.wordpress.com)
- Rupert Murdoch has another Twitter #fail | Media Monkey (guardian.co.uk)
- Friends of Rupert Murdoch and David Cameron Charged With Bribery (nymag.com)
- Timeline of UK phone hacking scandal (cnn.com)
- Brooks, Coulson charged over alleged payments to officials (cnn.com)
- Brooks, Coulson Charged in News Corp. Tabloid Bribery Probe – Bloomberg (bloomberg.com)
- Murdoch Rebuffed Christie’s Refusal To Politicize Hurricane Sandy (mediamatters.org)
- Evil Empire Acquires Other Evil Empire (huffingtonpost.com)
- You: Rebekah Brooks severance deal worth ‘around £7m’ (guardian.co.uk)
- Murdoch’s shameful slam of ‘Jewish-owned’ press (cnn.com)