26 Apr 2012

Murdoch denies 'myth' of favours from politicians

8:27 pm on 26 April 2012

Rupert Murdoch has rejected accusations that he used his media empire to play puppet master to a succession of British prime ministers.

The News Corp chairman told a British inquiry into media ethics on Wednesday that he has never asked a prime minister for anything.

The 81-year-old said he wanted to end what he called "the myth" that he'd used the power or influence of one of his British newspapers to gain favourable treatment.

British Prime Minister David Cameron ordered the inquiry into the ethics of the press last July as a result of the News of the World phone-hacking scandal.

He said he had been a great admirer of Margaret Thatcher but less impressed by her successor as prime minister, John Major, whom he could not remember meeting.

He reserved some of his strongest comments for former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, whom he said had been a friend until he threatened to "declare war" on News Corp over the Sun's decision to withdraw its support for the Labour Party.

Later, Mr Brown has denied the claim, saying the allegation was "wholly wrong", the BBC reports. Mr Brown said he did not phone, meet, or write to Mr Murdoch about the Sun's decision to support the Conservatives.

On the current government, Rupert Murdoch said he had not found it strange that Prime Minister David Cameron took time out of his own private holiday to meet him on a yacht off a Greek island in 2008.

"I've explained that politicians go out of their way to impress people in the press," he said. "That's the game."

The media mogul said he regarded former Prime Minister Tony Blair as a personal friend but that in 10 years of his power did not ask him for anything or receive any favours.

Meanwhile, Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt's special adviser Adam Smith has quit after statements by Rupert Murdoch's son James on Tuesday, the BBC says.

While Mr Murdoch denied influencing the editorial stance of his Times papers, he did admit that anyone seeking to understand his opinion should "look at the Sun". "I'm not good at holding my tongue," he added.

James Murdoch revealed details of contacts between Mr Smith and senior figures at News Corp, while the firm was bidding to take control of BSkyB.

But Mr Hunt has rejected calls for him to resign, telling the Commons he had "strictly followed due process" in overseeing the bid.