10 Jul 2013

Murdoch secret recording slams hacking inquiry

3:10 pm on 10 July 2013

Media baron Rupert Murdoch says he's prepared to give further evidence to the British parliament as part of an investigation into illegal activities by his company News International.

It follows Mr Murdoch being secretly recorded criticising the police investigation into alleged phone hacking and bribery by his journalists.

Mr Murdoch is heard speaking to staff at the Sun tabloid, saying it has been common practice for decades for journalists to pay police for stories - contradicting his public denials of any such practice.

In July 2011, the Australian-born Mr Murdoch appeared before the Culture, Media and Sport Committee of the House of Commons at the height of the hacking scandal that closed the News of the World tabloid after it emerged the weekly had illegally accessed the voicemails of hundreds of public figures, including a murdered girl, the ABC reports.

The select committee has voted to invite Mr Murdoch to appear before it again after a recording was aired in which he suggested at a meeting with staff earlier this year that the inquiry into phone hacking had been blown out of proportion and that police were incompetent.

Scotland Yard said it would also assess the comments by the 82-year-old News Corporation chief, in which he calls the police probe a "disgrace".

"Here we are, two years later, and the cops are totally incompetent," Mr Murdoch says on the tape. We're talking about payments for news tips from cops: that's been going on a hundred years."

At the height of the hacking scandal, an apologetic Mr Murdoch appeared before the committee to explain what he knew of allegations his journalists had hacked voicemails and bribed the authorities, saying: "This is the most humble day of my life."

A prominent victims' hacking group, Hacked Off, said the committee would need to establish if Mr Murdoch lied when he showed remorse.

A spokeswoman for the scrutiny panel confirmed that it would ask Mr Murdoch to appear again to discuss his comments on the police investigation, adding that it was expected to happen in the (northern) autumn, although no date has been agreed.

As a US citizen, Rupert Murdoch does not have to return to Britain to face the committee, but News Corporation has issued a statement saying he "welcomes the opportunity to return".

More than 20 Sun journalists have now been arrested, including former editor Rebekah Brooks, executive editor Fergus Shanahan, deputy editor Geoff Webster and chief reporter John Kay.