Rupert Murdoch says media influence just a myth

By James Cusick

Rupert Murdoch, one of the world's most powerful and influential media bosses, came to the Leveson Inquiry with one objective: to bust the myth that his power gave him any influence.

An over-powerful Murdoch kingdom with subjects falling on their knees to deliver his every wish was the creation of his competitors, he said.

If politicians went out of their way to impress him, they were, he suggested, wasting their expenses. In testimony that sounded over-rehearsed and peppered with legally tutored phrases like "I neither sought to discuss", "I did not recall" and "I did not ask", Murdoch portrayed himself as democracy's servant and delivered a history lesson that contradicted most published accounts of his commercial and political enterprises.

Gordon Brown

There were a lot of things Murdoch couldn't recall or remember, but he remembered the "outstanding" occasion on which he met J K Rowling at Chequers in June 2008 when he was the guest of Gordon and Sarah Brown.

Murdoch claimed he had made a "personal connection" with Brown, the two of them spending time discussing their family links to "a long line" of Presbyterian ministers.

In September 2009 Murdoch said that Brown "declared war" on his company in a phone call to the proprietor. "I don't think he was in a very balanced state of mind," Murdoch said.

Brown said yesterday that Murdoch's account was "wholly wrong" and demanded he retract his account.

Tony Blair

When Blair was elected Labour leader in 2004, Murdoch is recorded as saying he could "imagine backing" him. Within a short period, Blair was a favourite to become the next prime minister. A private dinner between the two at the smart Mossiman's restaurant was recalled by Andrew Neil - but Murdoch said yesterday that he couldn't remember.

Blair was apparently keen to tell Murdoch that under New Labour there would be "no onerous media ownership rules". That would have sounded like sweet music to Murdoch. But he said: "I have no memory of that ... in 10 years of his power, I never asked Mr Blair for anything. Nor indeed did I receive any favours."

He claimed to have met Blair only two or three times a year. The Iraq war and the controversies that followed Blair's decision to by-pass the United Nations and side with the regime of George Bush was never discussed in their meetings. "I don't think Mr Blair would come to me for advice on a matter like that", adding "I mean he's surely above talking to a press proprietor about his foreign relations".

David Cameron

Cameron first entered the Murdoch radar, Murdoch said, during one or two "family picnics at weekends at my daughter's house in the grounds of Blenheim Castle ... we were overrun by children, there were no politics".

For those reading too much into the switch from New Labour to Cameron's rebranded Tories, Murdoch said: "You keep inferring that endorsements were motivated by business motives, and if that had been the case, we would have endorsed the Tory Party in every election. It was always more pro-business."

So there were no discussions with Cameron on the BBC, nothing on Ofcom, nothing on his appointment of the ex-News of the World editor, Andy Coulson, as director of communications. "No."

Cameron interrupted his family holiday in Turkey in 2008 to fly to Santorini on Murdoch's son-in-law's plane and stayed on his daughter's yacht for a meeting with Murdoch, but the significance of their one-to-one discussions was dismissed by Murdoch yesterday. "I think I've explained that politicians go out of their way to impress people in the press, and I don't remember discussing any heavy political things with him at all."

Privacy

Weeks and months have been taken up by the Leveson Inquiry examining the definition and nature of privacy. For key lawyers at the core of the inquiry, privacy is their business.

Murdoch however revealed his own views on privacy - which may have made its way into the judgment of his editors.

"I think people in public positions have public responsibilities, and I'll even include press proprietors in that. I don't think they're entitled to the same privacy as the ordinary men in the street. If we're going to have a transparent society, a transparent democracy, let's have everything out in the open."

- Independent

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n3 at 21 Sep 2014 02:46:04 Processing Time: 489ms