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Murdoch bully-boy tactics revealed at Leveson Inquiry

12 June 2012

The aggressive influence of Rupert Murdoch has been laid bare by the Leveson Inquiry. The NUJ has called it a shocking indictment of how the media mogul has attempted to use his influence to undermine British democracy and triumphantly pitch his commercial interests against the BBC.

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said:

"Sir John Major's testimony showed how Rupert Murdoch believed his ownership of a large part of the UK media landscape gave him the gall to believe that he could threaten the UK's prime minister, by saying he would withdraw the support of his newspapers unless Sir John changed his policy on the UK's membership of the EU.
"However, the NUJ is equally concerned about the unrivalled access that his son had in bending the most influential ears in the UK on his views of the BBC. James Murdoch was able to go right to the heart of the Tory-led coalition in meetings and cosy dinner parties with George Osborne and David Cameron to reiterate his aggressive stance against the BBC, outlined in his MacTaggart lecture, when he launched a scathing attack on the corporation, accusing it of a 'land grab' in a beleaguered media market."

The NUJ is campaigning against the 20 per cent cuts to the BBC, which are a result of the secret deal between Mark Thompson, the out-going director general, and Jeremy Hunt, the Culture Secretary, to freeze the BBC licence until 2017. Jeremy Hunt was given the job of adjudicating on the Murdoch BskyB bid despite being known, in the words of Robert Jay QC, counsel to the Leveson Inquiry, as being a "cheerleader" for the Murdochs.

It was Jeremy Hunt's job to scutinise the £8 billion bid by News Corp to buy the 61 per cent share of BSkyB that it did not already own. The deal was dropped following the scandal of the phone hacking of the mobile phone of Milly Dowler.

Sir John said that he believed that Murdoch's media influence had "lowered the tone". He said in his evidence:

"I think the sheer scale of the influence he is believed to have whether he exercises it or not, is an unattractive facet in British national life, and it does seem to me an oddity that in a nation which prides itself on one man, one vote, we should have one man, who can't vote, with a large collection of newspapers and a large share of the electronic media outlets."

Gordon Brown's evidence also outlined the aggressive stance of James Murdoch against the BBC. He described the MacTaggart lecture as "breathtaking in its arrogance and ambition".

George Osborne, the Chancellor, admitted to numerous meetings with the Murdochs and members of News Corp. He told Leveson that he had had discussions with James Murdoch on the BBC licence fee and was briefed on his antipathy to the state-funded broadcaster.

Michelle Stanistreet said:

"The upshot of the Leveson revelations of the Murdoch influence and stranglehold on the UK's political process is a desperate need for a re-evaluation of the BBC licence deal. This was made behind closed doors and under what we know to be Murdoch-driven pressure. Especially as we now know that Sir Michel Lyons, the BBC Trust's former chairman, who was in on the deal, is on record of saying Jeremy Hunt was 'far too close to Sky'."

Tags: , Leveson, bbc, newspapers, broadcasting, bbc licence fee, rupert murdoch