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Live Blog: James Murdoch Testifies on Phone-Hacking

This is a live blog of the Leveson Inquiry in London, where James and Rupert Murdoch are appearing in front of the inquiry into media ethics in the UK, set up by Prime Minister David Cameron following the phone-hacking scandal plaguing News Corp.

James Murdoch, son of Rupert Murdoch and Chairman and Chief Executive of News Corporation, Europe and Asia.
Miguel Villagran | Getty Images
James Murdoch, son of Rupert Murdoch and Chairman and Chief Executive of News Corporation, Europe and Asia.

They will give evidence in London's Royal Courts of Justice about the links between News International, News Corp’s UK newspaper wing, UK politicians and UK public officials. James is scheduled to appear on Tuesday between 10 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. BST (5:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. New York time).

Rupert’s testimony will take place on Wednesday and Thursday.

All times are British Standard Time.

James is expected to face a number of key questions Tuesday.

Did he know phone hacking went beyond one reporter at the News of the World in 2008? News International legal counsel Tom Crone and News of the World editor Colin Myler said he did. James has told MPs he hadn't read a key email because he was looking after his kids.

Was he part of a "cover-up" at News International? Did he know emails were being deleted?

Was he aware of alleged payments to public officials by reporters at The Sun and the News of the World? This issue could get News Corp in trouble in the U.S.

And did News International exert improper political influence on governments?

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4:15 pm The inquiry has adjourned.

4:04 pm When the subject of media regulation in the post-digital age came up, Murdoch told Leveson that those decisions are "above his pay grade."

3:52 pm Murdoch added that it was a matter of "huge regret" that UK police didn't prosecute more people over phone hacking when it first emerged.

3:41 pm Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt even briefed News Corp about the government's plans for inquiries following the announcement that Milly Dowler's voicemails had been hacked, according to one of the most potentially devastating emails released in evidence.

3:34 pm Emails from Frederic Michel suggest that Hunt gave Murdoch key information about how to get the deal past regulators Ofcom and the Office of Fair Trading.

News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch looks down as he leaves the One Aldwych Hotel surrounded by his personal security team to speak with reporters after meeting with the family of murdered school girl Milly Dowler on July 15, 2011 in London, England.
Getty Images
News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch looks down as he leaves the One Aldwych Hotel surrounded by his personal security team to speak with reporters after meeting with the family of murdered school girl Milly Dowler on July 15, 2011 in London, England.

3:31 pm Murdoch admitted that he wanted Hunt to be aware that delaying the BSkyB deal could be fatal for the bid.

3:22 pm Murdoch denied that he had traded support from The Sun's Scotland edition for Salmond's support for the BSkyB takeover.

3:18 pmAlex Salmond, the man leading the campaign to have Scotland made independent from the UK, could be the next politician in the firing line over links to Murdoch.

3:00 pm Michel used the phrase in an email to James Murdoch, who said that the use of the phrase was a "joke."

2:59 pm There was also the suggestion that Michel thought the dialogue was "absolutely illegal."

2:53 pm The revelations seem not to bode well for Hunt's career. Odds on him becoming the next minister to leave the cabinet were slashed from 20-1 to 5-4 at betting shop Paddy Power on Tuesday as Murdoch's testimony unfolded.

2:46 pm Murdoch argued that emails detailing Hunt's thoughts on the BSkyB deal should be taken with a "grain of salt." "This may have been just coming from his advisor trying to make nice," he said.

"This is a large scale deal that was in the hands of the CMS (Department of Culture, Media and Sports) ... and it was entirely reasonable to try to communicate with the relevant policy makers," Murdoch added.

READ MORE OF THE LIVE BLOG HERE

2:33 pm So far, James Murdoch has been fairly effective at turning the debate away from his own behavior and toward the UK politicians who courted him.

James Murdoch, News Corp.'s chairman for Europe and Asia.
Bloomberg
James Murdoch, News Corp.'s chairman for Europe and Asia.

2:31 pm There were also emails suggesting that Rebekah Brooks called George Osborne to discuss the deal.

2:29 pm Evidence presented by the inquiry suggested that Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt had briefed Frederic Michel, News Corp's senior vice president for government affairs and public policy in Europe, that the government would pass the BSkyB bid despite initial caution from regulator Ofcom.

2:19 pm There have been several accounts today of Murdoch losing his temper and using "colorful" language. That contrasts to his very measured public speaking style—but makes him seem more human.

2:16 pm James Murdoch's testimony resumed with more questioning about Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt's role in the BSkyB takeover. He was asked specifically about an email saying that Hunt didn't want to meet Murdoch after taking legal advice but would speak to him on the phone instead—which questioner Robert Jay suggested meant that they would have "surreptitious" contact.

1:00 pm The inquiry has broken for lunch for one hour. It is slated to recommence at 2:00 p.m. BST (9 a.m. New York time).

12:56 pm Murdoch said angrily that he would never expect "political support one way or another to translate into a minister behaving in an inappropriate way."

12:44 pm There was also a key email which suggested that Business Secretary Vince Cable told News Corp that there "shouldn't be a policy issue" with the BSkyB bid and the government should support it. Mr. Cable stepped down from handling the matter after being recorded by journalists from the Daily Telegraph saying he had "declared war" on Rupert Murdoch.

The meeting happened at the very start of the bidding process. It will again raise questions about whether News Corp had too much access to UK politicians.

Plenty of politicians who will be squirming after Murdoch's testimony, particularly Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt. He assured News Corp that its BSkyB bid would be approved despite suggestions that Mr. Cable was leaning other way. This also shows the divisions in the UK coalition government.

12:28 pm Theswitch in support from the Labour to the Conservative Party was mainly motivated by a lack of resources for UK soldiers in Afghanistan, Murdoch said.

12:24 pm He said "I'm always a direct person" when asked about an incident where he allegedly swore at the editor of The Independent newspaper over an anti-Murdoch article. He said that the incident took place in an office rather than the newsroom of The Independent.

12:15 pm Murdoch said that he wanted to "play with a straight bat" when it came to the relationship between News Corp and politicians

12:05 pm "It's true to say that politicians are eager to get their point across...but I haven't experienced that," he said when quizzed about News Corp's links to UK politicians.

12:03 pm Murdoch was questioned about the relationship between News Corp, the BBC and regulator Ofcom.

He denied that the freezing of the BBC license fee—which he has previously argued is anti-competitive—was "necessarily" good for BSkyB.

11:55 am Murdoch maintained that he did not make the "crass calculation" that support for Cameron by The Sun made it more likely that the BSkyB bid would be passed by government.

READ MORE OF THE LIVE BLOG HERE

11:45 am News Corp abandoned its bid to own all of BSkyB in the wake of the phone hacking scandal—even though it looked likely to be passed by Cameron's government despite worries about News Corp controlling even more of the UK media

James Murdoch, News Corp.'s chairman for Europe and Asia.
Bloomberg
James Murdoch, News Corp.'s chairman for Europe and Asia.

Murdoch said in his statement that he told Cameron The Sun would switch its allegiance in September 2009 over drinks. He also met the then Leader of the Opposition over dinner with Rebekah Brooks, ex-chief executive of News International and wife of Cameron's old friend Charlie.

Cameron famously rode an old police horse lent to Rebekah Brooks while out riding with Charlie Brooks.

Murdoch admitted speaking to Cameron about the BSkyB bid at a pre-Christmas dinner with Cameron at the Brooks home in 2010.

The links between News Corp and UK politicians have been a key focal point of media coverage of the scandal.

11:38 am Murdoch was much more surefooted and in command of the details about BSkyB than News International—probably reflecting that he was much more interested in the television side of the business than the newspapers.

Murdoch was also asked about his relationship with Prime Minister David Cameron. The support of News International's The Sun for Cameron was seen as key to his election success in the UK.

Murdoch maintained that he didn't want to know Cameron's views on matters relating to his company.

11:33 am Recess over, the panel spotlights James Murdoch's role as chairman at BSkyB , and whether pressure was put on government over its ownership of soccer rights.

11:21 am Recess called for 10 minutes.

News Corp.
Unknown
News Corp.

11:18 am Murdoch referred to a "zero sum game" culture at UK newspapers—meaning that they are very tribal (which is true). This helped explain why he believed early Guardian stories about the spread of phone hacking were "smear."

11:12 am Murdoch denied repeatedly that there had been either a failure of governance at News International over phone hacking or a cover-up of the scandal.

11:07 am James Murdoch became slightly flustered under forensic cross-examination about the decision to pay Gordon Taylor, chief executive of the Professional Footballers' Association, £700,000 over alleged hacking of his voicemail. Questioner Jay even gets in a dig about Taylor being "hacked off."

10:51 amRobert Jay, the lawyer questioning Murdoch, returned again and again to the issue of how much Murdoch knew and why he didn't ask to know more.

10:48 am James Murdoch maintained that others at News International didn't point out how widespread phone hacking was. He said this might have been because he would have advocated they "cut out the cancer" by dismissing those involved.

10:40 amLord Justice Leveson, the judge leading the inquiry, intervened in questioning to ask Murdoch why he didn't ask how phone hacking happened and why wasn't it picked up?

Murdoch replied that he had asked editors to look at what had gone wrong and understood that existing internal controls had failed.

He deflected questions about News Corp's political influence.

Asked about the appointment of Sun Editor Dominic Mohan, who moved the newspaper away from the Labour Party toward the Conservative Party, he maintained that he didn't ask about Mohan's political opinions before his appointment. He added that his father Rupert and former chief executive Rebekah Brooks were mainly responsible for this appointment—often thought of as one of the most powerful in UK media.

Brooks was arrested in March.

READ MORE OF THE LIVE BLOG HERE

10:20 am James Murdoch looked relaxed and confident as he sat down to give evidence this morning. He kicked off his testimony with some specifics about his early career.

Murdoch admitted early on that the control systems at News International failed while he was heading the business.

He added that he didn't read the News of the World cover to cover every week and didn't spot stories which could have been obtained illegally.

Murdoch appeared to be shifting the blame to Tom Crone and other lawyers at News International by stating that he hoped having legal managers in every newsroom would have kept the papers on the right track.

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