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Rupert Murdoch secretly admits: I knew about bribing officials

Audio file captures media mogul as he makes admission over Sun payments to police

Pic: Monika Flueckiger, WEF
Bugged: Rupert Murdoch, controls News UK, which publishes The Sun
Bugged: Rupert Murdoch, controls News UK, which publishes The Sun

“We’re talking about payments for news tips from cops: that’s been going on a hundred years”

Rupert Murdoch, owner of The Sun

Media mogul Rupert Murdoch indicated in a secretly recorded meeting that he knew for decades that his newspaper journalists were bribing public officials.

Exaro has heard an explosive audio recording in which Murdoch made the comments in a private meeting with a group of his journalists.

In a session lasting around 45 minutes, he met nearly two dozen executives and reporters from The Sun who had been arrested by detectives over allegations of illegal news-gathering practices, including the paying of police officers and other public officials for information.

On the recording, Murdoch appears to admit to his staff that he was aware of the practice of bribing public officials, and to believe it to have been widespread across national newspapers in the UK.

One staffer on the red-top tabloid is heard on the recording saying to him: “Completely oblivious to the fact that the long-term practice of this company to pay public officials was illegal, my job description meant that as a result of that, it came directly through my particular department.”

“You can understand how we all feel that we are effectively being made scapegoats.”

Murdoch replies: “Yeah. And one of these high-priced lawyers would say it’s our fault, but that situation existed at every newspaper in Fleet Street. Long since forgotten. But absolutely.”

“It was the culture of Fleet Street.”

A Sun journalist asks him: “I’m pretty confident that the working practices that I’ve seen here are ones that I’ve inherited, rather than instigated. Would you recognise that all this pre-dates many of our involvement here?”

Murdoch: “We’re talking about payments for news tips from cops: that’s been going on a hundred years, absolutely. You didn’t instigate it.”

The media mogul controls News International, subsidiary of News Corporation and publisher of The Sun, The Times and The Sunday Times. News International – rebranded as News UK last week – also owned the News of the World, but closed the title two years ago in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal.

Murdoch is recorded as saying: “I remember when I first bought the News of the World, the first day I went to the office… and there was a big wall-safe… And I said, ‘What’s that for?’

“And they said, ‘We keep some cash in there.’

“And I said, ‘What for?’

“They said, “Well, sometimes the editor needs some on a Saturday night for powerful friends. And sometimes the chairman is doing badly at the tables, and he helps himself.”

He was referring to the late Sir William Carr, chairman of the newspaper before Murdoch took it over in 1969.

Murdoch also:

  • told the arrested journalists, “just trust me,” when they asked whether they would be given their jobs back;
  • railed against “incompetent” police, and complained about judges;
  • said that the company, through its management and standards committee (MSC), had not supplied the police with any documents “for months” for their investigations.

The journalists were accompanied by Deidre Sanders, The Sun’s agony aunt, who read out a letter to Murdoch from the wife of one of the newspaper’s executives.

The letter recounts how the executive and his wife felt “betrayed”, “abandoned” and “isolated”.

After Sanders finishes, Murdoch says: “Thank you very much. That’s very moving… I’ll go and shove it down the throat of the company lawyers. That was the most ups-”

He is interrupted by the sobbing of the executive concerned.

“It’s a very, very moving letter,” says Murdoch.

A spokeswoman for News UK told Exaro in a statement: “It is simply false that Mr Murdoch knew that payments were made to police before News Corporation disclosed that to UK authorities. The MSC continues to co-operate with those authorities, under the supervision of the court”

Exaro today publishes a full transcript of the astonishing exchanges between Murdoch and his staff, redacting a few passages for legal reasons.

The meeting took place in March at News UK’s headquarters in London.

Last month, in a further sign of trouble for Murdoch’s media empire, Exaro revealed that police are investigating allegations that a subsidiary of News Corporation sabotaged Sky TV’s biggest rival.

News UK, publisher of newspapers and books, is to separate from News Corporation, which retains television and movie companies, including Sky TV.

On Exaro tomorrow: listen to Rupert Murdoch speak to Sun staff at the private meeting at News UK’s headquarters in an audio file, lasting more than 13 minutes, that pulls together his key comments.

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