Leveson Inquiry: British Opposition Leader Says Rupert Murdoch's News International Phone Hacked With 'Sense of Immunity'

10:44 AM PST 06/12/2012 by Stuart Kemp
Peter McDiarmid/Getty Images

Ed Miliband describes pressure from Rebekah Brooks over BskyB bid and says News Corp.'s U.K. Publishing Division wielded too much power.

LONDON -- Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. and its U.K. publishing house News International came under fire Tuesday at the Leveson Inquiry for being too dominant across the British media landscape.

British opposition leader Ed Miliband also told the inquiry -- set up to look into media standards and ethics -- that Murdoch's News Corp. had a sense of "power without responsibility" when it came to the way it managed its newspaper operations.

That, Miliband said, had led to some newspapers under Murdoch's watch – including The Sun, The Times and The Sunday Times – working with what he described as a "sense of immunity" while engaging in practices like phone hacking, which ultimately led to the closure of the tabloid paper News of the World.

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The Labour Party leader said he would like the judicial enquiry to look into limits on newspaper ownership. He said that while 20 percent of the market is fine, more than 30 percent "is worrying."

He added that "plurality" is his aim and that he believes that News International's ownership of 34 percent of the newspaper market is "too much" -- the share of the market News International currently commands following the launch of The Sun on Sunday.

"It's good for our democracy to have plurality in the market," Miliband said, adding that cross-media ownership rules also require updating.

He emphasized that his "aim was not to stifle one particular organization or another" but to foster "plurality and a sense that … one organization does not exercise overweening power."

Earlier the inquiry heard how the former CEO of News International, Rebekah Brooks, telephoned Miliband on the day it emerged that then-Business Secretary Vince Cable said he had declared war on Murdoch's News Corp. bid for BSkyB.

Judge Brian Leveson said it was evident that Brooks was trying to use the Cable incident to leverage "political muscle" for the campaign to get the BSkyB through the regulatory process.

Miliband said he was "quite surprised" by the call because he did not have Brooks' number or "have a particular kind of relationship like that" with her.

He said Brooks expressed her anger over Cable's remarks, but Milliband told Leveson that the conversation was irrelevant because his party had already called for his resignation.

Labour deputy leader and shadow Culture Secretary Harriet Harman appeared at the inquiry after Miliband on Tuesday afternoon.

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