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LONDON – News Corp chairman Rupert Murdoch‘s scheduled trip back to the Media Select Committee of the British parliament’s House of Commons for further questions after the exposure of secretly recorded comments he made about bribes in the British newspaper industry have been put on hold.
His recall to the committee — so the cross-party government reps could ask him to provide further evidence following publication of his taped comments — was shelved after Murdoch lawyers advised him not to appear until all the criminal trials relating to the News of the World and The Sun are over.
According to a report in the Guardian on Thursday, the current court schedule means Murdoch’s return might not be until July of 2014 — and with potential appeals and more trials it could be as late as 2015.
Media select committee chairman John Whittingdale told the British newspaper that his committee received a letter from News Corp setting out legal advice that he had taken, “but at the same time the committee received its own advice that there was a risk that any questions might prejudice the trials. On that basis we have decided not to pursue it at this stage.”
A spokesman for News Corp said its advice was that “there is, to put it at its lowest, a substantial risk that any questions from the committee on the subject you identify would touch on matters relevant to the criminal trial, and a substantial risk that any answers would seriously impede or prejudice the course of justice.”
Murdoch had agreed to appear before the committee when invited in July to answer fresh questions over secret tape recordings of a meeting he had with more than 20 Sun journalists who have been arrested in connection with alleged unlawful payments to police and other public officials for stories.
The first trial related to the activities of News International, which is now renamed News UK, is scheduled to start on Oct. 28 and involves eight defendants, including Rebekah Brooks, the former chief executive of News International, and David Cameron‘s former communications director, and Andy Coulson, who was a former News of the World editor. Brooks and Coulson have pleaded not guilty.
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