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Update: In an additional statement on Wednesday, News Corp denied that Murdoch was aware of any bribery. “Mr. Murdoch never knew of payments made by Sun staff to police before News Corporation disclosed that to U.K. authorities. Furthermore, he never said he knew of payments. It’s absolutely false to suggest otherwise,” the statement reads.
News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch indicated in a secretly recorded meeting that he knew his journalists were bribing public officials, according to a report on ExaroNews, an investigative website based in the U.K.
During a meeting on March 6 at News U.K.’s headquarters in London, Murdoch met with roughly 25 executives and reporters from The Sun, who had been arrested by detectives over allegations of illegal news-gathering practices, including paying police officers and other public officials for information, according to the transcript. Among those at the meeting were Sun editor Dominic Mohan, recently promoted to a News Corp chief executive advisory role, and News U.K. chief executive Mike Darcey.
The arrested Sun staffers were reportedly furious that the company had supplied internal communications that betrayed confidential sources to the police and saw themselves as scapegoats. Some reporters even went so far as to set up digital recorders to tape the meeting, Exaro claims.
In the meeting, Murdoch indicates that the bribing of public officials was widespread across national newspapers in the U.K.
At one point, according to the transcript, Murdoch says, “We’re talking about payments for news tips from cops; that’s been going on a hundred years, absolutely. You didn’t instigate it.”
Later, Murdoch hints that he was aware of bribery at the now-shuttered tabloid News of the World, which closed two years ago in the wake of a phone-hacking scandal, adding that it was the culture of Fleet Street.
Murdoch recounted, “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 Saturday night for powerful friends. And sometimes the chairman is doing badly at the tables and he helps himself.’ ”
That chairman was the late Sir William Carr, who was in charge before Murdoch took over in 1969, Exaro reports.
There’s also a discussion of News Corp’s internal management and standards committee (MSC), which both Sun staffers and Murdoch are upset about, with the News Corp chairman saying setting up the MSC was a “mistake.”
Murdoch also rails against the police, judges and other authorities, saying that his newspaper group has been “picked on.”
But he also expresses a lot of support for Sun reporters who are concerned about their futures after being arrested.
“I will promise you continued health support,” he says. “But your jobs … I’ve got to be careful what comes out — but frankly, I won’t say it, but just trust me. Okay?”
Murdoch also reveals his succession plan, saying that if he’s “not here,” decisions would be made by his son, Lachlan, or new News Corp CEO Robert Thomson.
“And you don’t have any worries about either of them,” he adds to the Sun staffers.
Exaro published a full transcript of the exchanges between Murdoch and his staff, redacting a few passages for legal reasons.
In a statement, News Corp said “No other company has done as much to identify what went wrong, compensate the victims, and ensure the same mistakes do not happen again. The unprecedented cooperation granted by News Corp was agreed unanimously by senior management and the board, and the [internal management and standards committee] continues to cooperate under the supervision of the courts. Rupert Murdoch has shown understandable empathy with the staff and families affected and will assume they are innocent until and unless proven guilty.”
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