Murdoch Tape: Scotland Yard Seeks Secret Recording

Rupert Murdoch

The police want to hear the News Corp chairman's remarks that suggest he knew about the practice of bribing public officials.

Scotland Yard detectives are reportedly trying to track down a secret recording of News Corp chairman Rupert Murdoch in which he seems to admit to The Sun journalists that he was aware of the practice of making payments to public officials. A transcript of the recording was published Wednesday by British investigative website ExaroNews.

A police officer has made a formal request to ExaroNews for the tape, saying the police would seek a production order compelling the website to disclose the recording if it failed to do so voluntarily, The Guardian reported. It's also understood that the police have approached the U.K.'s Channel 4, which broadcast a small part of the recordings.

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On the tape, recorded during a meeting with roughly 25 Sun executives and journalists who had been arrested over allegations of illegal news-gathering practices including paying officials for information, Murdoch indicates that the bribing of public officials was widespread across national newspapers in the U.K.

At one point, according to the transcript published by ExaroNews, 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.

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In a statement 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. 

ExaroNews ' editor-in-chief told The Guardian that he had not given any material to Scotland Yard and the force had not made clear what they want or why they want it.

This development is the strongest indication yet that police in London are ready to examine Murdoch's comments in the recording. On Thursday, British politician Tom Watson urged U.S. and U.K. authorities to question the media mogul.