1. ITV Report

Murdoch's testimony to the Leveson Inquiry

  • Murdoch says he has "never asked a PM for anything"
  • Admitted editorial interference in The Sun, but not other newspapers
  • Phone-hacking is "lazy" and he regrets not investigating it sooner
  • Gordon Brown "declared war" on News International after losing its support
  • Denied that endorsements are in exchange for commercial advantages

Rupert Murdoch - the CEO of News Corporation - stood before the Leveson Inquiry today to answer wide-ranging questions about the way he runs his businesses, his meetings with political leaders and his editorial influence on his newspapers.

From left: former Prime Minister Tony Blair, former Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Prime Minister David Cameron

His testimony spanned his relationship with Margaret Thatcher in the early 1980s to a meeting with Prime Minister David Cameron on his daughter's yacht in 2007 and the BSkyB takeover bid.

Whilst Mr Murdoch admitted that he has exerted influence on some of his newspapers' coverage of major issues, he repeatedly insisted that he has never used his power in the media as a bargaining chip to gain political or commercial advantages.

UK Editor Keir Simmons reports on Rupert Murdoch's first day of evidence at the Leveson Inquiry.

When asked about his management style, he said that there has always been "a great deal of decentralisation" is his businesses, and he denied the assertion that he ruled with "charismatic authority".

Robert Jay QC asked Mr Murdoch to respond to the statement that he "excercises editorial control on major issues like which party to back in a general election or policy on Europe".

Mr Murdoch replied that he had never sought to influence the editorial policy at the Times or the Sunday Times, but that the statement did hold for The Sun and to a lesser extent the News of the World. He said:

I'm a curious person who's interested in the great issues of the day and I'm not good at holding my tongue.

He added as an aside that: "I never much interfered with the News of the World I'm sorry to say".

Asked about his relationship with Margaret Thatcher, Mr Murdoch described himself as a "great admirer". He said that he had discussed his takeover bid for the Times with Mrs Thatcher during a meeting at Chequers in January 1981, but that it was "quite appropriate".

He also said that he had been impressed with Tony Blair and that he met him two or three times a year, but that he never asked him for anything.

"It's not as though there was a constant approach or daily text messages as happened with some newspapers," he said. "We had no such relationship."

Rupert Murdoch (L) and former Prime Minister Tony Blair depart a news conference in Washington April 2008 Credit: REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

My Murdoch also admitted that Gordon Brown phoned him soon after losing The Sun's endorsement ahead of the 2010 election.

He said that Mr Brown told him: "Your company has declared war on my government and we have no alternative but to make war on your company."

Mr Brown has described the account as "wholly wrong".

Although the subject of phone-hacking was not covered in detail, Mr Murdoch did say that he does "not approve" of phone hacking and he called the practice "lazy".

His witness statement, published on the Leveson Inquiry website, reads:

As my son James said, it is to our great regret that the company’s statements on this issue proved to be wrong and that in hindsight our response to these allegations in 2009-2010 was slow and insufficient. Rather than rely either on the allegations in the Guardian or on the statements by the police, we should have conducted our own thorough investigation.

Mr Murdoch will appear before the Leveson Inquiry again at 10am tomorrow morning.

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