For those in the US, we have to wonder sometimes if the Leveson Inquiry — the government investigation opened last year into the conduct of press following the discovery of widespread phone hacking by Rupert Murdoch’s now defunct News of the World — is really worth paying attention to. It seems to be dragging on forever, and, wow, that livesteam starts early.
This afternoon, as James Murdoch continued a testimony that had been rather sedate in the morning, he proved it was worth paying attention to. Definitely.
The revelations that have come out today seem to imply that David Cameron’s Conservative government essentially made a deal with Rupert Murdoch’s British newspapers — in return for your wonderfully powerful newspapers’ support, we will let you take over 61% of BSkyB, a television company that would give the Murdoch’s a near-monopoly status in British media.
Murdoch admitted, in his cautiously imprecise manner, that yes, he had discussed the BSkyB takeover with David Cameron in 2010 — just 2 days before Cameron removed Business Secretary Vincent Cable from power over the deal after he was secretly recorded saying he was “at war” with Murdoch.
Cameron, had of course, refused to comment on that in the past.
If that revelation wasn’t enough, Murdoch went on to discuss a huge number of emails that showed a correspondence between advisors to man who replaced Cable in handling the deal, Jeremy Hunt, and the man in charge of his News Corps public affairs in the UK, Frederic Michel.
These emails appear to imply a very close, potentially illegal, secret relationship — with clear talk of “shared intentions”, perhaps-joking references to “illegal” deals, and even a trip to see a boy band in concert together.
Those emails are online and British journalists have spent an entire day picking through them. rumours started before they were even out that Hunt was going to have to resign (at the time of writing he has not).
For the Murdochs, the scandal perhaps couldn’t be working out better. They’re already well out of favour with the British public, and the controversy engulfing the British government delays more questions about their own complicity in phone hacking and the subsequent cover-up..
Indeed, some are beginning to wonder if this is a “scorched earth” tactic — and if so, how far will it go.
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