Guardian editor tells Leveson abuses 'would not have happened without industry dominance of News Corporation'

Posted: July 24, 2012 at 5:36 pm

Many of the abuses of press power heard at the Leveson Inquiry would not have happened without the industry dominance of News Corporation, the editor of the Guardian has said.

Alan Rusbridger – who stood up in court today to deliver the closing submission of publisher Guardian News & Media Limited – said the Murdoch-owned News Corp “famously” used its influence to outbid and destroy competitors and told the inquiry there had been many documented allegations of law-breaking by the company.

He said he and Nick Davies – the Guardian reporter responsible for breaking the Milly Dowler phone hacking story – had come across many people who lived in fear of “one particular newspaper company”.

He added: “Many people in different walks of life believed it was a good thing to keep in with this company and a bad thing to fall out with it. It is now beyond doubt [that] was a reasonable belief.”

Rusbridger urged Lord Justice Leveson to include something on plurality and the effect on dominant media power in his final report. He later praised the inquiry for “shining a light in the dark places” and mirroring investigative journalism “at its best”.

He said the publisher would support the proposal of Lord Black – chairman of the Press Standards Board of Finance – for a new regulator but opposed serving editors sitting on the board, as they do in the current Press Complaints Commission.

News International: tabloid press must be allowed to “entertain and amuse”

The tabloid press must be allowed to entertain and amuse readers, a lawyer acting for News International has said.

Rhodri Davies QC said today in his closing submission the future of a vibrant press relies on the tabloids, and the profit brought in by popular newspapers.

He said: “That popular press must be allowed the scope to entertain and amuse as well as to educate and inform. It is as well to remember that the right to freedom of expression articulated by Article 10 is a right not only to impart information and ideas but also to receive them.

“When the public buy newspapers they are exercising their article 10 rights to receive information and ideas, and most of them choose to exercise those rights by buying the popular papers rather than the broadsheets.”

Davies said News International – parent company of the Sun and now defunct News of the World – recognised phone hacking at the News of the World was “profoundly wrong” but argued the paper had been largely successful during its run.

He said: “It is extremely difficult to balance the emotional impact of live evidence in this room against the dry intellectual knowledge that the majority of those 7,000 editions [of the News of the World] over 20 years never gave rise to any serious complaint but did inform and entertain millions of readers everyday.”

Davies responded to evidence suggesting senior officers at the Metropolitan Police had acted improperly over the decision to close the 2006 phone hacking investigation, saying it was due to an increased terrorist threat rather than collusion with News International staff. He said evidence given by Rupert Murdoch and others proved the proprietor had not entered into any deals with politicians for “personal or commercial benefits”.

News International have also denied any deal making with culture secretary Jeremy Hunt over the BSkyB bid. Davies said News Corp lobbyist Frederic Michel rejected claims made to the inquiry by Norman Lamb MP, who said Michel had threatened the Liberal Democrats with bad press coverage if business secretary Vince Cable – in charge of the bid until late 2010 – referred the bid to regulator Ofcom.

Davies said: “[Michel] make its quite clear that did not set out to make any threats to Mr Lamb, and if Mr Lamb thought he was being threatened, then that can only be a misunderstanding which has unfortunately festered until very recently.”

“We would also point out that although Dr Cable did indeed refer to the bid to Ofcom, not too long after Mr Michel’s meeting with Mr Lamb, there is no suggestion that coverage by any News Interntional titles of the Lib Dems then upon turned nasty.”

He added: “Whatever the regulatory solution may be, lessons have been learned here. Such statements are often met with a lift of the eyebrows, but you heard yesterday from deputy assistant commissioner Akers of the cooperation given by the MSC to the Metropolitan Police of the instance where the MSC has carried out investigations which have not been asked for by the police and that the senior management and corporate approach now is to assist and come clean.

“Despite what [the victims’ barrister] Mr Sherborne said this morning, it is a culture of clean-up which is now in place.

“One may add to those consideration the sober reflection that the News of the World, a 168-year-old paper, has been felled. The electronic cupboards have been stripped bare. There have been a lot of arrests and a host of civil claims. These are lessons that are too severe to be forgotten and News International is determined not to have to learn them twice.”

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  1. Michael Pincott

    To the Hacked Off folks.

    We, the people, need a fully free press to police those who would deceive us. Such people make up part of the establishment, the civil service, the MPs, the police, the celebs. and other self regarding types who would present a face of perfection whilst keeping their dark side very secret. All the time these folk are directly or indirectly being paid by the public by way of taxes, subscriptions, fees, purchases etc. This gives the public the right to know all about how such people behave as well as their organisations’ activities.

    A simple example of the duplicity of some of our respected celebs. is the behaviour of Hugh Grant. He presents himself as a patriotic English gentleman yet was reported by our free press curb crawling in LA and when caught by a Cop. became stroppy, was arrested and then found his mug-shot published. If we did not have a free press such news could never have appeared. The man is tarnished and having him in your group reduces the credibility of your organisation. Another individual who fussed about being exposed was the F1 boss at the time, Mosley, who then had the cheek to claim £60,000 in compensation because the press had spiced up his wrongdoing. There should never be payment from the press, only apology and that’s what I would expect if I were a victim because of a press mistake.

    You make much of the Milly Dowler case which shocked us all. This was a big mistake by a news seeker who went way over the top and he paid the price for his error, and he was reported on by the press. We heard howls for revenge by the left and anti Murdoch brigade against Rebecca Brooks and others only to have their cases dismissed by the courts.

    The hysteria of “Hacked Off” and the left against Murdoch looked pathetic at the time and still does, they forget that Murdoch and Eddy Shah with others sent the ridiculous Print Unions packing and for that we owe them our gratitude.

    We, the people, say to “Hacked Off” stop your nonsense, accept a fully free press and tell the precious people who do not want to be exposed to grow up.

  2. John Harris

    And now, Rebecca Brooks is back at the Sun. Maybe it’s another Murdoch joke like the one about no more Page 3 girls and won’t actually happen.