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UK: Rupert Murdoch denies abusing political influence


The Leveson inquiry has heard statement from Rupert Murdoch, the media giant who owns News Corp. and whose newspapers spawned the UK's media ethics inquiry.

Media mogul Robert Murdoch appeared at a media ethics inquiry in London on Wednesday, denying that he had ever used his influence to gain favor with British politicians.

"I have never asked a prime minister for anything," Murdoch said during questioning by Robert Jay, the counsel for the inquiry.

Murdoch was being questioned about his ties to a series of British prime ministers, including former Labour leader Tony Blair, whom Murdoch considers a close personal friend.

Murdoch’s appearance is part of the Leveson inquiry examining the culture, practices and ethics of the media. It comes in the wake of a scandal last year that saw Murdoch's News of the World tabloid come under fire and closed for widespread use of illegal phone hacking to generate exclusive stories.

Prime Minister David Cameron ordered the inquiry but has found himself to be under the microscope as well.

It was revealed in the inquiry that Cameron had, while on a private family vacation in Turkey, gone out of his way to meet with Murdoch on a yacht in Greece.

"I've explained that politicians go out of their way to impress people in the press," Murdoch said regarding the meeting.

Addressing parliament on Wednesday, Cameron admitted that perhaps all parties in Britain had become too close to Murdoch.

"I think on all sides of the House there's a bit of a need for a hand on heart," he said as opposition lawmakers jeered. "We all did too much cosying up to Rupert Murdoch."

Too close for comfort?

Pressure has increased on Cameron after evidence given to the Levenson inquiry on Tuesday by Murdoch's son, James. This seemed to indicate Cameron's culture, media and sport secretary, Jeremy Hunt, was working together with Murdoch's News Corp. as the company sought government approval for a bid to take over complete control of pay TV network BSkyB.

At the time, Hunt had been tasked with assessing the deal for the government's approval.

Addressing parliament on Wednesday, Hunt said that the records "have been alleged to indicate there was a back channel through which News Corp. were able to influence my decisions. This is categorically not the case."

Hunt's assistant, Adam Smith, announced his resignation on Wednesday, saying it was he who had given the impression that Hunt had "too close a relationship" with News Corp. regarding the takeover.

"I appreciate that my activities at times went too far," Smith said.

mz/jm (Reuters, AP, AFP),,15909862,00.html

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