Rupert Murdoch has been summoned to reappear before the culture, media and sport select committee following remarks he made in relation to police investigations into press abuses.
The news coincided with reports that Scotland Yard may be considering whether the media mogul is open to a charge of conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office on the basis of the conversation he had with Sun journalists, recorded earlier this year.
The developments follow the broadcast of the recordings, first published on Exaro, the news website, by Channel 4 News last week.
In these recordings, Mr Murdoch appears to suggest he was aware of corrupt payments made by reporters. “We’re talking about payments for news tips from cops: that’s been going on 100 years, absolutely. You didn’t instigate it,” he tells the Sun journalists.
News Corp said: “Mr Murdoch welcomes the opportunity to return to the select committee and answer their questions. He looks forward to clearing up any misconceptions as soon as possible.”
Exaro confirmed that, despite its original reticence, it was “arranging to supply the evidence” to detectives in Operation Elveden, which is investigating payments to corrupt officials.
According to a story on the Exaro website on Tuesday, in their negotiations with police, a senior detective from Elveden “made clear that the audio of Murdoch’s comments was relevant to its investigation because it ‘may contain evidence of conspiring to commit misconduct in a public office’ ”.
Cressida Dick, Metropolitan Police assistant commissioner, confirmed on Tuesday that police had sought the recordings. She told the Commons’ home affairs committee: “We are seeking to obtain . . . the tape of the meeting during which Rupert Murdoch appears to have been recorded and we will then assess the full contents of that tape.”
News Corp said last week that he had never known of payments by Sun staff to police until News Corp disclosed them to UK authorities after an internal investigation.
The 82 year-old tycoon last appeared before the CMS select committee in July 2011 when he called the appearance “the most humble day of my life”.
His meek demeanour before MPs contrasts with his more combative stance in the recordings where he criticises the police as “totally incompetent” and describes News Corp’s internal management and standards committee, which co-operated with police investigations, as “a mistake”.
Media commentators thought it unlikely he would appear until October, after the parliamentary recess.
The developments risk refocusing attention on News Corp shortly after the company’s publishing businesses were spun off from its entertainment assets and weeks before trials of former News International journalists and editors begin.
They are also likely to refocus attention on the Conservative party. The phone-hacking scandal still hangs over Downing St and is seen by Tory MPs as one of the political issues that could derail the party’s recent resurgence.
David Cameron’s employment of Andy Coulson, former News of the World editor, as his head of media and his friendship with Rebekah Brooks, former Sun editor, are likely to be put under the spotlight in court cases relating to hacking, expected to begin in September.
Additional reporting by Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson
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