“The most humble day of my life”; News of the Screws Under Scrutiny

Out of fortunate happenstance, I was supposed to be in Devon still today, so had a day’s holiday to spend doing what I liked. Imagine my delight when the Murdochs were given the summons to See You Next Tuesday by the Culture, Media and Sports Select Committee. I got all of my bits and pieces out of the way early on, so that I could settle down in front of the telly with a bowl of popcorn and a bottle of pop!

We went through the warm up act of Stephenson, Yates and Fedorcio were all very interesting, but lets be honest, we were keen to get on to the main act of the day. Personally, I thought that Yates came across very well, seemingly keen to help and he even bought evidence along with him so that he could answer the questions fully. Interestingly, Stephenson and Fedorcio both had an attack of shifting the blame to Yates, which he had no idea about as he was in the waiting room. It was a bit reminiscent of the Apprentice candidates sliming around the boardroom desperate to save their skins. There was a whiff of the lying that was about to come about when Stephenson claimed he wasn’t sure if it was one, two or three days before Rebekah Brooks was arrested that he knew it would happen. This didn’t happen back in 2006, it was last week! How can you have such a memory failure so quickly?

Moving on to the main act, Tom Watson opened up with the questions specifically to Rupert, and not James, Murdoch, which completely wrongfooted the two of them. James was desperate to butt in, but Watson kept telling him it was not his turn yet. Rupert Murdoch seemed like a doddery old man, who was struggling to even hear the questions. Now whilst I understand that he is 80, I do not believe that he knows so little about his own company. They finally allowed James to speak, who quickly told the committee that “News International has a zero tolerance policy of wrongdoing”. Interesting James, but it didn’t seem to stop it happening, did it? It didn’t seem to matter what the Murdochs were asked, collectively or individually, they knew nothing. I suspect that this was more a strategic collective amnesia rather than true ignorance.

At one point, Murdoch Snr claimed that News of the World was just 1% of his business and as such, he had very little knowledge of it’s running. Perhaps this could be the case, but let’s not forget that this is the newspaper that practically pays for The Times/The Sunday Times and it has dominated the UK gutter press for years. Although I can see that it is perfectly understandable that he has no direct say in the day to day decisions, I find it absolutely impossible that neither Dumb or Dumber knew anything about payments of between £600,000 and £1,000,000 to pay off various people. Even if the executives at the News of the World had managed to swindle away the odd million pounds here and another half a million there on a semi-regular basis, I can’t possibly believe that they haven’t seen the £6,000,000 missing off the bottom line at the end of the year. No sensible business person would spot that humongous amount of money missing and not question it. They did not become the great dominating force that they are without picking up on that sort of expenditure, which they could cut. To believe that they knew nothing, even after the event, is an incredibly naieve view and it is just so insulting that they think we might swallow it.

Claims were being bandied around Twitter today that Murdoch would call NOTW execs up to three times a day chasing stories, so it seems incredibly hard to believe his account that he would give the editor a call once a month just to check that everything was tickety boo. Again, is this the working of a hard nosed media mogul? I can understand them not knowing every answer, but they must have known what was likely to crop up and not to even be able to answer simple questions about their accounts was ridiculous. They could’t tell the committee whether Mulcaire’s fees were still being paid by them or whether these people that were paid off were made to sign a confidentiality clause. Their “collective ignorance” cannot have worked because it seemed so insanely obvious. It was laughable how stubbornly the Murdoch’s clung to their “I know nothing, I’m from Barcelona” routine. But then this double act of Dumb and Dumber was shattered when either Sooty or Sweep, (I couldn’t see which…) broke in and threw a custard pie at Daddy Murdoch, just between asking to have the question repeated and complimenting the committee, in order to create a bit of thinking time.

All this idiot has done, by doing this, is stop the public from being able to watch the committee freely and turn Murdoch from being a hard nosed media mogul to a frail 80 year old man, who needed sympathy and looking after. He failed completely in his mission because he turned his target into a martyr. Thankfully, they convinced the Murdochs to come back into the committee and continue answering questions. It carried on very much in the same vein, but a real highlight, or more to the point a lowlight, was when Murdoch Snr had to remind Murdoch Jnr of Milly Dowler’s name during the answer to one question. I mean to forget someones name in bed is pretty mortifying for all involved, but to forget the name of the murder victim whose phone you have hacked and voicemails you’ve deleted is just completely unforgivable.

The final question put to Rupert Murdoch was “has he considered resigning?” to which he replied “no.” Essentially, he said that everyone that he trusted had let him, and his son, down and essentially it was nothing to do with them. They were just going to fix the problem. (Honest, guv.)

So if it isn’t the fault of the Murdochs and they, as majority owners of the business, knew nothing about it. Let’s move down the ladder and talk to a chief executive, who was the editor of the paper for most of the time that these problems were occuring.

Enter Medusa, the lady whose hair is made up with a wild tangle of snakes. Worryingly I found watching Rebekah Brooks answering questions a lot easier on my blood pressure than the Murdochs. She had two methods of answering the committee. Number one; I’m under arrest and this is the subject of a police investigation, so whilst I’d love to help I can’t. Number two; I had absolutely no idea it was happening. I could talk for another thousand words about how I don’t understand how the editor didn’t know that the newspaper was paying people for their silence to the sum of millions of pounds or that the sources for their scoops weren’t always totally above board, but I sense you’ve got the message by now.

The point we really knew that she was a liar was when she (along with both Murdochs) claimed not to know about the Milly Dowler case until ten days ago. Well that’s really interesting because even Hugh Grant knew about the Dowler case in April. Even if Brooks didn’t know about it before then, someone must have bought it to her attention then. Brooks’ answers were totally and utterly shocking and a repeat of her appearance before a similar committee years before.

So to sum up, none of the three highest paid individuals at News International knew anything or take any responsibility for anything that has happened for the last ten years. Smell a rat? I smell three, at least.