Questions James Murdoch should answer

The Guardian, April 23 2012

As the Leveson inquiry prepares to take evidence from James Murdoch, these are questions which could be put to him All of them are directed to testing key allegations. References to the activities of James Murdoch should be taken to cover those acting on his behalf.

1. Allegation: that the Sun’s decision to support the Conservatives at the 2010 election was traded for Tory support for the Murdochs on key media policies.

* NewsCorp’s bid to take over all of BSkyB
Did you ever discuss the bid with anybody from the Conservative Party before it was announced in June 2010? Were you given any kind of indication about a future Tory government’s attitude to the bid?

After the bid was announced, did you make any attempt directly or indirectly to influence Vince Cable or Jeremy Hunt, the two Secretaries of State who were responsible for deciding whether the bid should be cleared by regulators?

* Cuts to the BBC’s income
Did you ever in private meetings with anybody from the Conservative Party urge them to cut the BBC’s licence fee and/or to limit its income from commercial activity?

After the election, did any government representative discuss with you any aspect of the October 2010 licence fee settlement which effectively cut the BBC’s income by 16%?

* Cuts to Ofcom
Did you ever in private meetings with anybody from the Conservative Party urge them to cut Ofcom’s income or powers and/or to abolish Ofcom?

Did you have any contact with ministers or officials in relation to the changes announced in October 2010 which reduced Ofcom’s role and cut its budget by 28%?

2. Allegation: that the Sun adopted a politically motived strategy to destabilise Gordon Brown’s government.

Was the Sun’s decision to support the Conservatives in the 2010 election made exclusively by editorial staff, or did you or your father become involved?

Were the Conservatives told of the decision before Sun readers were? Were they aware of the plan to announce the decision on the day of Gordon Brown’s keynote speech to the Labour conference in September 2009? Do you accept that the timing of the announcement had no journalistic justification and was calculated to inflict political damage on the Labour party?

Do you accept that the decision led to unusually hostile and distorted news coverage of Brown and his government? Was it fair of the Sun to attack Brown for misspelling the name of a soldier who had died in Afghanistan and then to record and publish a transcript of his personal call apologising to the soldier’s mother?

Can you explain why the Sun repeatedly attacked the Brown government for failing to hold a referendum over Europe and but failed to attack the Cameron government on the same point? Ditto in relation to the alleged lack of support for British troops in Afghanistan.

3. Allegation: that the former editor of the News of the World, Andy Coulson, acted as a link between NewsCorp and the Conservative leadership.

Were you aware that News International continued to provide Coulson with private healthcare, a car and staggered payments from his severance package after July 2007 when he started work in David Cameron’s office? For how long did these payments continue?

Is it possible that Coulson received any other form of income or benefit from any source with any connection to News Corporation after he left the News of the World?

Apart from normal contact with journalists working on stories, did Coulson facilitate or engage in any form of contact between representatives of NewsCorp and the Conservative leadership a) before the 2010 election and b) afterwards?

4. Allegation: that James Murdoch was aware of illegal activity at the News of the World but failed to warn his shareholders or to ensure that the truth was told to parliament and the public.

You told the select committee that you settled the Gordon Taylor case because you knew there was evidence that the hacking of his phone was ‘connected to the News of the World’ but you did not know that this evidence implicated any journalist from the paper. How could the evidence possibly have implicated the paper without implicating at least one person who had worked for it?

You settled the Taylor case for a total of more than £1m in damages and costs, and yet your father, to whom you spoke regularly, says you never mentioned it to him. Was that because you were afraid of his reaction, because you knew very well that there was evidence of wrongdoing at the News of the World?

Was no suspicion raised in your mind by the public disclosure: in July 2009 by the DPP that he was aware of a far larger number of offences at the News of the World; in February 2010 by the media select committee that they believed it was inconceivable that Clive Goodman had acted alone; in February 2010 by the Guardian that the News of the World had employed four investigators who broke the law; in March 2010 that Rebekah Brooks had authorised the payment of more than £1m to stop a court case by Max Clifford which threatened to implicate News of the World journalists in hacking; in April 2010 by the Guardian that police in 2006 had found evidence of ‘a vast number’ of offences at the paper?

Was your failure to act on this public information in any way connected with a desire not to fall out with the leadership of the Conservative Party which had hired the former editor of the News of the World as its media adviser?