Just in case you haven’t heard, the UK’s Commons Committee on Culture, Media and Sport has managed to corral three of the key executives that were leading News Corporation, and its UK newspaper subsidiary News International, during one of the bigger scandals — full of illegal activities and corridors-of-power-intrigue — alleged to have occurred in the history of British media.
Getting Rupert Murdoch, CEO and chairman of News Corp (NSDQ: NWS). James, his son and deputy COO; and Rebekah Brooks, the now ex-chief executive of News International, to agree to appear today is a big deal. But now the focus is on what questions the MPs will ask, and how those three will answer that interrogation. (Links for watching below the break.)
In the face of what is sure to be strong and emotional questioning, the three of them will have been well-rehearsed to reveal as very little as possible, yet in the most credible manner possible.
Brooks has already left her role, but has a future career and potential criminal investigations to consider.
Meanwhile, the sentiment from many observers has been that the Murdochs will essentially be, in the words of News Corp’s Fox show The X Factor, singing for their lives. The outcome may potentially influence the views of investors and the board of News Corp, who have, according to some reports, already started to line up a succession plan involving Chase Carey.
“Taking the Fifth,” to borrow from the U.S., could result in a stonewall effect for those of us watching the action, leaving us none the wiser. But we could be in for some surprises, if the MPs have done their homework and manage to work in some lines of argument that catch the Murdochs and Brooks off guard.
Here is a selection of questions that we might see asked, taken from a list created by the Guardian journalist Nick Davies, who originally broke the hacking story two weeks ago:
For Rupert Murdoch:
— Several public disclosures have been made by News Corp executives related to illegal practices — for example Rebekah Brooks telling MPs that her publication did pay police for information. Did you ever ask about these disclosures? And if so why didn’t you act on it? If not, why not?
For James Murdoch:
— Why is News International paying for private detective Mulcaire to appeal against a court ruling that he should answer questions about the hacking he did for the News of the World?
— Why is News International spending millions of pounds settling the civil actions being brought by public figures before evidence can be used in open court? Why not allow the facts to be disclosed in the public domain before settling?
— There will also be a lot of scrutiny of how much James really did or did not know about the details of the many cases in question. In Davies words: Why did James not make any attempt to go back to parliament, to the Press Complaints Commission and the public to warn them that the company’s previous statements were false?
For Rebekah Brooks:
— When you were editor, did you know of any of the payments being made to investigators, and did you at any point question them?
— What did you do when Scotland Yard approached you with allegations that one of your editors was commissioning people to spy on the people investigating a murder case?
— You have said you were unaware of the hacking, but when News of the World published the Milly Dowler stories (when Brooks was editor of it) how did you think the paper obtained that information about private messages?
Watching the proceedings:
At 12:00 pm UK time (video link here) the Home Affairs Committe of the House of Commons will be interrogating members of the Met Police on the phone hacking scandal. Appearing with both Paul Stephenson and John Yates, who resigned from their respective positions as chief and assistant chief of the Metropolitan Police; and Dick Fedorcio, head of public affairs for the Met.
At 2:30 pm UK time (video link here) will be the biggie with the Murdochs and Brooks.