Murdoch Hemmed In By His Own Words
ritish MP Chris Bryant, who himself became the victim of voicemail hacking by reporters for Rupert Murdoch's now defunct Sunday tabloid News of the World, has urged the FBI to launch an investigation into the possibility that Murdoch may have violated the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which bars American companies from bribing foreign officials. Bryant, who won a sizable settlement from News Corp in the hacking scandal, was joined by colleague Tom Watson, who said that he has asked West Virginia Sen. Jay Rockefeller, chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, to ensure that the FBI's investigations are not inhibited in going to the very top. On Thursday it was disclosed that Murdoch, during a meeting with a group of 24 journalists working for his London newspaper The Sun, appeared to admit that he was aware that it was accepted practice -- albeit illegal -- for journalists to pay police and other officials for information. During the meeting with the journalists, all of whom have been arrested on charges of bribing officers, one of them suggested that the company had been completely oblivious to the fact that the long-term practice of this company to pay public officials was illegal and had made the practice part of his job description Murdoch responded, Yeah. And one of these high-priced lawyers would say it's our fault, but that situation existed at every newspaper in Fleet Street [the onetime newspaper district of London]. When another reporter suggested that payments to police had been sanctioned by the paper before they had been hired, Murdoch replied, We're talking about payments for news tips from cops. That's been going on a hundred years, absolutely. Should any top-level official of News Corp be convicted of violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, the company could face revocation of all of its 27 U.S. television licenses. Indeed, there was relatively recent precedent for such action. In 1987, the FCC revoked the licenses of stations owned by RKO General after company officials were convicted of bribing foreign officials.