Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Crisis at News Corp - Bloomberg TV Interview Transcript

Here is the Bloomberg transcript of my TV interview with them broadcast on Tuesday, February 14, 2012.
I aim to be balanced and fair at all times so the criticisms I do have of News Int and News Corp will carry greater resonance. I hope I achieved that.
All comments will be published unless libellous, defamatory or abusive. Career anti-Murdoch ranters will only be published if you argue intelligently!

Clip one:

Andrea Catherwood: “If I can take you back to the day the Guardian newspaper broke the story that the Gordon Taylor privacy action had actually been settled – and at that point it became clear that there was a transcript of the ‘For Neville’ email which has now become quite famous, and which showed, or appeared to show, that you yourself actually knew about phone hacking. What did you do? How did you feel? What happened next?”

Neville Thurlbeck: “I was told that the Editor wanted to see me. Tom Crone, the lawyer, said ‘the Editor wants to see you in about three minutes, and you’re going to be made an offer to go, because of this For Neville email’.
I was stunned. Five minutes later I was before the Editor, explaining to him exactly how this transcript had come about.”

AC: “This was a transcript of a hacked voicemail message?”

NT: “Correct. Voicemail messages. Many. I think 35. And I explained and provided evidence to show that another person, and eventually other people, in the company were to blame.”

AC: “So you knew they were hacking phones at the stage?”

NT: “I found out that there were other people – and the lawyer was aware of this – that there were other people involved in the hacking of Gordon Taylor’s telephone”

AC: “And you name names at that point?”

NT: “ I did. And I supplied further evidence down the line last year as well, in the form of a dossier”

AC: “How was that information treated? Were you believed?”

NT: “That’s a very good question. I was three minutes away from the sack.
Then when I provided the evidence, I wasn’t sacked. I was kept on for another two and a half years, and that was because I’d provided them the evidence that exonerated me.”

AC: “So at that point you’re saying the Execs at News International – certainly your Editor – had the name or names of individuals who had hacked phones?”

NT: “They did”

AC: “And what did they do with that information?”

NT: “They said leave it with us. Nothing happened. I expected them to pass that information up the chain to Rebekah Brooks and James Murdoch. What appears to have happened is they’ve given him a certain amount of information, in as much as they’ve given James Murdoch the information about Gordon Taylor’s phone being hacked. But what they failed to give him was my evidence of who hacked the telephone, which was crucial, because if the matter had been dealt with then and the person or people responsible had been routed out, then the rogue reporter defence would have been exploded, but with that explosion there would have been no media campaign to have another police investigation, there would have been no operation Weeting, there would have been no clamour from parliament, no Leveson,  and I think we’d still have the NOTW being published to this day.”

AC: “You said the company were trying to contain the situation – just how far up the company do you believe that this went?”

NT: “I think it was the newspaper, the NOTW, that were trying to contain this. I think James Murdoch was only given a limited view as to what was happening regarding the Gordon Taylor situation. Clearly James Murdoch had sight, or had knowledge, or was given knowledge, that these voicemails had been hacked…”

AC: “Therefore he knew it wasn’t a rogue reporter, because that reporter, Clive Goodman, who was the Royal Editor, was not involved in this…”

NT: “What James Murdoch wasn’t given was my evidence as to who had done

AC: “Do you know he wasn’t given that, or is it just what you suspect?”

NT: “If James Murdoch had known who had done this, he would have taken action, there’s no question he would have to have taken action”

AC: “I have to ask you for the name of that person”

NT: “I can’t give you that. That’s up to Operation Weeting to establish. It would be unfair and wrong of me to start naming any names. In fact, I haven’t named any names to the police”

Clip Two:
Andrea Catherwood: "Talking about James Murdoch's involvement, because there was actually an email that was sent to him, which we now know which said 'it's unfortunately as bad as we feared' there is in fact a mention of a "nightmare scenario" and this is regarding the 'for Neville' email and this is the reason why there was a very generous settlement to Gordon Taylor of 1.4 million dollars. At that point James Murdoch's defence said he didn't read the email. Does that sound plausible to you from what you know of the man?

"Neville Thurlbeck: "We've all done that haven't we? It's just unfortunate he had to do it on such a critical email.  How many times have we received a long sequence of emails on our BlackBerries or our iPhones and scrolled down and thought I'll deal with that later, it's a Saturday and we haven't done it."

AC: "How many times do you settle for 1.4 million dollars claim without reading down the email?"

NT: "It wasn't James Murdoch's finest day, that Saturday. That much is clear."

AC: "He also replied to the email saying give me a call at home that perhaps saying give me a call at home means he was concerned."

NT: "I'm sure he was concerned but whether he got his teeth into the detail of it I don't know. Clearly he didn't. He says he didn't. I mean it was very remiss of him. But do I believe him? We've all been there."

AC: "Do you believe him?"

NT: "I do."

Clip Three:

AC: "I'd like to ask you a little bit about Rupert Murdoch. How well do you know the man and how well did you get a sense of him? He was very proud of the News of the World wasn't he?"

NT: "He was very proud of all his newspapers. Rupert Murdoch was in psychological terms  what you would call a charismatic leader. He didn't have to be there to lead. We all knew what Rupert wanted. In fact, the expression you would hear when important decisions were being made on stories or policy or whatever would be "what would Rupert think or what would Rupert do about this. What would he want us to do?" He was always there even when he was absent. And the very best leaders have this quality and he had it in abundance. I'm talking about late 80s now, early 90s right up until he became involved with Sky. And then there was a tangible sort of distance between Rupert and his newspapers. He wasn't as hands on and I've heard editors say it would go three or four months without hearing from Rupert Murdoch which was highly unusual but his interests lay elsewhere gradually and I think his charismatic leadership qualities as well kind of evaporated with that distance."

Clip Four:

AC: "When we look at the Sun journalists that have recently been arrested, they are being arrested for similar types of allegations and yet the
management is extremely different to the one you've just described. In fact it's the executives themselves the actual company themselves that are giving over the information to the police. It's changed a lot."

NT: "It's changed an awful lot. There's a very good reason for that. Rupert Murdoch's main priority now is to protect his American assets. So all the assets that come under the umbrella of news corporation in New York have to be protected at all costs. They are now facing the serious prospect of a prosecution in the United States under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
Now that's a very serious prosecution."

AC: "This is a situation where any company based in American can actually be prosecuted in the United States…"

NT"…for wrongdoing in England. Yes.  So what could happen there is you could have tens of millions of pounds worth of fines but the jailing of very senior members of the company perhaps also, heaven forbid, his family. Now if that happens, that's a tragedy and a catastrophe for the Murdoch family."

Clip Five:

AC asks about payment to police, contacts and prison officers…

NT: "What I am told is the police investigation into the Sun is involving things like £50 lunches with police officers. This is being dragged up during interview. People's expenses sheets. Lunch with officers. You know, if journalists are going to be arrested at dawn and dragged out of their beds and have their houses searched and the floorboards pulled up for having lunches with officers and if they are then going to be suspended or fired or prosecuted because of it, well every newspaper in Fleet Street might as well close up shop now because every newspaper on Fleet Street worth its salt as some point in its career will be taking a police officer, the more senior the better, out for lunch to get information. You know in the course of conversation the symbiotic relationship between press and police has been going on for a century and a half."

Clip 6

AC: "Do you believe that the setting up of the management and standards committee was to try and mitigate any potential prosecutions within the US under this particular act that allows prosecution for bribery elsewhere?"

NT: "It's two fold. It's the American problem but it's also the BSKYB problem. Now that is his holy grail. Understandably so. That is where the massive profits are being made and that's where his business future lies in England. Now that's been denied him. He's got to prove he's a fit and proper person to hold his existing licence let alone increase his shareholding. In order to do that again the management and standards committee is a way of washing his face but the problem is, and this is a big problem. The problem is by doing that, he is likely to cause irreparable damage to the newspapers that he so cherishes and he's also going to cause irreparable damage to the careers of these fantastic journalist."

Clip 7

AC: “Is the feeling at the Sun that there will be more arrests?”

NT:"Yes. There is a fear that this is only the beginning”

AC: “What’s the mood there? There must be a lot of anger?”

NT: “There’s huge anger. Remember, before the arrests, on the Sun newsroom floor, there was huge pride – I can’t tell you how proud those journalists are to be working for the Sun newspaper. I know journalists that left the Sun 15 years ago, and they still say how proud they were to work for that paper. The tragedy is that pride has been converted to anger, literally overnight. That pride has really been converted into fierce fierce anger.
What they’ve said is we’re not going on strike yet, but they haven’t ruled out simply downing tools and walking out. That’s been discussed amongst many members of staff.”
Clip 8:
AC: "Do you think that Rupert Murdoch would sell the Sun?"
NT: "Yes. I think he would if he thought it was infecting his News Corporation over in America. I think he would sell it tomorrow if that was a real danger."
AC: "He would sell it to prevent the contagion spreading to the US?"
NT: "There is no question about it. It's a tiny part of his empire. He has huge sentimental attachment to his newspapers."

Clip 9:
AC: “Do you think that Rupert Murdoch is a fit and proper person to run a British newspaper?
NT: (Long pause). “Yes, I would. The reason for my hesitation is he’s a man who makes few mistakes, but he’s made a big one on the Management and Standards Committee. But that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s an unfit person to run a newspaper – he’s made a big mistake, that’s all I’m saying. Rupert Murdoch has newspapers in his blood. He knows more about newspapers – how they work, how to make them successful, how to make them profitable, how to make them national institutions, than any other news man in the world. He’s fit and proper alright, but he’s made a mistake with this Committee.
AC: “And is James Murdoch a fit and proper person to run a British newspaper and indeed to have interests in BSkyB?”
NT: “He’s as fit as anybody, but again he’s not without making errors.”

Clip 10:
AC: “Mark Lewis, who has become a very well known lawyer for those whose voicemail messages were hacked into, has been over in the US talking to people and I believe he’s going there again soon. One of the areas that he’s looking at is the possibility that some of the victims or some of the families of the victims of 9/11 phones were hacked into. That obviously could have the potential to be extraordinarily damaging, and extremely painful, if it were found to be true2

NT: “The allegation itself is painful, let alone the proof of that allegation. The allegation, if it were allowed to continue for 2 or 3 years, could be catastrophic. It’s a gradual erosion of trust in the product, which is what we experienced at the NOTW. That can be fatal. Eventually, suddenly, you reach that tipping point and you’re over the cliff. That’s what Murdoch will fear about his American assets. That’s his biggest fear at the moment I would have thought. His ultimate goal at the moment is to protect them.”
Clip 11

AC: “Are you surprised at scale of phone hacking? Do you think ‘I was there, I was close to it, I was in the newsroom, and yet an awful lot of that was going on and I didn’t know anything about it’?”
NT: “Yes well you’ve got to distinguish between the scale of the phone hacking and the scale of the people involved in the phone hacking. I think you’ll find, that when the truth comes out, the numbers of victims might be great, but the number of perpetrators very tiny.”


  1. Good article.

    However, I disagree about your interpretation of Murdoch's Blackberry defence. You say that he received a 'long sequence of emails'. We are indeed all familiar with the long and seemingly innocuous email chain with an explosive piece of information dangling at the very end. But the email in question wasn't like that at all; it was reproduced in one of the papers in December (unfortunately I can't now find a link). The 'chain' was just three emails long, with Myler forwarding on Silverleaf's advice, with a comment to the effect of 'oh dear'. I'm pretty staggered anybody took Murdoch's defence seriously.

  2. What’s remarkable about Trevor Kavanagh’s article in the Sun and his comments across the other news media yesterday is that he doesn’t realise how much he is playing into the hands of those who would like to close the paper down.

    He doesn’t understand that the main reason why NI’s Management and Standards Committee is having to pass the incriminating evidence to the police is to protect the business interests of News Corporation. There are real threats that the escalating crisis may lead to the loss of BSkyB and to a multi-million dollar prosecution under the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. A continuing lack of cooperation between News Corporation and the Metropolitan Police would further increase the chance of this happening.

    The major problem throughout this Hackgate process has been the inability of the Murdoch press to admit its guilt and correct the wrongs of the past. The latest events are indicative that lessons are still not being learned.

    What’s even more incredible is that the editor of the Sun allowed this article to be published.

    I’m sure Lord Justice Leveson will be taking note of the Sun’s policy of ‘attack being the best form of defence’.

  3. Irony of ironies, perhaps, but history may well judge that News International's extraordinary mishandling of the "For Neville" email did more to spur an improvement in press standards than any amount of campaigning ever did.

    Your lament - that investigations and inquiries like Weeting and Leveson could have been avoided if only NoW management had taken appropriate action on the information you supplied - is badly misplaced. A wholesale clean-up of British journalism was long overdue and on a far wider front than phone hacking.

    What certainly WASN'T needed was a strategic explosion of the "one rogue reporter" myth, followed by a rapid settling of dust and business as usual.

    Thanks, then, to those who ignored your dossier, there is now some hope that a whole host of dirty practices (stretching well beyond the walls of NI papers) might be curtailed. There is just some chance that journalists will emerge better equipped to resist pressures placed on them to operate outside the law and better guided on what is and isn't ethical conduct.

    So keep that chin up, Neville - things really might not be as bad as you fear!

    A strategic explosion of the "one rogue reporter" theory