James Murdoch on Tuesday admitted discussing with Prime Minister David Cameron his father Rupert Murdoch’s bid to acquire full control of the satellite broadcaster BSkyB in which News Corp, the Murdochs’ New York-based company, has a 39-per-cent stake.
He said he raised the issue at a private dinner with Mr Cameron hosted by Rebekah Brook, former chief executive of his company News International.
His remarks while testifying before a judicial panel inquiring into media ethics triggered by the News of the World phone hacking scandal offered a rare insight into the Murdoch group’s close relationship with politicians.
The inquiry, chaired by Lord Justice Brian Henry, will hear Murdoch Sr on Wednesday.
Mr Murdoch also admitted that in his conversation with Mr Cameron he suggested that the Liberal Democrat Business Secretary Vince Cable should be stripped of his powers to oversee the Sky bid after he was secretly recorded saying that he had "declared war" on the Murdoch group.
He expressed disappointment that the Sky deal fell through because of the row over the hacking scandal and indicated that News Corps was still interested in pursuing it.
Looking a lot more relaxed and confident than during his tense and often confrontational appearance before a parliamentary committee last summer, Mr Murdoch stuck to the old script denying any personal knowledge of the extent of hacking at the now defunct NoW.
He insisted that he was never specifically told about an internal email that reportedly shows that hacking and use of other unethical and illegal news-gathering methods were widespread at the paper.
Mr Murdoch’s denial runs counter to the claims of his senior executives who say that they told him about the so-called "For Neville" email, addressed to a senior NoW journalist, which revealed that hacking went beyond one "rogue" reporter—the royal correspondent Clive Goodman, jailed in 2007for hacking into phones of the royal family , including Prince William.
Mr Murdoch said he first got to know of the supposedly incriminating e-mail only in 2010. Until then he had a "general awareness that a reporter had illegally intercepted voicemails, had gone to jail along with the private investigator involved".
Once regarded as his father’s heir apparent, Mr Murdoch is a much diminished figure in the wake of the hacking and bribing scandals that have shaken the Murdoch media empire.
In recent months, he has had to quit as chairman of both News International and BSkyB following pressure from shareholders concerned that the criticism of his handling of the hacking scandal made him unsuitable to head the organisation.