Today’s session of the Leveson Inquiry into UK media ethics was a slightly less riveting affair than yesterday, but there were some highlights. Former Prime Minister John Major told the hearing that in a 1997 meeting with Rupert Murdoch, the media mogul said, “I would like you to change your policy and if you don’t change your policy, my organization cannot support you.” According to Major, Murdoch was referring to stances on Europe. In his written statement to the inquiry, Major said, “Both Mr Murdoch and I kept our word. I made no change in policy and Mr Murdoch’s titles did indeed oppose the Conservative party. It came as no surprise to me when soon after our meeting, The Sun newspaper announced its support for Labour.” Referring to Major’s evidence, a News International spokesperson said, “News International titles did not act in unison in the 1997 election. The Sunday Times supported John Major, The Times was neutral, and The Sun and the News Of The World supported Labour.”
Labour Party leader Ed Miliband, meanwhile, called for changes in media ownership regulation. In a swipe at Murdoch, he said, “I don’t believe one person should continue to control… 34% of the newspaper market.” Saying he believed plurality is good for democracy, Miliband saw no worries in “someone owning up to 20%” of the market. Watchers took these comments to imply that Murdoch should be forced to sell either The Sun or The Times. Miliband also suggested a review of cross-media ownership regulations, insisting his aim was not “to stifle one particular organization or another.”
Tomorrow, the inquiry will hear from Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond.