British PM publishes contacts with media barons

15th July 2011, Comments 0 comments

British Prime Minister David Cameron listed Friday all his meetings with top media executives, in a bid to shed light on the close ties between politicians and the press following the phone-hacking row.

The unprecedented list shows Cameron met Rebekah Brooks, a former editor of the News of the World who quit as chief executive of Rupert Murdoch's News International on Friday, at least five times since taking power in May 2010.

Brooks was a guest at Cameron's official country residence, Chequers, in June and August 2010.

The pair also met at the Conservative party conference in October 2010, and then twice at social occasions in December 2010.

The prime minister also met Rupert Murdoch, chairman of News Corp., shortly after being elected at the head of a Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government in May 2010.

And Murdoch's son James, a senior News Corp. executive, stayed at Chequers in November 2010 and also attended one of the "social" meetings Cameron had with Brooks in December that year.

Other media proprietors who met with Cameron include Telegraph Media Group chairman Aidan Barclay (July and November 2010), Daily Mail and General Trust chairman Lord Rothermere (July 2010), Express Newspapers owner Richard Desmond (April 2011), and Independent owner Alexander Lebedev (January 2011).

Cameron announced this week that a public inquiry into the phone-hacking scandal at Murdoch's News of the World, which sparked the closure of the tabloid and scuppered News Corp's bid for pay-TV giant BSkyB, would also look into the close relationship between British politicians and the press.

In a speech this week, Deputy Prime Minister Clegg admitted that such ties had become far too cosy.

"In recent decades the political class has consistently failed to stand up to the media, seeking to curry favour with powerful media barons or prevent their own personal lives from being splashed across the front pages," he said.

Clegg, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, also published a list of his own meetings in the past year, revealing that he met Brooks and James Murdoch in August 2010, and Brooks again in February 2011.

Cameron's Downing Street office said it would be adding an addendum to the ministerial code which governs the behaviour of cabinet ministers, which reads: "The government will be open about its links with the media.

"All meetings with newspaper and other media proprietors, editors and senior executives will be published quarterly regardless of the purpose of the meeting."

However, Cameron's first list of meetings did not include one with Andy Coulson, his former media chief and a one-time editor of the News of the World who was forced to quit over phone-hacking, although he denies wrongdoing.

A Downing Street source said Coulson stayed at Chequers this year but was not listed because he is no longer a senior media figure.

"He was invited in a personal capacity in March, he was his personal guest," the source told AFP.

© 2011 AFP

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