Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 December 2014

Ministers' media meetings revealed

George Osborne has met chiefs at Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation 16 times since the coalition Government came to power
George Osborne has met chiefs at Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation 16 times since the coalition Government came to power

Chancellor George Osborne met senior News Corporation executives including chairman Rupert Murdoch and former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks on 16 occasions for talks and social events since taking office, it has been revealed.

The meetings form part of what appears to have been a determined effort by the company to forge personal contacts with key ministers as its aborted bid to take over satellite broadcaster BSkyB was going through.

Prime Minister David Cameron has already confirmed that he met News Corp executives 26 times after entering 10 Downing Street.

Other ministers released details of their contacts with the media, revealing a number of dinners, lunches and other meetings with Mr Murdoch, his son James - News Corp's chief executive in Europe - and Ms Brooks.

Mr Cameron ordered the release of the information earlier this month in the wake of controversy over allegations of phone-hacking at News International's News of the World.

There is no indication of whether the issue of hacking was raised at the meetings, or whether ministers discussed News Corp's plan to buy up the 61% of BSkyB which it did not already own. Mr Murdoch ditched the takeover plan on July 13 amid the hacking furore, which has seen the arrest of several News Corp figures including former News of the World editor Andy Coulson, who quit as Mr Cameron's communications chief in January.

The data shows that Mr Murdoch was quick off the mark in getting to know the new administration after the formation of the coalition Government in May last year, meeting Mr Cameron, Mr Osborne, Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt and Education Secretary Michael Gove within days of them taking office.

He was the first senior media figure to meet Mr Hunt after he took on the culture brief, though their meeting came before the Culture Secretary was given responsibility for deciding on the BSkyB bid in December.

Mr Osborne met Rupert Murdoch twice - the second time in December - and also had five separate meetings each with Ms Brooks and James Murdoch as well as discussions with editors of News International papers The Times, Sunday Times and News of the World.

The Chancellor made no public comment about his meetings but was understood to be "relaxed" about having the details in the public domain.

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