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Murdoch tells Leveson Inquiry he is 'sorry'

Sorry did not seem to be the hardest word at the Leveson Inquiry into press standards today as Rupert Murdoch gave a humble show during his final day of grilling.

The media tycoon said "sorry" 17 times over three hours of testimony - an average of once every 10 minutes. He also used the term "apologise" five times and "regret" three times.

The 81-year-old told the court that he feels responsible for the hacking scandal at the News of the World (NotW), saying it was a "serious blot" on his reputation.

His main request for forgiveness was to the people affected by the scandal, especially the innocent staff at the defunct tabloid, which closed last July at the height of the saga.

"All I can do is apologise to a lot of people, including all the innocent people in the News of the World who lost their jobs," he said with a soft voice.

However later during his testimony, he said he should have closed the paper sooner.

"I'm sorry I didn't close it years before and put a Sunday Sun in," said News Corp's chairman and chief executive.

Mr Murdoch was also remorseful when he told the inquiry that News International bosses fell victim to a "cover-up" over the hacking scandal.

His woeful performance continued when he told Lord Justice Leveson that he "failed" because some of his titles are "closer to my heart" than others.

However, some of his apologies were not so sincere. He asked for forgiveness twice after making quips at counsel to the inquiry, Robert Jay QC.

When Mr Jay was probing about hacking at the newspaper, he asked Mr Murdoch: "Some might say that this picture is consistent with one of a desire to cover up rather than a desire to expose. Would you agree with that?"

Mr Murdoch replied: "Well, people with minds like yours, yes, perhaps."

But he quickly said sorry afterwards.

The media mogul later went on to say to the Queen's Counsel: "I understand that you're one of the few people that like Le Monde (the French daily newspaper), but that's another matter.

"You also paid a very nice compliment about The Times. I'm repeating a private conversation, I'm sorry."

Some of the requests for forgiveness were more mundane, including an apology for getting muddled over his evidence bundle and for rambling on about the state of the public school systems in Britain and America.

Mr Murdoch attended today's hearing with his wife Wendi Deng and eldest son Lachlan.

Court 73 at the Royal Courts of Justice had a different ambience compared to the hearing yesterday. The exchanges between Mr Jay and Mr Murdoch were quicker and the News International team, who were sitting on the right of the press bench, seemed agitated.

At one point during the hearing, when Mr Jay was talking about phone hacking, a solicitor bustled over to the News International counsel to urgently whisper something in his ear.

This displeased Lord Justice Leveson who sternly told him to take to his seat again.

However, the esteemed judge did manage to crack a smile today.

When Mr Murdoch told the court he was going to reveal something he was under "strict" orders from his lawyers not to say, Lord Justice Leveson joked: "I think you've just caused three coronaries," pointing to Mr Murdoch's counsel.

However, despite the thick and fast apologies, Mr Murdoch took the time to demonstrate his extensive knowledge and passion for the British press.

The tycoon talked for 11 uninterrupted minutes about the industry, describing his fear that physical newspapers would be shrivelled up in 20 years.

He talked about the extreme pressure on newspapers, blaming "disruptive technologies".

Mr Murdoch also spoke about his fondness for regional newspapers.

"The local press in this country have a great history of contribution to our democracy," he said.

"It will be a very sad day if the major ones, or all of them, disappear.

"A varied press guarantees democracy and we want democracy rather than autocracy."

Mr Murdoch, who gave six hours of testimony over two days, left the court with a smile.

Dressed in a dark suit and a wide-brimmed hat, the tycoon waved nonchalantly to press waiting outside as he left the High Court flanked by his wife and son.

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