Murdoch has hotly denied ever trading the influence of his market-leading newspapers in return for policy favours. “That was absolutely not News Corporation’s policy and I would not do business like that,” Murdoch repeated in a six-hour appearance before the Leveson inquiry on Tuesday.
But emails published by the inquiry indicate that some in Murdoch’s inner circle were not blind to the political importance of the media group. Frédéric Michel, the head of European public affairs for News Corp and the man tasked with smoothing the way for the BSkyB deal, told Murdoch in an email on 10 January 2011 that Hunt might appreciate some friendly coverage in anticipation that the government would come under fire from those who opposed the $8bn takeover.
"He [Hunt] is keen to meet next Tuesday or Wednesday to discuss our submission. He said he would not be influenced by the negative media coverage but would welcomed [sic] other opeds like Littlewood or Elstein in the coming days," Michel said in the email to Murdoch. Two weeks later Mark Littlewood, director general of the Institute of Economic Affairs, issued a statement supporting the bid and David Elstein, former Thames TV and Sky executive, writes two pieces for Open democracy website in favour of the takeover.