Murdoch does not influence Times editorial line - Thomson tells Lords

Times editor Robert Thomson has staunchly defended his independence from proprietor Rupert Murdoch under questioning from Lords.

Thomson and Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger both gave evidence this morning to the House of Lords Communications Committee, as part of an enquiry to investigate the affect of media ownership on news.

Thomson revealed that he had not spoken to Murdoch before deciding his paper’s leader line at the last general election, although he said he was in ‘regular contact’with the Australian billionaire and described him as a ‘very curious person’on issues such as world affairs. He added: ‘To suggest that anyone else but me, the editor, is responsible for the paper is looking in the wrong direction.”

He added: ‘It’s a matter of record that he has a different relationship with other [News International] papers”.

When asked whether Tony Blair ‘wasted his time’during various trips around the world to court Murdoch, Thomson, ‘as far as The Times is concerned he was”.

Thomson told the Lords that the Times had been traditionally loss-making in recent years but he predicted that it would move into the black by the third or fourth quarter of the next financial year.

In separate sessions, committee members pressed both editors on the decline of newspaper circulation, the state of the newspaper industry and their relationships with readers and the papers’ very different owners – The Guardian’s owner the Scott Trust, a charitable organisation founded 1936 to safeguard the paper’s editorial independence and The Times’s parent group News International, the UK arm of Rupert Murdoch’s New Corp media empire.

Rusbridger said that newspapers could gain commercially through winning readers’ trust through breaking news quickly and correcting errors.

He said: ‘We are breaking news every day, all day on the internet. If you get anything wrong you know it will be discussed [on the internet] and that will have an interesting contribution – I think it will be positive…If we are to be completely trusted there will be a commercial as well as editorial imperative to get things right and correct them if we get them wrong.”

Rusbridger said there was ‘no higher authority’in the power structure of the Guardian than the editor and the the Scott Trust had no influence in the paper’s coverage or views.

He also predicted that in two or three years’ time his staff would be ‘interchangeable between print and online’with both print and Guardian Unlimited staff on the same floor once the paper has moved to its new Kings Cross headquarters.

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