Singer Charlotte Church waived a £100,000 fee to sing at Rupert Murdoch's wedding when she was 13 years-old in return for positive coverage from his newspaper empire, she claimed this afternoon.
Giving evidence to the Leveson Inquiry, Church said that when she was asked to sing at Murdoch's wedding to Wendi Deng in 1999 her management told her she could either be paid £100,000 or waive the fee and be "looked upon favourably" by his papers.
- May 22, 2018
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Church claimed that she and her family were initially reluctant but were later convinced by management to accept the offer.
News International denied the claims and said Murdoch had no knowledge of the alleged deal.
'I remember being told that Rupert Murdoch had asked me to sing at his wedding to Wendi Deng and it would take place on his yacht in New York,'said Church.
'I remember being told the offer of money or the favour in order to basically get good press, to be looked up favourably.
'I also remember being 13 and thinking, 'Why on earth would anybody take a favour over a £100,000?' and me and my mother being quite resolute on this point – that £100,000 was definitely the best option – but being advised by management and by members of the record company to take the latter option, that he was a very, very powerful man and that I was in the early stages of my career, and could absolutely do with a favour of this magnitude."
Counsel for the inquiry Carine Patry Hoskins told Church that News International denied the allegations, claiming it was a surprise party and that 'therefore he [Murdoch] could not possibly have known about this alleged deal".
Church responded: 'I had been told by my management that he had specifically asked for me to sing Pie Jesu.
'And when I raised with my management the fact that Pie Jesu was actually a requiem, which is a funeral song, and does he really want a funeral song at his wedding, the correspondence went back and forth.
'He said he didn't care if it was a funeral song, he liked that song and he wanted me to sing it, which I did.'
Church went on to claim that the waiver failed, adding: "In fact Mr Murdoch's newspapers have since been some of the worst offenders, so much that I have sometimes felt that there has actually been a deliberate agenda.
"While newspapers such as Mr Murdoch's have not helped my career, they certainly damaged it. I do of course accept television and radio have been very significant contributors to my success. I have little complaint at the contact of those media organisations or the people they employ."
She cited a clock on The Sun's website which counted down to her 16th birthday, which she said was an "innuendo" highlighting the fact she was reaching the age of sexual consent.
"I was really uncomfortable with it in general," she told the inquiry.
Church also suspected that a Sun story breaking news of her first pregnancy was obtained through phone-hacking – but admitted she had no evidence to support the claims.
"I had not told anyone apart from when I had gone to have my initial scan," she said. "I can't see how it came from any other area."
A complaint made to the Press Complaints Commission about the article was later upheld.
Church admitted that she had done paid interviews with magazines including Hello! and OK! but insisted the money had been donated to charity.
"My decision was based upon the fact that photographs of my children would have been taken anyway, with or without my consent, and this was the lesser of two evils," she added.
One of the most damaging articles was a News of the World story that appeared in December 2005, headlined "Church's three-in-a-bed cocaine shock", which reported that her father was having an affair and that her mother had attempted suicide.
Church said the article had a "massive, massive impact" on her family and on her mothers health.
The singer also revealed she was contacted by officers from the Met's Operation Motorman when she was 19. She went on to speak of a 'shadow network where everybody has infiltrated in terms of hotel concierges, restaurants, will tip off journalists or paparazzi, the airlines, everywhere.
"I haven't been on a holiday since I was 16 where I haven't been found and photographed.
"Much of that I believe was bought information. If I haven't been followed to the airport I can't really see how else it could come about."