Bribes probe police ask Channel 4 News and Exaro to hand over Murdoch tape

Police on the Operation Elveden bribes investigation have asked journalists to hand over a recording in which News Corp chairman Rupert Murdoch admits knowledge of payments to public officials.

Exaro News, the website that broke the story last week, said on Twitter that it had been contacted by detectives from Operation Elveden, who had made "a formal request for the tapes". It further said that the Met may seek "a production order" if they were not given up voluntarily. Channel 4 News, which first broadcast audio of the recordings last Wednesday, has also been contacted by Scotland Yard.

On the tape, Murdoch told a group of journalists at The Sun that paying the police and other public officials for stories was “the culture of Fleet Street”. He did not admit to knowledge of any specific payments and a News Corp spokesman said that he was merely showing “understandable empathy” with reporters that had been arrested as part of the Scotland Yard investigation.

Responding to a question about how long the practice had been in place, Murdoch said: “We’re talking about news tips from cops: that’s been going on a hundred years, absolutely. You didn’t instigate it.”

Exaro said that it would not be handing the tapes over to detectives. It said on Twitter that it does not have "audio of (the) entire meeting" and had pubished a transcript of everything it had obtained".

It added: "No public official – or any source – was bribed(/paid) during the breaking of our Rupert Murdoch scoop… And unlike News International, we will not – under any circumstances – betray any confidential source."

Mark Watts, editor in chief at Exaro News, said the transcript was of the full meeting between Murdoch and reporters but that Exaro had only been given access to the entire recording to make the transcripts. It published edited audio clips last week and will put the remainder of the audio it has on the site today.

"We are making it all public anyway," said Watts. "The position will be that by the end of today we'll have nothing to produce [for the police] other than what we will have put up."

On Friday, the campaign group Hacked Off urged the Conservative chairman of the Culture, Media and Sport select committee to recall Murdoch to face a grilling from MPs.

In a letter to John Whittingdale, Hacked Off associate director Evan Harris, said the recording had cast doubt on the evidence presented by Murdoch to the committee in 2011.

He wrote: “There is a strong prima facie case that Mr Murdoch may have committed contempt of Parliament by misleading your committee over his true response to the police investigations into phone hacking and bribery of public officials.

“As far as the victims of phone hacking are concerned, the appropriate course of action is for the Committee to recall him at the earliest available opportunity to explain the discrepancies between the expressions of remorse he made to you and the defiant and unrepentant tone of his private remarks earlier this year.

“Your committee has been wise in swiftly recalling any witnesses who may have appeared to mislead it in the past and trust that this important convention will be maintained on this occasion.”

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