By Jill Lawless
LONDON — Media mogul Rupert Murdoch has been recorded saying wrongdoing by his British newspapers was "next to nothing" and apparently acknowledging that his reporters paid police officers for information.
In a tape published in transcript by the ExaroNews journalism website and broadcast Wednesday on Channel 4 News, Murdoch is heard saying, "it's the biggest inquiry ever, over next to nothing."
"It's a disgrace. Here we are, two years later, and the cops are totally incompetent," said Murdoch, who is executive chairman of News Corp.
The outlets said the tape was recorded during a meeting with journalists at The Sun newspaper in March. Murdoch told them: "We're talking about payments for news tips from cops: that's been going on a hundred years."
He also said it had been "a mistake" on the company's part to hand over so many of its files to police. He said the company was now insisting police obtained court orders before they could see documents.
Several Sun staff have been charged as part police investigations into phone hacking and bribery spurred by the revelation two years ago that Murdoch's News of the World routinely eavesdropped on the mobile phone voicemails of celebrities, politicians, royals and crime victims.
Murdoch told staff who have been charged that he would stand by them.
"I will do everything in my power to give you total support, even if you're convicted and get six months or whatever," he said.
Former staff of the News of the World, which Murdoch shut down after the hacking scandal erupted in 2011, also face trial, along with a number of police officers, prison guards and other officials accused of accepting bribes.
Murdoch has publicly apologized for phone hacking, which he has called "appalling," and News Corp. has paid out millions to settle lawsuits from scores of victims.
News Corp. said in a statement Thursday that it had cooperated fully with police and worked hard to "identify what went wrong, compensate the victims, and ensure the same mistakes do not happen again."
Responding to the tape recording, the company said Murdoch "has shown understandable empathy with the staff and families affected and will assume they are innocent until and unless proven guilty."
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Copyright 2013 Associated Press