By Ian Burrell, Media Editor
January 13, 2011
A year that has begun badly for Rupert Murdoch grew a little worse yesterday after the founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, claimed to be in possession of secret documents damaging to the media mogul and his News Corp empire.
Mr Assange told John Pilger in the New Statesman he had withheld a cache of confidential US government cables and files relating to Mr Murdoch’s business as “insurance”. He has claimed that his life is in danger if he is extradited to Sweden to face allegations of sexual assault.
He said to Pilger, a fellow Australian and one of his prominent British-based supporters: “If something happens to me or to WikiLeaks, ‘insurance’ files will be released.”
WikiLeaks is thought to be in possession of 250,000 confidential US government cables, and those already published have exposed embarrassing diplomatic secrets. Mr Assange indicated that he had paperwork which could be hurtful to News Corp. “There are 504 US embassy cables on one broadcasting organisation and there are cables on Murdoch and News Corp.”
In a further broadside yesterday, one of Mr Murdoch’s former henchmen, Andrew Neil, publicly questioned whether the world’s most powerful media figure retained his grip over his organisation. Criticising the output of Murdoch’s Fox News, Mr Neil, the founding chairman of Sky TV and the former editor of The Sunday Times, said the News Corp CEO was “uncomfortable” with Fox’s right-wing presenters, Bill O’Reilly and Glenn Beck.
“My own view is [Fox] is out of control,” Neil told Richard Bacon yesterday on BBC Radio 5 Live. “I think Rupert Murdoch has lost control of it. I know from sources he’s not happy with a lot that appears on it and I think he’s lost over the Glenn Becks and the O’Reillys,” said Mr Neil.
“[Murdoch] is uncomfortable with Glenn Beck and various other positions they take and some of the things they say.” Neil, who fell out with Mr Murdoch in the early Nineties, claimed he had “very good sources at the heart of News Corp”.
News Corp is trying to lobby the Government to prevent its bid to take full ownership of BSkyB being referred to the competition authorities for review. Last week, the company said Ian Edmondson, a senior executive on the News of the World, had been suspended over further allegations of phone-hacking at the Sunday tabloid.
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