Authors: Wadzanai Mhute
(LONDON) -- Rupert Murdoch appeared before a British inquiry about press standards Wednesday, as the parliamentary committee turned its attention to his political connections rather than the phone-hacking scandal that has roiled the company.
Murdoch, chairman and chief executive of News Corp., said he wanted to "put certain myths to bed," like that he used his newspapers for business motives or influenced political leaders during social meetings.
Commission Chair Lord Justice Brian Leveson and the commission counsel have questioned whether the Murdochs have been too close to British Prime Minister Cameron and Culture Secretary of State Jeremy Hunt.
News Corp. owns many of Britain's largest newspapers and about 8 percent of the company's revenues come from the U.K. Murdoch said News Corp.'s total annual revenue is about $34 billion. News Corp. owns Fox News Channel, The Wall Street Journal, and publisher HarperCollins, among other assets.
The Leveson inquiry has heard from more than 100 witnesses since evidence hearings began in November, the Guardian reported.
"I welcomed the opportunity because I wanted to put certain myths to bed," Murdoch said about the inquiry.
Lead Counsel Robert Jay of the Queen's Council grilled Murdoch about his opinions on, or interactions with, the last five prime ministers, starting with Margaret Thatcher.
"I've never asked a prime minister for anything," Murdoch told the inquiry, explaining that he prefers to talk about current national or global issues and not his business interests.
"Let me be quite honest, Mr. Jay," Murdoch said. "I enjoy meeting -- let's call them our leaders. Some impress me more than others. And I meet them around the world. And I could tell you one or two who particularly impressed me."
When Jay asked if the democratic process is distorted by his newspapers' public endorsements and support of politicians, Murdoch said "the perception certainly irritates me, because I think it's a myth."
A day earlier, James Murdoch said he told Cameron, leader of the Conservative Party, on Sept. 10, 2009 that The Sun newspaper, owned by News Corp., would endorse his party's election ambitions. James Murdoch denied the accusation that the endorsement helped get approval by Cameron's party for the BSkyB bid.
"I would never have made that kind of a crass calculation," James Murdoch said. "It just wouldn't occur to me."
James Murdoch explained interactions between News Corp.'s lobbyist and Hunt, who has been under pressure to explain his relationship with the firm as it tried to purchase British broadcasting company BSkyB.
On Tuesday, for the first time James Murdoch admitted speaking with Cameron during controversial efforts to buy control of BSkyB. He said he spoke with Cameron at a Christmas dinner in 2010 at the home of former editor of News of the World Rebekah Brooks, after the Tory leader had been elected prime minister. But James Murdoch said it was "a tiny side conversation ahead of a dinner."
"It wasn't really a discussion, if you will," James Murdoch said.
News Corp. has also been criticized over allegations of impropriety at its other newspapers.
In February 2012, five employees of British newspaper The Sun were arrested for allegedly making payments to public officials. Four former and current Sun journalists were held in January, the BBC reported.
The issue of phone hacking comprised only minutes of the four-hour-long hearing on Wednesday. The elder Murdoch condemned the practice again, saying, "I don't believe in using hacking."
"I don't believe in using private detectives or whatever," Rupert Murdoch said. "I think that's just a lazy way of reporters not doing their job, but I think it is fair, when people are held up as great, or had themselves held up as iconic figures or great actors, that they be looked at."
According to Hugh Tomlinson of the Queen's Council, the now-defunct News of the World allegedly hacked the phones of 4,791 people, from stars to crime victims, to get juicy stories -- all with the encouragement of top editors at the paper and aided by some in the police force.
Rupert Murdoch made a rare apology in British newspapers last year at a parliamentary hearing. The Murdochs appeared before a parliamentary committee last year for the first time, during which the elder Murdoch was attacked with a shaving cream pie.
The Murdoch name has been synonymous with News Corp. even before it was incorporated in 1979. Rupert Murdoch, the only son of Sir Keith Murdoch, took over his father's newspaper publishing business, News Limited, after the elder Murdoch passed away in 1952.
The Oxford-educated media mogul took over his father's newspaper business, News Limited, in his native Australia when he was 22, according to the BBC. Reportedly in good health since being diagnosed with "low grade" prostate cancer in 2000, he has formerly reportedly insisted that his eventual successor have the Murdoch name.
Murdoch published a full-page apology in British newspapers last year about alleged phone-hacking by journalists at his tabloid, the News of the World.
The 81-year-old Murdoch has six children, three of whom are directly involved in his media empire. Murdoch married Wendi Deng, 43, his third wife, in 1999. They have two young daughters, Grace and Chloe.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio