Big tech accountability? Read how we got here in  The Closing of the Net 

It’s a sideshow to the main drama, but Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, which owns the film company 20th Century Fox as well as  televion stations and newspapers worldwide, tried to get  privileged access to British policy-making on intellectual property.

According to a series of recently revealed internal emails.   News Corporation’s lobbyist lost no opportunity to tell the government how it should run its IP policy review  (which became the Hargreaves review) dropping ‘feedback’ into the ears of advisors to both  George Osborne and David Cameron. He even  had the cheek to ask for an advance  copy of  Professor Hargreaves report.

  For non-British iptegrity readers who may not know the story, internal  emails  from News Corporation were handed to the British government’s Leveson enquiry into the role of the press and phone hacking by newspaper journalists.  The emails  primarily related to the proposed take-over by News Corporation of  the television company BskyB, of which it already owns 39 per cent. But further  analysis  of the emails  reveals some interesting snippets about how NewsCorporation tried to influence policy on intellectual property and the Internet. 

 In November 2010, NewsCorp’s lobbyist, Frederic Michel , sent a briefing  to James Murdoch  on a  meeting with the adviser to the Chancellor of the Exchequer,  George Osborne, he wrote:

Gave strong feedback on David’s comments praising Google and US fair use for the IP Review. Gave detailed feedback  on the pitfalls to avoid in the IP review process.

 In an email of December 2010, Mr Michel  reported to James Murdoch about a meeting with Prime Minister David  Cameron’s adviser:

Very frank exchange on the recent speech which praised Google and fair use

Outline of the aims of the IP review to be led by Hargreaves an our intention to be very pro-active on it

 In the same email, Mr Michel  reports on a meeting with deputy prime minister and Liberal Democrat leader, Nick Clegg’s adviser:  

Need to support Nick when he makes announcement on copyright which goes against his election promise – timing end January – will be very tough for him with youth voters

 As the Hargreaves review on IP policy, led by Professor Ian Hargreaves, got closer to publishing its report, we find a series of emails where News Corp's Frederic Michel appears to be discussing the review with Culture Minister, Jeremy Hunt:

 In an email headed  JH Confidential  and dated 13 April 2011 :

 Had meeting with JH and we discussed timing on the Sky deal and also his meeting with Hargreaves on the IP review yesterday.

 On 10 May 2011 :

Just saw JH to finalise the IP review.

 And on 16 May,  at 9am Mr Michel emailed  Adam Smith, who was  Jeremy Hunt’s special adviser at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS):

 We should catch up on IP review. Ian mentioned he would send it to me tomorrow evening. Is there a way   for me only to see it today so I can  plan all our positioning?

 Adam Smith responded  at 9.22 am with :

 Not published until later/tomorrow sokeep it to yourself for now.

 The attachment published is actually not the Hargreaves review but the launch of the communications law review.  Either way, it would appear that News Corp was getting privileged access about IP and broadband policy which others were not getting.  And somehow, I doubt that Professor Hargreaves would have approved of the  pre-release of his report to News Corp.  

 In June 2011, the NewsCorp lobbyist complains to the Special Adviser that DCMS minister Ed Vaizey is refusing to meet with him. He again wants to discuss the IP review. Interestingly, this time he is told by the special adviser, Adam Smith, that the reason is ‘the same reason Jeremy isn’t coming to the summer party’.

  I guess we should question why Jeremy  or Ed would ever consider going to News Corp’s summer party, under any circumstances.

You may re-publish my article under a Creative Commons licence, but you should cite my name and provide a link back to Media and Academics – please cite as Monica Horten,   Was  News Corp  privileged on  IP policy? , 2 May   2012 . Commercial users - please contact me



Iptegrity in brief is the website of Dr Monica Horten. I’ve been analysing analysing digital policy since 2008. Way back then, I identified how issues around rights can influence Internet policy, and that has been a thread throughout all of my research. I hold a PhD in EU Communications Policy from the University of Westminster (2010), and a Post-graduate diploma in marketing.   I’ve served as an independent expert on the Council of Europe  Committee on Internet Freedoms, and was involved in a capacity building project in Moldova, Georgia, and Ukraine. I am currently (from June 2022)  Policy Manager - Freedom of Expression, with the Open Rights Group. For more, see About Iptegrity is made available free of charge for  non-commercial use, Please link-back & attribute Monica Horten. Thank you for respecting this.

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