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February 10, 2021updated 30 Sep 2022 10:01am

News Corp editors and execs met ministers 40 times in first 14 months of Johnson government

By Charlotte Tobitt

News Corp executive chairman Rupert Murdoch and his top executives in the UK and US met Prime Minister Boris Johnson and other high-level Government politicians seven times between them in seven weeks last summer.

Murdoch (pictured) met with Johnson, paid for lunch with Chancellor Rishi Sunak, ate a private dinner with Michael Gove and had an “informal lunch between friends” with Jacob Rees-Mogg between 8 August and 25 September last year.

News UK chief executive Rebekah Brooks met with both Johnson and Sunak within one week in September, and News Corp chief executive Robert Thomson each met Johnson held a meeting with Gove at the start of the month.

In total Murdoch has met with Johnson three times since the latter became PM: once in a social setting in September 2019, another at a social event in December that year and once at a “general discussion” meeting in September last year.

Murdoch’s company, which owns the Sun and the Times newspapers in the UK, is the media organisation which has met Johnson and top members of his Government by far the most times since he became PM in July 2019.

According to Cabinet Office and Treasury transparency publications, the editors of the Sun and Times were also well represented in meetings last summer.

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Scroll down for the full list of media-ministerial meetings since 24 July 2019

In August and September Sun editor Victoria Newton met with Johnson and Sunak, Sunday Times editor Emma Tucker and political editor Tim Shipman met with Sunak, as did Times editor John Witherow, while Sun on Sunday political editor David Wooding met with Rees-Mogg.

In total representatives of News UK/News Corp met with Johnson and other high-level ministers on 40 occasions since 24 July 2019.

Times deputy editor Tony Gallagher, editor of The Sun at the start of this period, was the editor to have the most meetings with Johnson. He was joint with Daily Telegraph editor Chris Evans on total ministerial meetings disclosed.

A number of new editors took up their posts in 2020 and met ministers during the more relaxed Covid-19 restrictions in the summer: the FT’s Roula Khalaf, Emma Tucker of the Sunday Times and the Evening Standard’s Emily Sheffield all met Sunak in September.

Editors notably absent from the list include Daily Mirror editor Alison Phillips (although Reach group editor-in-chief Lloyd Embley met Johnson in September), and i editor Oly Duff although Lord Rothermere, chairman of his paper’s new parent company DMGT, met Johnson and Gove last summer.

[Read more: Who owns the media? Three billionaire families own around 68% of UK national newspaper circulation

Lord Rothermere, chairman of the Daily Mail and General Trust which publishes the Mail, Metro and i titles, made just two appearances on the list to Murdoch’s seven.

Meetings were able to be held remotely where necessary within Covid-19 restrictions but during the first lockdown between April and June there were  two: Johnson spoke to Telegraph bosses Aidan and Howard Barclay on 19 May and Telegraph editor Evans two days later.

Picture: Reuters/Mike Segar

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