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Former News International chief: ‘Disturbing’ decision to hand over sources undermined ‘principles of journalism’

Former News International chief executive Tom Mockridge has said that the company undermined the “principles of journalism” by handing over details of confidential sources to the police.

In an interview with the Financial Times Mockridge, currently chief executive of Virgin Media, said News Corporation’s actions were “disturbing”.

He was in charge of the Sun, Times and Sunday Times publisher from 2011 to 2012 at the time of the closure of the News of the World in July 2011.

In the aftermath of that closure parent company News Corp set up a Management and Standards Committee which took the decision to give confidential emails between journalists and their public sector sources to the police. As a result of this, more than 30 journalists were arrested and/or charged and more than 30 public officials have been convicted – with many sent to jail.

Talking about the decision to hand over details of the sources, which the FT described as “in an attempt to avoid corporate prosecution”, Mockridge said that it was “a bit disturbing that the company felt, in its defence, it had to undermine principles of journalism about protecting sources — principles, which . . .  as someone who started in journalism myself, I felt strongly about…”.

Mockridge also told the FT: “It’s always hard to say right or wrong three or four years down the track.”

Starting his career as a financial reporter for the Sydney Morning Herald, Mockridge believes being chief executive officer for News International, was his hardest job:

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“Sometimes I say to my colleagues, if you want to have a tough job, go and run a newspaper.”

Mockridge said Virgin Media resembles the old News Corporation.

"Virgin has the growth energy that I felt News Corporation had 25 years ago, when I joined."

Once known as a “trusted lieutenant” to his former boss, Rupert Murdoch, Mockridge aims challenge Sky and BT to change how Premier League Football rights are sold within the UK.

Picture: Reuters

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