View all newsletters
Sign up for our free email newsletters

Fighting for quality news media in the digital age.

  1. Publishers
  2. National Newspapers
November 29, 2022updated 05 Dec 2022 10:32am

Leveson Report ten years on: News Corp still top for prime minister meetings

But Tory prime ministers have recorded more meetings with Evgeny Lebedev than any other mogul since 2010.

By William Turvill

Today marks ten years since the publication of Lord Justice Leveson’s report on the culture, practices and ethics of the press. Part of the remit of the Leveson Inquiry was to investigate the relationship between media proprietors and political leaders.

The inquiry was launched by then prime minister David Cameron in July 2011 following the revelation that the News of the World had hacked the phone messages of a murdered schoolgirl as he faced intense political pressure over his own close links to the Murdoch empire.

At the height of the phone-hacking scandal in 2011 Cameron published a document listing all of his meetings with “proprietors, editors and senior media executives” since he had entered office in May 2010. Since then, 10 Downing Street has kept and published records of all interactions – formal meetings, social gatherings and gift exchanges – between prime ministers and media executives and others.

Press Gazette has analysed these records to investigate how relations between non-editorial media leaders and prime ministers have evolved over the past decade. Our research suggests that, while media leaders continue to command an audience in Downing Street, interactions have not returned to pre-2011 levels.

As the chart below shows, the second half of 2010 – prior to the hacking scandal and Leveson Inquiry – was the most intense six-month period of PM-media interactions since the Conservative Party entered government.

Select and enter your email address Weekly insight into the big strategic issues affecting the future of the news industry. Essential reading for media leaders every Thursday. Your morning brew of news about the world of news from Press Gazette and elsewhere in the media. Sent at around 10am UK time. Our weekly does of strategic insight about the future of news media aimed at US readers. A fortnightly update from the front-line of news and advertising. Aimed at marketers and those involved in the advertising industry.
  • Business owner/co-owner
  • CEO
  • COO
  • CFO
  • CTO
  • Chairperson
  • Non-Exec Director
  • Other C-Suite
  • Managing Director
  • President/Partner
  • Senior Executive/SVP or Corporate VP or equivalent
  • Director or equivalent
  • Group or Senior Manager
  • Head of Department/Function
  • Manager
  • Non-manager
  • Retired
  • Other
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how Progressive Media Investments may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
Thank you

Thanks for subscribing.

However, our analysis found the company that prompted the Leveson Inquiry, News Corp, still commands more prime ministerial meetings than any of its peers.

Content from our partners
<a></a>Key ways to futureproof your media career as journalism job cuts bite deep
Slow online ads cost UK publishers £50m a year: Here's how to fix them
Mather Economics and InsurAds combine to help publishers boost revenue

Press Gazette identified 107 interactions between non-editorial news leaders and prime ministers David Cameron, Theresa May and Boris Johnson between May 2010 and June 2022.

News Corp executives racked up the most interactions in this period – 25 – followed by the BBC (22) and the Telegraph (20).

Our research shows that Evgeny (now Lord) Lebedev, proprietor of the London Evening Standard and The Independent's largest shareholder, was the most-named mogul in 10 Downing Street transparency data over the period. The three prime ministers registered 13 meetings with Lebedev between 2010 and 2022. News Corp executive chairman Rupert Murdoch, News UK chief executive Rebekah Brooks and Telegraph chairman Aidan Barclay were tied for second place with nine meetings each.

However, the data suggests Lebedev's significance waned slightly over the 12-year period. Nine of his 13 meetings were with Cameron (this made Lebedev Cameron's favourite mogul to meet, according to our analysis).

Despite their well-documented friendship, Johnson appears to have registered a lesser three meetings with Lebedev (two where he was named, and one where the party was named as Lebedev Holdings).

Johnson’s list was topped by BBC chairman Richard Sharp. Two of Johnson’s six meetings with Sharp were registered as social.

But Johnson also met Rupert Murdoch five times – more than both Cameron (three) and May (one).

Top of May’s list was Lord Hall with three interactions. Each was registered as hospitality because the BBC’s then-director general gifted May tickets to the Proms twice and the Queen’s birthday party concert in 2018.

During his time in office, between May 2010 and July 2016, David Cameron registered 63 interactions – comprising meetings, events and one gift (a magnifying glass from Michael Bloomberg that was held by the government because it surpassed a value threshold) – with named media proprietors and non-editorial executives. This was equal to one interaction for every 36 days in office.

Theresa May, in office between July 2016 and July 2019, recorded 17 interactions – meetings, events and a gifted "silver item" from Bloomberg, which was held by the government – or an average of one for every 65 days in office.

Boris Johnson registered 27 interactions – meetings, events and no gifts from Bloomberg – between July 2019, when he entered office, and June 2022 (records beyond this date, for Johnson, Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak, are not yet available). Johnson's average, up to June 2022 and excluding the summer, was one interaction for every 40 days in office.

Scroll down for the full list of interactions we found and analysed.

A note on our workings: For the purposes of this analysis, we focused solely on registered meetings and interactions with named media owners and non-editorial executives (meaning editors were excluded from this research). On several occasions between 2010 and 2022, prime ministers registered attending media parties and events – we only included reference to these where media executives were named. The one exception we made to the rule of media executives being personally named was Boris Johnson's March 2020 meeting with Lebedev Holdings (we assumed this to mean Evgeny Lebedev).

Update: On 1 December, we updated this piece to state that Lord Lebedev is now The Independent's largest shareholder rather than its proprietor.

Email pged@pressgazette.co.uk to point out mistakes, provide story tips or send in a letter for publication on our "Letters Page" blog

Select and enter your email address Weekly insight into the big strategic issues affecting the future of the news industry. Essential reading for media leaders every Thursday. Your morning brew of news about the world of news from Press Gazette and elsewhere in the media. Sent at around 10am UK time. Our weekly does of strategic insight about the future of news media aimed at US readers. A fortnightly update from the front-line of news and advertising. Aimed at marketers and those involved in the advertising industry.
  • Business owner/co-owner
  • CEO
  • COO
  • CFO
  • CTO
  • Chairperson
  • Non-Exec Director
  • Other C-Suite
  • Managing Director
  • President/Partner
  • Senior Executive/SVP or Corporate VP or equivalent
  • Director or equivalent
  • Group or Senior Manager
  • Head of Department/Function
  • Manager
  • Non-manager
  • Retired
  • Other
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how Progressive Media Investments may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
Thank you

Thanks for subscribing.

Websites in our network