Prime Minister to Go Before U.K. Media Ethics Probe

Cameron Will Testify, Along With Gordon Brown and John Major

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U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron will testify next week at the media-ethics inquiry he set up in the wake of the News Corp. phone-hacking scandal, with his links to the company likely to be in the spotlight.

David Cameron
David Cameron

Mr. Cameron will be questioned on Thursday, the inquiry said on its website today. Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne will testify on Monday, with another former premier, John Major, among those appearing on Tuesday.

The probe, led by Judge Brian Leveson, has already heard a week of testimony from politicians, including Mr. Brown's predecessor, Tony Blair, and serving Cabinet ministers about their links with the press. Among those previously questioned were journalists and newspaper proprietors including News Corp. Chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch.

The continuing fallout from hacking and from opposition accusations that Mr. Cameron and Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt were biased in favor of News Corp.'s bid for British Sky Broadcasting Group is helping drain support for the premier. With Britain in the throes of a double-dip recession and after an unpopular cut in the top income-tax rate for the highest earners, Mr. Cameron's Conservative Party lost hundreds of seats in local elections May 3.

Mr. Hunt spent six hours defending himself at the inquiry on May 31. During his testimony, the culture secretary revealed he had sent a text message in 2010 to James Murdoch, Rupert's son, congratulating him on clearing a regulatory hurdle on the bid just hours before Mr. Cameron gave him responsibility for overseeing it.

Mr. Cameron, 45, established the inquiry last year after revelations about widespread phone hacking forced the elder Mr. Murdoch to close News Corp.'s Sunday tabloid, the News of the World, then Britain's best-selling newspaper.

News Corp.'s critics and victims have argued the company's often cozy links to politicians prevented the extent of the hacking scandal from being uncovered sooner.

Former News of the World Editor Andy Coulson was Mr. Cameron's communications chief until January 2011, when he quit amid public anger over the phone-hacking scandal; last week police formally charged him with lying under oath about whether he knew phone hacking was going on at News of the World.

Mr. Cameron has defended his dealings with News Corp., rejecting accusations that he sought Mr. Murdoch's backing before coming to power in return for favorable treatment of the company and its 7.8 billion-pound ($12 billion) bid for full control of BSkyB once he'd taken office.

"Was there some big deal, some big agreement between me and Rupert Murdoch or James Murdoch that , in return for the support for the Conservative Party, I would somehow help their business interests or allow this merger to go through? That is not true," Mr. Cameron said in the House of Commons April 29. "I never had any inappropriate conversations with anyone about this."

Opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband and his deputy, Harriet Harman, will be questioned Tuesday.

-- Bloomberg News --

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