29 May 2012

Blair describes media relationship

8:15 am on 29 May 2012

Former British prime minister Tony Blair has told an inquiry into media ethics that an unhealthy relationship has evolved between the press and politicians in Britain.

But, he told the Leveson inquiry there had been no connivance between individuals when he was in power, and he rejected suggestions he was too close to the head of News Corporation, Rupert Murdoch.

Mr Blair told the inquiry he had not changed any policies to please the newspapers owned by Murdoch.

He added he would not have become godfather to one of Murdoch's children based on their relationship in office.

The inquiry is investigating press standards, and currently focusing on the relationship between the press and politicians.

''It was a relationship about power," said Mr Blair. "I find these relationships are not personal; they are working (relationships), to me.''

He said a close relationship was inevitable but also involved a "certain level of tension".

''If you look back over time there's nothing wrong and indeed it would, it would be strange frankly if senior people in the media and senior politicians didn't have that close interaction,'' he said.

Mr Blair said the views of the press on issues ranging from the trade unions to Europe had not affected his approach.

''I don't know a policy that we changed as a result of Rupert Murdoch,'' he said.

BBC lobbying

In fact the strongest lobbying he had received from a media organisation during his time in office was from the BBC over the licence fee, he told the hearing.

Mr Blair told the inquiry that, at its best, British journalism was the best in the world.

But he said the word "unhealthy" rather than "cosy" was a better description of the relationship in some cases between journalists and those in power.

During Mr Blair's appearance, a protester was ejected for calling him a war criminal.