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Inscrutable: But does this impassive visage mask knowledge about corruption in newspaper journalism going back at least 40 years?

Inscrutable: But does this impassive visage mask knowledge about corruption in newspaper journalism going back at least 40 years?

Rupert Murdoch has known for decades that his newspaper reporters were bribing public officials, according to an audio recording reported on the Exaro News website.

It seems the media mogul made the comments in March, in a private meeting with a group of journalists from The Sun who had been arrested over allegations of illegal news-gathering – including payments to police and other public officials for information.

In the recording, a Sun journalist asks: “I’m pretty confident that the working practices that I’ve seen here are ones that I’ve inherited, rather than instigated. Would you recognise that all this pre-dates many of our involvement here?”

Murdoch replies: “We’re talking about payments for news tips from cops; that’s been going on a hundred years, absolutely. You didn’t instigate it.”

At another time, he says: “It was the culture of Fleet Street.”

The full story, and a transcript of the recording, are on the Exaro News site, but the revelation raises serious questions about the phone-tapping trial of Andy Coulson, Rebekah Brooks and others, which is currently taking place.

If Brooks and Coulson are on trial for allowing corrupt and illegal practices in their newspapers, why not Murdoch?

And what are the implications for David Cameron, the Prime Minister who may have allowed this kind of corruption into Downing Street?