LONDON: It doesn't pay to mess with Rupert Murdoch. Nor is it rewarding to rile Rebekah Wade (pictured), editor of the magnate's top-selling UK newspaper, The Sun. As her 'tough guy' actor husband, Ross Kemp, reportedly has the scars to attest.
So it was with trepidation on Wednesday that the communications committee of Britain's upper chamber, the House of Lords, faced the pugnacious Wade across a committee-room table.
Their intention was to grill her about alleged proprietorial interference in editorial matters - with especial reference to news presentation.
Wade, however, can duck and dive with the best of them, and was not about to be drawn by a bunch of wet-behind-the-ears politicos.
Instead she displayed footwork Muhammad Ali would have envied, telling Their Lordships that she ignored Murdoch's dislikes (over the trivia-level of The Sun's content) thereby inferring that that he did not dictate the editorial agenda on a day-to-day basis.
"Mr Murdoch is often dismayed about the amount of celebrity coverage in my newspaper, particularly on Big Brother," Wade burbled. "He can't understand why we devote so many pages to Big Brother. I'm a Big Brother fan and he was very surprised I devoted four pages every day to the last series."
Having dealt with her proprietor's dislikes, Wade was less forthcoming about his 'likes', let alone the issue of specific instructions on news presentation. "Like any editor, you get praise and criticism from your proprietor," she said.
Murdoch had not explicitly influenced her day-to-day editorial decisions, Wade insisted.
"I can't remember one occasion when we have discussed tomorrow's newspaper in the censorious sense that you keep telling me exists and I say doesn't," she told the committee
But the committee had heard reliable evidence to the contrary three months earlier, when a witness attested that the tycoon saw himself as a "traditional proprietor" of his UK tabloids.
In minuted evidence the witness declared that the head of Clan Murdoch exercised editorial control on major issues, like which party to back in a general election or policy on Europe."
Keith Rupert Murdoch himself!
Data sourced from MediaGuardian.co.uk; additional content by WARC staff