London: Former British Prime Minister John Major told an inquiry on Tuesday that Rupert Murdoch demanded he change his policy on Europe, directly contradicting the News Corp. chief's own testimony.
Mr Major's challenge comes a day after another former premier, Gordon Brown, also accused the Australian-born tycoon of misleading the Leveson inquiry into press ethics.
Mr Major, who was the Conservative prime minister from 1990 to 1997, said he had dinner with Mr Murdoch in February 1997 as part of an effort to get closer to the media baron's newspapers ahead of elections.
"It became apparent in discussion that Mr Murdoch really didn't like our European policies, which was no surprise to me, and he wished me to change our European policies," Mr Major told the inquiry.
"It is not very often someone sits in front of a prime minister and says 'I would like you to change your policy and if you don't change your policy my organisation cannot support you.'"
Mr Major says he told Mr Murdoch there was "no question of us changing our policies."
Mr Murdoch's Sun newspaper, Britain's best-selling daily tabloid, switched its support to Mr Major's Labour rival Tony Blair shortly afterwards, and Mr Blair went on to win the May 1997 election.
Mr Murdoch told the Leveson inquiry on April 25 that he had "never asked a prime minister for anything", as he tried to downplay his papers' political influence.
In Tuesday's hearing, Mr Major said Mr Murdoch's investment in Britain's newspapers and Sky television channels constituted "a very substantial contribution to our national life".
But he added: "I do think parts of his media empire have lowered the quality of British media. I think that is a loss."
He also launched a strongly worded attack on the media baron's influence in Britain, saying it was "slightly odd" that someone who cannot vote in Britain could wield so much power.
"The sheer scale of the influence he (Murdoch) is believed to have, whether he actually exercises it or not, is an unattractive facet of British national life," he said.
The former premier called for media proprietors in Britain to be made personally liable for the actions of their journalists, claiming they had "failed in their responsibility" to properly instruct reporters on press ethics.
On Monday, former Labour premier Gordon Brown appeared at the inquiry and denied Mr Murdoch's claim that he had telephoned the tycoon in November 2010 threatening to "make war" on News Corp.
News Corp. said on Monday that Mr Murdoch "stands by his testimony" regarding Mr Brown.
The inquiry, chaired by senior judge Brian Leveson, was set up by current Prime Minister David Cameron last July in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal at Mr Murdoch's now-closed News of the World tabloid.
Mr Cameron is due to give evidence on Thursday.
Story first published:
June 12, 2012 22:07 IST