Who is Tom Mockridge?

Unlike Rebekah Brooks, News International's new chief executive has so far avoided the spotlight.

Tom Mockridge, who is replacing Rebekah Brooks as chief executive of News International with immediate effect, is the man in the spotlight today.

So who exactly is the former head of Sky Italia? A quick look through his career path so far shows that he has held a variety of executive roles in News Corporation, stretching back two decades.

Mockridge started out as a financial journalist in his native New Zealand, before moving to Australia. After several years in newspapers, he became an adviser to the former Australian prime minister, Paul Keating, while Keating was Treasurer in the 1980s.

In January 1991, Mockridge joined Murdoch's Australian holding company for newspapers. He was assistant CEO at the company for five years, before becoming head of Foxtel, News Corp's Australian pay-TV service. He later held various roles at Star Group, Murdoch's Asian group.

Following a stint back in New Zealand, heading up the country's largest newspaper group, Independent Newspapers, part owned by News Corp, Mockridge moved to Italy in 2002 to be head of Sky Italia. Since 2009, he has been a non-executive director of BSkyB.

But beyond his curriculum vitae, what do we know about the man himself?

An executive who avoids the spotlight and unlike his predecessor, avoids controversy, it is difficult to find many interviews with him. However, this 2004 profile outlines his role in Italy, claiming that Murdoch "hand-picked" Mockridge to take on President Silvio Berlusconi:

If you were Rupert Murdoch and you wanted to put your best man opposite Berlusconi for a big fight, you might choose the exact opposite of the Italian PM. That probably describes Tom Mockridge, the chief executive of Sky Italia and the man charged by Murdoch with imposing the highly successful UK pay-TV model on the Italian landscape.

While Silvio is never out of the headlines, Tom is almost never in them. He rarely gives interviews and when he does it's only if he thinks they will help him attract more subscribers, according to a colleague based in News Corp's New York offices.

The profile paints a picture of a man with forensic focus, saying that he is likely to be"reading every page of a 60-page legal document to ensure that his company's strategies are on track." It also states that he is politically aware -- crucial if he is to step into the breach for this crisis:

"Tom is very politically interested," said former colleague and current COO of Fox International Channels David Haslingden. "He understands the various political agendas. Wherever he goes -- whether it's New Zealand, Hong Kong or Italy - he has a good understanding of what's going on politically and that's very helpful."

The Guardian's Rome correspondent John Hooper adds to this impression:

A model of discretion, he is seldom noticed in public and rarely gives interviews. I have spoken to him only once, and there are plenty of correspondents in Rome and Milan who could not even say that.

In conclusion, Mockridge is almost the exact opposite to Brooks, who in recent weeks has been at the very centre of the media storm around News International. We can safely assume that we will be seeing a lot more of this quiet man in the weeks to come.

Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for the New Statesman.

John Moore
Show Hide image

The man who created the fake Tube sign explains why he did it

"We need to consider the fact that fake news isn't always fake news at the source," says John Moore.

"I wrote that at 8 o'clock on the evening and before midday the next day it had been read out in the Houses of Parliament."

John Moore, a 44-year-old doctor from Windsor, is describing the whirlwind process by which his social media response to Wednesday's Westminster attack became national news.

Moore used a Tube-sign generator on the evening after the attack to create a sign on a TfL Service Announcement board that read: "All terrorists are politely reminded that THIS IS LONDON and whatever you do to us we will drink tea and jolly well carry on thank you." Within three hours, it had just fifty shares. By the morning, it had accumulated 200. Yet by the afternoon, over 30,000 people had shared Moore's post, which was then read aloud on BBC Radio 4 and called a "wonderful tribute" by prime minister Theresa May, who at the time believed it was a genuine Underground sign. 

"I think you have to be very mindful of how powerful the internet is," says Moore, whose viral post was quickly debunked by social media users and then national newspapers such as the Guardian and the Sun. On Thursday, the online world split into two camps: those spreading the word that the sign was "fake news" and urging people not to share it, and those who said that it didn't matter that it was fake - the sentiment was what was important. 

Moore agrees with the latter camp. "I never claimed it was a real tube sign, I never claimed that at all," he says. "In my opinion the only fake news about that sign is that it has been reported as fake news. It was literally just how I was feeling at the time."

Moore was motivated to create and post the sign when he was struck by the "very British response" to the Westminster attack. "There was no sort of knee-jerk Islamaphobia, there was no dramatisation, it was all pretty much, I thought, very calm reporting," he says. "So my initial thought at the time was just a bit of pride in how London had reacted really." Though he saw other, real Tube signs online, he wanted to create his own in order to create a tribute that specifically epitomised the "very London" response. 

Yet though Moore insists he never claimed the sign was real, his caption on the image - which now has 100,800 shares - is arguably misleading. "Quintessentially British..." Moore wrote on his Facebook post, and agrees now that this was ambiguous. "It was meant to relate to the reaction that I saw in London in that day which I just thought was very calm and measured. What the sign was trying to do was capture the spirit I'd seen, so that's what I was actually talking about."

Not only did Moore not mean to mislead, he is actually shocked that anyone thought the sign was real. 

"I'm reasonably digitally savvy and I was extremely shocked that anyone thought it was real," he says, explaining that he thought everyone would be able to spot a fake after a "You ain't no muslim bruv" sign went viral after the Leytonstone Tube attack in 2015. "I thought this is an internet meme that people know isn't true and it's fine to do because this is a digital thing in a digital world."

Yet despite his intentions, Moore's sign has become the centre of debate about whether "nice" fake news is as problematic as that which was notoriously spread during the 2016 United States Presidential elections. Though Moore can understand this perspective, he ultimately feels as though the sentiment behind the sign makes it acceptable. 

"I use the word fake in inverted commas because I think fake implies the intention to deceive and there wasn't [any]... I think if the sentiment is ok then I think it is ok. I think if you were trying to be divisive and you were trying to stir up controversy or influence people's behaviour then perhaps I wouldn't have chosen that forum but I think when you're only expressing your own emotion, I think it's ok.

"The fact that it became so-called fake news was down to other people's interpretation and not down to the actual intention... So in many interesting ways you can see that fake news doesn't even have to originate from the source of the news."

Though Moore was initially "extremely shocked" at the reponse to his post, he says that on reflection he is "pretty proud". 

"I'm glad that other people, even the powers that be, found it an appropriate phrase to use," he says. "I also think social media is often denigrated as a source of evil and bad things in the world, but on occasion I think it can be used for very positive things. I think the vast majority of people who shared my post and liked my post have actually found the phrase and the sentiment useful to them, so I think we have to give social media a fair judgement at times and respect the fact it can be a source for good."

Amelia Tait is a technology and digital culture writer at the New Statesman.