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British PM appears before media inquiry

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British Prime Minister David Cameron faces an uncomfortable appearance before Britain's press-ethics inquiry [AFP]British Prime Minister David Cameron, under fire for courting an exclusive media clique led by Rupert Murdoch, has appeared before a judicial inquiry to try and neuter claims that his ministers tailored policy to further Murdoch's interests.

Cameron's once cosy ties with Murdoch's inner circle mean he is under pressure to pull off a virtuoso performance on Thursday at the inquiry, which has sharpened the perception that Britain has been run for years by an elite that fawned on the News Corp chairman.

The coalition government has divided along party lines over Cameron's backing for a minister accused of doing Murdoch's bidding when responsible for impartial oversight, as he struggles with an economy in recession and growing unease about his leadership within his own party.

Cameron, 45, who himself set up the Leveson inquiry into media ethics last year after a newspaper phone-hacking scandal erupted, is due to be questioned for at least five hours, streamed live on television.

Following are key remarks by Cameron at the inquiry led by Judge Brian Leveson:

"Part of my evidence ... is to say that I think this relationship has been going wrong for, you know, it's never been perfect. There have always been problems. You can point to examples of (former Prime Minister Winston) Churchill putting (press tycoon) Beaverbrook as a minister, so this is, there have been issues for years.

"But I think (in) the last 20 years the relationship has not been right, I think it has been too close, as I explained in my evidence. And I think we need to try and get it on a better footing.

"I don't think the regulatory system we have at the moment works, and so we need to improve it."

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