News Corporation chief Rupert Murdoch says he was "frustrated" and "overly emotional" when he was secretly recorded describing the police investigation into alleged wrongdoings at his publications as incompetent.

In a huge embarrassment for the media mogul, he was secretly taped by his own staff while talking to journalists at his Sun newspaper earlier this year.

The staff then leaked the tapes to a media website, in which Murdoch could be heard suggesting he was aware of some previous unethical behaviour by his staff.

The release prompted Murdoch to be recalled to face the Culture, Media and Sport Committee of the House of Commons for questioning.

Now, in a three-page letter to British MPs Keith Vaz and John Whittingdale, Murdoch has expressed regret over the taped comments.

In lengthy letters, published on the Channel 4 website, he says he had "no basis" to question the competence of police investigating allegations of payments for information to public officials by his journalists.

He says he did not intend to suggest that "violations of the law are tolerable or acceptable".

"I accept that I used the wrong adjectives to voice my frustration over the course of the police investigation," he said.

But he says Scotland Yard's investigation is "disproportionate" and is taking too long.

"I had been hearing for months about pre-dawn raids undertaken by as as many as 14 police officers, and that some employees and their families were left in limbo for as much as a year and a half between arrest and charging decisions," he said.

"At the March 2013 meeting, I was reminded of the impact on families."

He says his company has provided "unprecedented" levels of cooperation to MPs, saying they have met almost 1,900 requests for assistance.

One of the MPs, Mr Vaz, says he is happy Murdoch has put his comments in context.

"I think he's answered all the questions. He's accepted he used the wrong words," he said.

"But, you know, he was talking to his employees... therefore he was trying to show some empathy for them."

But in the tapes Murdoch is heard describing the inquiry into phone hacking as "the biggest inquiry ever over next to nothing".

Murdoch speaks about how payments to police by newspaper editors is nothing new.

He also appears to suggest that reporters jailed as a result of the probe could return to their jobs.

"You're all innocent until proven guilty. What you're asking is what happens if some of you are proven guilty. What afterwards? I'm not allowed to promise you," he says.

"I will promise you continued health support, but your jobs ... I've got to be careful what comes out, but frankly, I won't say it, but just trust me."

A spokesman for Murdoch earlier confirmed he would return to the UK to face an MPs' select committee over the taped comments.

Scotland Yard had been trying to obtain a copy of the tape following its release by the Exaro news website.

More than 20 Sun journalists have now been arrested, including former editor Rebekah Brooks, executive editor Fergus Shanahan, deputy editor Geoff Webster and chief reporter John Kay.

The phone hacking scandal also shut down Murdoch's best selling News of the World newspaper.

 

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