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The News Corp boss told the Leveson Inquiry into media ethics that he and senior executives were "shielded" from the extent of phone-hacking at the tabloid, which he was forced to close.
Asked if he should have known about it, he said: "I also have to say that I failed, and I am very sorry about it."
He is giving evidence at the Royal Courts of Justice for a second day.
In other developments, the 81-year-old said:
Newspapers were a force for good in society, threatened by the "disruptive technology" of the internet and too much regulation
He was "surprised" by the size of the £425,000 plus costs settlement to Professional Footballers' Association chief executive Gordon Taylor over hacking
He had spent hundreds of millions of dollars investigating activities in his papers after the hacking scandal
He does not tell journalists to promote his company's TV channels, shows, or films in his papers
He was "shocked" to hear from counsel to the inquiry, Robert Jay, that News International had not co-operated with a police investigation into hacking
On claims that "one rogue reporter" was responsible for phone-hacking, Mr Murdoch said senior executives were all misinformed about its extent.
"I do blame one or two people for that... someone took charge of a cover up we were victim to and I regret that."
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image of Peter Hunt Analysis Peter Hunt News correspondent
A rather different Rupert Murdoch was on display for the second day of his evidence.
Having emerged unscathed from Wednesday's grilling over his relationships with politicians, a penitent proprietor was this morning under oath as he faced questioning about the phone hacking scandal.
The mea culpas kept on coming. "I failed." "I am very sorry about that." "I apologise."
The fault though didn't lie with him or others at the top. He wasn't guilty, he insisted, of a cover-up. Others were at the News of the World though he didn't explicitly name names.
And the man who is passionate about papers - who has printing running through his veins, the inquiry heard - provided his rivals with a headline for their coverage. Speaking about the News of the World hacking scandal, Rupert Murdoch told the court: "It is a blot on my reputation for the rest of my life."
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Celebrity 'tittle tattle'
He said a lawyer, whom he described as a friend and "drinking pal" of journalists at the NoW, forbade staff to report instances of phone hacking.
And he said the editor, Colin Myler, had failed to report back.
Mr Myler, who became editor in 2007, told the inquiry last year that he had accepted phone hacking must have been limited because police had not shown otherwise.
But he said he feared "bombs under the newsroom floor" in the form of possible widespread wrongdoing in the past.
BBC political correspondent Ross Hawkins said Mr Murdoch had at times painted himself as a victim, saying people had lied about him, and there was an industry in that.
Our correspondent said the tycoon ultimately argued that he had now built a new company.
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I honestly believe that newspapers and all they mean, mistakes and qualities, are a huge benefit to society”
Rupert Murdoch News Corp
Mr Murdoch went on to apologise to all the "innocent" staff at the tabloid who lost their jobs when the newspaper closed after journalists hacked into the voicemail of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler.
"I am guilty of not having paid enough attention to the News of the World, probably throughout all of the time that we've owned it.
"I was more interested in the excitement of building a new newspaper and doing other things... it was an omission by me."
Explaining why he closed the NoW, he said after the Milly Dowler story was given "huge publicity" he "could feel the blast coming in the window, almost" and panicked.
When asked by counsel for the inquiry, Robert Jay QC, whether the NoW had a taste for celebrity gossip and "tittle tattle", he said that was a "vast exaggeration".
"Certainly, it was interested in celebrities, just as the public is. A much greater investment went into covering the weekend soccer. Coverage of celebrities? Yes. Salacious gossip? No."
Earlier, Mr Murdoch said he was "surprised" by how long email contacts between one of his executives and the government went on during his BSkyB bid.
But he added that Frederic Michel, who repeatedly refers to contacts with Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt, had done nothing wrong.
Mr Hunt's special adviser Adam Smith has quit over the emails and the minister faces calls to follow him.
Asked whether he was surprised by the extent of Mr Michel's contacts, he said: "I didn't see anything wrong with his activities. Was I surprised it had gone on so long - there were so many emails? Yes."
Rupert Murdoch Media mogul Rupert Murdoch said on Wednesday he had never asked a prime minister for a favour
Mr Michel is News Corp's senior vice-president of government affairs and public policy.
The media mogul said he did not believe he had ever met Mr Hunt and he "certainly didn't discuss" the bid.
At the end of his seven hours of evidence to the inquiry Mr Murdoch urged Lord Justice Leveson not to over-regulate the press.
"I think you have a danger of putting regulations in place which will mean there will be no press in 10 years to regulate.
"And I honestly believe that newspapers and all they mean, mistakes and qualities, are a huge benefit to society."
He added: "A varied press guarantees democracy. We want democracy rather than autocracy - I think we would all agree with that in this room."
Downing Street denial
On Thursday, the inquiry also heard about the number of meetings between Prime Minister David Cameron and Mr Murdoch.
BBC political correspondent Norman Smith said Downing Street had adamantly disputed claims that Mr Cameron could have had up to eight meetings since he become prime minister, saying there had been only two meetings.
On another occasion, Mr Murdoch was in the audience during a speech by Mr Cameron, and there was a social event, Downing Street said.
Our correspondent adds that the reasons for Downing Street's denials are that it wants to shield Mr Cameron from any controversy, quash the idea that Mr Murdoch has easy access to the prime minister, and dispel the impression that there is some sort of inner sanctum of influence within the Establishment.
Meanwhile, culture select committee chairman John Whittingdale has told the BBC he hopes its report into phone hacking will be published on Tuesday.