Rupert Murdoch: Unfit to run his business (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Rupert Murdoch is “not a fit person” to exercise stewardship of a major international company, a committee of MPs has concluded, in a report highly critical of the mogul and his son James’s role in the News of the World phone-hacking affair.
The Commons culture, media and sport select committee also concluded that James Murdoch showed “wilful ignorance” of the extent of phone hacking during 2009 and 2010 – in a highly charged document that saw MPs split on party lines as regards the two Murdochs.
Labour MPs and the sole Liberal Democrat on the committee, Adrian Sanders, voted together in a bloc of six against the five Conservatives to insert the criticisms of Rupert Murdoch and toughen up the remarks about his son James. But the MPs were united in their criticism of other former News International employees.
The cross-party group of MPs said that Les Hinton, the former executive chairman of News International, was “complicit” in a cover-up at the newspaper group, and that Colin Myler, former editor of the News of the World, and the paper’s ex-head of legal, Tom Crone, deliberately withheld crucial information and answered questions falsely. All three were accused of misleading parliament by the culture select committee.
Rupert Murdoch, the document said, “did not take steps to become fully informed about phone hacking” and “turned a blind eye and exhibited wilful blindness to what was going on in his companies and publications”.
The committee concluded that the culture of the company’s newspapers “permeated from the top” and “speaks volumes about the lack of effective corporate governance at News Corporation and News International”.
That prompted the MPs’ report to say: “We conclude, therefore, that Rupert Murdoch is not a fit person to exercise the stewardship of major international company.”
Did Murdoch use his influence to lobby government? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
By Cora Currier: In front of a British government panel this week, Rupert Murdoch denied that he tried to wield political influence or use his media holdings to further the business interests of News Corp.
“I take particular pride in the fact that we’ve never pushed our commercial interests in our newspapers,” Murdoch said at the media ethics inquiry brought on by the phone-hacking scandal at News of the World last year.
But email messages released Tuesday indicate that News Corp. executives at least considered dispatching top editors of The Wall Street Journal Europe and The Times of London, both News Corp. holdings, to advocate the BSkyB deal.
The newly released emails, totaling 163 pages, were exchanged among News Corp. chief lobbyist Frédéric Michel, company officials and government aides. Several refer to Lord Matthew Oakeshott, a member of Parliament whom News Corp. perceived as key to influencing Vince Cable, the government minister who had the authority in the fall of 2010 to approve the BSkyB deal.
News Corp. execs were worried that Oakeshott wouldn’t be receptive to their overtures. In one email to James Murdoch’s aide, Matthew Anderson, and Rebekah Brooks, chief executive at News International, Michel described Oakeshott as “a difficult character [who] hates lobbying (and doesn’t like our empire either…).”
So Michel, the lobbyist, suggested that they arrange a meeting between Oakeshott and James Harding, editor in chief of The Times. From the email, dated Oct. 12, 2010:
That November, Wheatcroft left The Journal after she was named to the House of Lords as a member of the Conservative party, by Prime Minister David Cameron.
It is not clear whether Harding and Wheatcroft were actually asked to lobby Oakeshott. A spokeswoman for Harding said that “there was never a meeting between James Harding and Lord Oakeshott,” but did not say whether News Corp. officials had asked Harding to have such a meeting. Wheatcroft did not respond to our requests for comment, nor did Oakeshott.
A News Corp. spokesman declined to comment on any of the emails.
Apart from raising questions about Rupert Murdoch’s claim that there was no use of his media holdings to further his company’s interests, the emails document a more general strategy to turn media coverage of the deal in favor of News Corp. in order to give political cover to the minister, Vince Cable, who could approve the deal:
Cable was removed from the bid approval process after he was recorded by journalists saying he had “declared war” on Murdoch. Cable was replaced by Jeremy Hunt, with whom News Corp. appears to have had more luck — the emails point to close communication between Hunt’s aide and News Corp. about how best to push approval of the BSkyB buyout. Hunt said Wednesday that he “didn’t know the volume of those communications or the tone” of the interactions between his aide and News Corp. The Guardian also reported Wednesday that in 2009 Hunt was at News Corp. headquartersin New York during the company’s meetings on whether to launch the bid.
News Corp. threw the support of its British newspapers behind Cameron’s Conservative party in the 2010 elections, shortly before the BSkyB bid was announced. Cameron has maintained that he had had no “inappropriate conversations” with Murdoch about the deal.
Competing news organizations and others had opposed the deal because they said it would further concentrate the media power of Murdoch, who controls 40 percent of Britain’s newspaper circulation. The bid was eventually put on hold when news of phone-hacking by Murdoch papers broke last summer and engulfed the company in scandal.
This article was originally published on ProPublica
British satellite broadcaster BSkyB, part of Rupert Murdoch’s UK media business, is facing an escalating investigation into whether it is a “fit and proper” owner of a broadcasting licence, Britain’s telecoms regulator said on Thursday.
Ofcom said it set up a dedicated team in January known as ‘Project Apple’ to investigate material emerging from the Leveson inquiry and the police’s investigations into phone hacking and the corrupting of public officials.
The investigation is considering the status of both James Murdoch, chairman of BSkyB, and News Corp, which holds a 39.1 percent stake in broadcaster, as “fit and proper” persons to own the BSkyB licence.
“Ofcom has a duty under the UK Broadcasting Acts 1990 and 1996 to be satisfied that any person holding a broadcasting licence is, and remains, fit and proper to do so,” the regulator said.
“New evidence is still emerging from hacking and corruption allegations. Ofcom is continuing to assess the evidence, including the new and emerging evidence, that may assist it in discharging its duties.” Read more at YahooNews….
Rupert Murdoch’s media empire, News Corporation, announced on Wednesday that his son James had stepped down as executive chairman of News International, the British newspaper subsidiary that is embroiled in layers of overlapping police and judicial inquiries into phone hackingand illegal payments to the police.
A statement from News Corporation depicted the step as part of James Murdoch’s move to the company’s headquarters in New York, announced a year ago. But many media analysts said the move seemed to reflect the more recent travails of News International, whose newspapers include The Sun, The Times of London and The Sunday Times of London.
In July, Rupert and James Murdoch sat side by side at a British parliamentary inquiry as legislators demanded to know the full extent of a phone-hacking scandal at The News of the World, a weekly tabloid newspaper that News International shut down last year. The company had initially claimed the hacking was the work of a single rogue reporter.
But since then the scandal has spread and News International has begun paying settlement money to scores of celebrities whose voice-mail accounts were broken into.
The News Corporation statementon Wednesday said that Tom Mockridge, chief executive of News International, would continue in his r
While the Murdochs have been doing their best to keep out of the press over the past few weeks, the scandal that threatened to dismantle their empire is roaring back at them, this time with some allegations that look next to impossible to side step. From the Guardian:
In the letter, which was written four years ago but published only on Tuesday, Goodman claims that phone hacking was "widely discussed" at editorial meetings at the paper until Coulson himself banned further references to it; that Coulson offered to let him keep his job if he agreed not to implicate the paper in hacking when he came to court; and that his own hacking was carried out with "the full knowledge and support" of other senior journalists, whom he named.
What does this mean? Most likely the Murdochs will be recalled to Parliament to explain why they gave misleading evidence before, and James Murdoch's career will most likely come to an end. I don't think it possible for him to claim ignorance with this type of damning evidence, and even if he didn't know, he should have, making him inept as an executive. Many more within News International will be facing jail time, and the scandal that refuses to die will simply escalate as more and more employees speak out.
Rupert Murdoch will be quaking in his boots, and rightly so.
Martin Lewis on Rupert Murdoch's motivation to build a reactionary Right Wing press:
Murdoch's smarts told him that he could profit mightily if only there was a permanent Conservative government in power in the UK. But how to do that when working class people selfishly insisted on voting for their own economic interests rather than those of Rupert? BINGO! It suddenly hit Rupert. Find a way to seduce working class people away from their natural instincts.
Despite his best efforts to avoid incriminating himself in Parliament, James Murdoch's testimony has been seriously challenged by two former News of the World senior executives. If Murdoch's account is proven false, the ramifications will be nothing short of devastating. From the Guardian:
Tom Watson, a member of the culture, media and sport, committee and a leading critic of the Murdochs in relation to the phone-hacking scandal, wrote to the Met in light of the public challenge by two former News of the World senior executives to Murdoch's evidence to the committee on Tuesday.
News Corporation's deputy chief operating officer told MPs that he was unaware of an email suggesting hacking at the paper was more widespread when he agreed a reported £700,000 out-of-court settlement with Gordon Taylor, the chief executive of the Professional Footballers' Association, in 2008.
The existence of the email, known as the "for Neville" email because of its links to the paper's former chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck, is thought to have been critical in News International's decision to pay Taylor the money in an out-of-court settlement after he threatened to sue the paper.
Murdoch has stood by his testimony, but it could mean that he will be investigated for perverting the cause of justice. As Andrew Sullivan writes:
The sheer size of the payment, as the NYT notes, is far, far beyond the usual damages for phone-hacking. It was kept within a very tight circle. Now that circle has broken open, who knows what else will emerge? It seems to any casual observer like an obvious piece of hush-money, which puts James Murdoch in a criminal conspiracy.
As I have stated before, the phone hacking scandal has really only just begun. The more we learn, the further up the food chain the criminality seems to get. And at some point, both Murdochs will be implicated in serious wrong doings. James is up first, and who knows how long it will be before Rupert is engulfed in the fire that is rapidly incinerating his empire.
Matt Taibbi on how the phone hacking scandal was a natural consequence of modern corporate capitalism:
Once the media business made the collective decision to always put money above editorial judgment, I think scandals like the News of the World affair became inevitable. Because once media companies abandoned the notion that their business was somehow different from other money-making businesses, that there were no longer places they wouldn’t go to generate product, it became inevitable that the corporate media game would become nothing more than an all-out, relentless quest for sensational, titillating material.
Two key quotes from Rupert Murdoch and his son James Murdoch during the parliamentary hearing in the UK today (transcript via the Guardian):
I didn't know of it [paying police bribes]. I'm sorry… if I can just say something. And this is not as an excuse – maybe it's an explanation of my laxity. The News of the World is less than one per cent of our company. I employ 53,000 people around the world who are proud, and great and ethical and distinguished people. Professionals in their lives. And perhaps I'm spread watching and appointing people whom I trust to run those divisions.
I do not have direct knowledge of what they knew and at what time but I can tell you that the critical new facts as I saw them and as the company saw them really emerged in the production of documentary information or evidence in the civil trials at the end of 2010. The duration from 2008, or 2007 I should say till the end of 2010, the length of time it took for that come clear and that real evidence to be there is a matter of deep frustration. Mine, I have to tell you I know and I sympathise with the frustration of this committee and it's a matter of real regret that the facts could not emerge and could not be gotten to, to my understanding, faster.
The Murdochs were obviously prepped well for the hearing, giving only prepared soundbyte answers designed to obsfucate rather than inform. James Murdoch, the more polished performer, spoke for most of the time doing his best to appear humble and helpful, while Murdoch senior was more curt and reluctant to offer up information while being grilled. If anyone expected a dramatic turn of events, they will be sorely disappointed. The hearings confirmed that:
1. The Murdochs still believe they did nothing wrong personally.
2.They are not culpable for the phone hacking and bribes paid by journalists and senior executives.
3.The links between their empire, the police and the government has not been improper or corrosive.
The problem for the Murdochs is that while the scandal may appear to be peaking, it has only really just begun. James and Rupert are attempting to stem the tide, and today's performance may or may not have done that. In reality, it doesn't really matter – the investigation will continue and as more and more people will be implied, it will be harder to contain the wider implications of a highly corrupt corporate culture. Corporate culture comes from the top, and Rupert Murdoch is ultimately responsible for what goes on inside his company.
He may stay on as head of News Corporation, but his authority, power and prestige have been irreversibly tarnished. No longer will he be invited to Downing St for cups of tea with the Prime Minister, and no longer will he influence which political party gets into power. It will be shocking if the UK does not implement stringent laws to prevent the consolidation of media conglomerates, and if that happens, Murdoch will be about as relevant to UK politics as Gordon Brown now is.
While the Murdochs scramble to contain the disaster over the phone hacking scandal, elements out of their control continue to escalate to the point of no return. Over the weekend, former executive of News International Rebekah Brooks was formerly arrested on suspicion of conspiring to intercept communications and on suspicion of corruption allegations. Following her arrest, Britain's most senior policeman, Met police commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson resigned stating:
"I have taken this decision as a consequence of the ongoing speculation and accusations relating to the Met's links with News International at a senior level and in particular in relation to Mr Neil Wallis."
The two dramatic events signal that the scandal is far from over, and will probably involve months and possibly years of investigation. How far up the food chain will it go? Who knows, but Rupert and James Murdoch should be very, very nervous. While they are doing their utmost to stem the tide of overwhelmingly negative PR, the truth is, events are now completely out of their control and they sit back like the rest of us and see where the chips fall.
The scandal is so epic in proportion that it is impossible to fully comprehend how deeply this will effect Britain's media and political establishment. While the Murdoch empire has been struck a potentially fatal blow, the political establishment will next come under scrutiny for its incestuous relationship with the press.
PM David Cameron is working over time to do his own containment, but his links to Andy Coulson and Rebekah Brooks will also come back to haunt him, possibly ruining his chances of reelection if he is seen to have had an improper relationship.
Amazingly, we are only witnessing the beginning of a very unique revolution.