James Murdoch said Tuesday he is stepping down as chairman of the satellite TV network BSkyB amid Britain’s ongoing phone-hacking scandal and accusations that newspapers under his leadership broke the law and tried to cover it up.
In a letter to other members of the BSkyB board, Murdoch indicated he had decided to resign because of the constant stream of negative publicity surrounding News Corp., whose British arm, News International, is under investigation in the hacking scandal.
“As attention continues to be paid to past events at News International, I am determined that the interests of BSkyB should not be undermined by matters outside the scope of this company,” Murdoch wrote. “I am aware that my role as chairman could become a lightning rod for BSkyB and I believe that my resignation will help to ensure that there is no false conflation with events at a separate organization.”
News Corp. owns about 39% of BSkyB and has tried to win overall control of the TV service. But it was forced to shelve its bid last summer after the phone-hacking scandal exploded in the public consciousness and prompted a backlash against the company.
The head of News Corp., media tycoon Rupert Murdoch, summarily closed down the weekly tabloid News of the World last July after it was revealed that the paper routinely hacked into the cellphones of celebrities, politicians and even murder victims.
Since then, more than a dozen journalists and executives with News International have been arrested and questioned by Scotland Yard in its wide-ranging probe into allegations of phone hacking and bribery. Police are also investigating whether News International engaged in a coverup of criminal activity at News of the World and its sister tabloid, the Sun.
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