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Commons Committee’s Harsh Finding On Murdoch …

  • May 2nd, 2012
  • Posted by EUEditor

news-of-world-logo.jpg“Wilful blindness” and being “not a fit person” to run a major company were key charges against the News Corporation head, Rupert Murdoch, in the report of the British Parliamentary inquiry into phone hacking at the News of the World.

CLOSE QUESTIONING

The report was adopted on a vote and released on Monday, 30.4.12.

The Liberal-Democrat member had sided with Labour to push it through; though Conservative members said they approved 90% of it — stopping short on the question of fitness to manage a company.

That point was highly sensitive as the position of the associated company, News International, as part-owner of the pay television enterprise, B Sky B, has been called into question.

Members of the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport  expressly stated the “major company” they had in mind, concerning Mr Murdoch, would be B Sky B.
In July, the committee reconvened saying it had been misled in a 2009 investigation into the hacking of private telephones by the Murdoch group newspaper, The News of the World.

Mr Murdoch was closely questioned at a public hearing, calling it the “humblest day of his life”.  See EUAustralia Online, “News Ad Nauseum”, 22.9.11.

He closed the News of the World, and withdrew a US$12-billion (A$12.4-billion; xe.com, 2.5.12) bid to buy up full ownership of B Sky B; avoiding investigation by the broadcasting authority to establish the credentials of the prospective new owners, as persons suitable to hold the licence.

(At the time, speculation was denied that a Sunday edition of the company’s daily leader, The Sun, biggest circulation daily in Britain, would be set up to enter the vacuum; yet that edition was launched, with circulation at  two-million  readers, not quite News of the World proportions, on 26.2.12.)

PRIME MINISTER CAMERON

bskyb.jpgThe B Sky B affair then took a new twist in the last week, during hearings of a separate, judicial investigation into News Corporation business, the Leveson press inquiry.

It was alleged that through the Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, the government had opened itself to helping with the company’s efforts to get control of the television enterprise – in return for political support in the Murdoch media.

A statement from the Prime Minister, David Cameron, on Monday (30.4.12)  averred that he knew nothing of any breach of Ministerial protocols by Mr Hunt.

His opponents called that turning a “blind eye” – meaning two accusations along those lines in the one day.

In an earlier phase of the Parliamentary inquiry, last year,  Mr Cameron’s name had been dragged close to the fire.

The list:

His hosting of luminaries from the Murdoch company, News International, at 10 Downing Street, while they were bidding to buy up B-Sky-B.  “I never had an inappropriate conversation”, he was to say.

Entertaining the Murdoch executive, Rebekah Brooks.  “I never held a slumber party … I never saw her in her pyjamas”, he was to say.

His appointment of ex News of the World editor, Andy Coulson, to head government media, despite warnings by advisors over Coulsen’s own singeing in the phone-hacking scandal. “With 20-20 hindsight I don’t think I would have given him the job and I do not think he would have accepted it”, said the Prime Minister.

The tabling of the House of Commons Select Committee report this week reflected the clear displeasure of its members with the behaviour of the owner, management and many staff members of News Corporation.

JUDICIAL INQUIRY ALSO

The scene had been set at the Leveson hearings during the preceding week.

Said a commentary carried by Reuters: :

“Rupert Murdoch’s tetchy and uncompromising appearance at a British inquiry into phone hacking could come back to haunt him this week when politicians give their verdict on the scandal at his defunct News of the World newspaper.

“Three days of grilling at the Leveson judicial press inquiry last week extracted few new facts from Rupert and his son James as the 81-year-old casually threw out insults at politicians and described himself as a victim of a corporate cover-up.

“That appearance will only increase pressure on a powerful parliamentary committee to be harsh in its verdict on the scandal, putting Murdoch’s News Corporation further on the defensive…”

The Members of Parliament found that Rupert Murdoch had “turned a blind eye and exhibited willful blindness to what was going on in his companies and publications.”

“This culture, we consider, permeated from the top throughout the organisation and speaks volumes about the lack of effective corporate governance at News Corporation”, they said.

The report of the committee this week was to say that three former senior executives of News International  — Les Hinton, Colin Myler, and Tom Crone — had misled the Parliamentary committee.

That could see them brought before the House of Commons.
It added to the committee’s  dissatisfaction over the company’s response to complaints and inquiries from the early 2002s , over journalists’ hacking into and keeping records of people’s telephone calls.

One was a teenage girl, Milly Dowler, who’d been abducted and was murdered.

CATALOGUE OF OFFENCES

The company had blamed the early cases on the actions of rogue reporters.

As the 2011 investigation went on, evidence mounted of hundreds of files being kept; and celebrities and others brought legal actions against the company over violation of the their privacy, receiving large cash settlements.

Fresh information emerged over rum practices at the News of the World and other papers, including systematic, and expensive payments made to police officers, in return for information, extending through to tracks on the location of certain subjects.

Among dozens of arrests of News International employees and others, charges were indicated, yet to be made in court, of perverting the course of justice.

Employees of the company have been complaining, and warning against a tendency of the senior management now, to investigate them, turn them in, and leave them to cop the main blame.

Whatever else may be said of these journalists, as leaders in the tabloid trade, they do know how to create a hullabaloo if they put their minds to it.

james-murdoch-faces-mps-007.jpgA casualty of the entire episode to date is the younger son of Rupert Murdoch, James Murdoch, 39 (picture), who began stepping down from senior positions that he held, late last year.

In February he resigned as Executive Chairman of the News Corporation newspapers branch in the United Kingdom, and this month (3.4.12) resigned as Chairman of B Sky B, though remaining on the Board.

The company has issued a statement saying that while still looking at this week’s report, it acknowledges that “serious wrongdoing” occurred at the News of the World, and that its response was “too slow and too defensive.” It added that some of its employees “had misled the Select Committee in 2009.” The corporation says that its internal investigations have cleared several of its other operations of involvement in the malpractice.
The Murdoch media empire, as a matter of legend, began with Rupert Murdoch, as a young man, being bequeathed the ownership of a newspaper in Adelaide. The Australian branch, News Limited, says that none of the trouble, and the illegal conduct behind it, applies to itself.

Likewise the company in the United States, much larger, is keeping its head down as regulators and other interested parties keep casting glances its way.

Reference

Anthony Aarons and Robert Hutton, “Rupert Murdoch Not Fit to Lead News Corp., Lawmakers Say”, Bloomberg, NY, 1.5.12. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-05-01/rupert-murdoch-not-fit-person-to-lead-news-corp-lawmakers-say.html, (1.5.12).

Alan Cowell and John F. Burns, “British Panel Finds Murdoch Unfit to Lead Media Empire”, NYT, NY, 1.5.12. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/02/world/europe/murdoch-hacking-scandal-to-be-examined-by-british-parliamentary-panel.html, (1.5.12).

Kate Holton, “Murdochs face tough week over scandal”, Reuters, London, 30.4.12. http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/04/30/us-murdoch-politics-idUSBRE83T06A20120430, (1.5.12).

News Corporation, NY, “News Corporation’s statement of the UK’s Parliamentary Select Committee …”, 1.5.12.http://www.newscorp.com,/news/news_530.html, (2.5.12).

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