Rupert Murdoch 'not a fit person' to lead News Corp - MPs

 

The MPs were "misled repeatedly", says chairman John Whittingdale

Rupert Murdoch "is not a fit person to exercise the stewardship of a major international company", MPs have said.

The culture committee questioned journalists and bosses at the now-closed News of the World, as well as police and lawyers for hacking victims.

Its report has concluded that Mr Murdoch exhibited "wilful blindness" to what was going on in News Corporation.

But the committee was split six to four with Tory members refusing to endorse the report and branding it "partisan".

Conservative Louise Mensch called it "a real great shame" that the report's credibility had potentially been "damaged" as a result, with the report carried by Labour and Lib Dem members backing it.

News Corp said in a statement it was "carefully reviewing" the report and would "respond shortly", adding: "The company fully acknowledges significant wrongdoing at News of the World and apologises to everyone whose privacy was invaded."

The committee itself does not have the power to impose sanctions, but it raised the possibility of a vote in the House of Commons about whether witnesses had been in contempt of Parliament - and if so, whether those witnesses should be forced to apologise in Parliament.

Start Quote

It will give ammunition to those News Corporation shareholders who would like to loosen the hold over the company of the Murdoch dynasty”

End Quote

The BBC News Channel's chief political correspondent Norman Smith said the report was much more damning than had been anticipated and directly questioned the integrity and honesty of Rupert Murdoch.

BBC business editor Robert Peston said it would push Ofcom, the media regulator, closer to the conclusion that BSkyB - 39% owned by News Corp - is not fit and proper to hold a broadcasting licence.

Reacting to the report, an Ofcom spokesman said it was "continuing to assess the evidence - including the new and emerging evidence" that may assist it in ruling on that issue.

'A blind eye'

The committee of MPs began its inquiry in July 2011 in the wake of fresh revelations about the extent of hacking at the tabloid newspaper, with reported victims including the murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler and the families of victims of the 7/7 London bombings.

It heard evidence from Mr Murdoch and his son James, and has now concluded that the notion that a hands-on proprietor like Rupert Murdoch had "no inkling" that wrongdoing was widespread at the News of the World was "simply not credible".

It noted that the newspaper mogul had "excellent powers of recall and grasp of detail when it suited him", and added: "On the basis of the facts and evidence before the committee, we conclude that, if at all relevant times Rupert Murdoch did not take steps to become fully informed about phone hacking, he turned a blind eye and exhibited wilful blindness to what was going on in his companies and publications."

Tory MPs objected specifically to the line branding Mr Murdoch "not fit", with one, Philip Davies, telling a press conference the committee had seen "absolutely no evidence" to endorse such a "completely ludicrous" conclusion.

But Labour MP Tom Watson said "more than any individual alive", Mr Murdoch was to blame for phone hacking, and it was right to "raise the bar" of the report and make that clear.

The committee also criticised three former News International executives - one-time executive chairman Les Hinton, former News of the World editor Colin Myler and former legal manager Tom Crone - accusing them of giving misleading evidence.

Mr Myler, who is now editor of the New York Daily News, said he had "always sought to be accurate and consistent" when speaking to the committee and stood by his evidence.

Mr Hinton said the allegations against him were "unfounded, unfair and erroneous".

Mr Crone said he accepted there were "valid criticisms of my conduct in this matter", but he was "the subject of serious allegations which lack foundation".

Foam attack

News Corp as a whole was guilty of "huge failings of corporate governance" and, throughout, its instinct had been "to cover up rather than seek out wrongdoing and discipline the perpetrators", the committee said.

Phone-hacking probes

  • Leveson Inquiry - judicial probe into press standards, investigating the extent of unlawful or improper conduct at News International and other newspaper groups. It will also examine the original police probe into phone hacking
  • Operation Weeting - police investigation into alleged phone-hacking at News of the World
  • Operation Elveden - police investigation into inappropriate payments to officers
  • Operation Tuleta - police investigation into allegations of computer hacking
  • Civil action by alleged hacking victims. Thousands of potential victims identified and several, including singer Charlotte Church, already awarded damages

And it concluded: "Corporately, the News of the World and News International misled the committee about the true nature and extent of the internal investigations they professed to have carried out in relation to phone hacking; by making statements they would have known were not fully truthful; and by failing to disclose documents which would have helped expose the truth."

James Murdoch told the committee last summer that he did not see an email which suggested that hacking was more widespread at the paper than previously acknowledged - a claim disputed by Mr Myler and Mr Crone in their evidence.

On that matter, the report concluded that James Murdoch was "consistent" in relation to the so-called "For Neville" email, but he had demonstrated "wilful ignorance" about what had been going on, which "clearly raises questions of competence" on his part.

James Murdoch has insisted he did not know about any wrongdoing at the News of the World, but took "his share" of responsibility for not uncovering it earlier.

He gave evidence alongside his father Rupert, who at one point during the hearing was attacked by a man who rushed forward from the public gallery and threw a paper plate of foam at him.

James and Rupert Murdoch James and Rupert Murdoch appeared before the media committee last July

The committee also said former News of the World editor Rebekah Brooks must "accept responsibility" for presiding over a culture at the News of the World that led to journalists impersonating members of Milly Dowler's family and hacking the teenager's phone.

And it criticised Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer and former Acting Deputy Commissioner at the Metropolitan Police John Yates for failing to ensure hacking claims were properly investigated.

After initially claiming malpractice was limited to one "rogue" reporter at the News of the World, News International has now settled dozens of civil cases admitting liability for hacking between 2001 and 2006.

More than 6,000 possible victims have been identified and the police have so far made a number of arrests in connection with an investigation reopened in January 2011 - although no charges have yet been brought.

Asked whether David Cameron regarded Rupert Murdoch as a fit person to run a media company, his official spokesman said: "That is a matter for the regulatory authorities, not for the government."

Labour leader Ed Miliband and Lib Dem Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg both said Ofcom must now be allowed to come to its own conclusion.

The hacking revelations led to the closure of the News of the World and the government's decision to set up a judicial inquiry into press standards headed by Lord Leveson.

Appearing before the Leveson Inquiry last week, Rupert Murdoch said there had been a "cover-up" which "shielded" senior figures at the paper and its parent company - including himself and his son James - from knowledge of wrongdoing taking place.

 

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  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 187.

    "JPublic
    And our current MP's (and MEP's for that matter) are not fit for the stewardship of the UK."

    Well, at least there is a process for removing MPs and MEPs if the electorate is unhappy with the stewardship they have been given.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 186.

    Most right thinking people knew the Murdochs for what they are. And now after some 30 years of courting him, the politicians how found the bottle to finally rid us of this clan. They have been subjugating democracy at every turn.

    Hopefully now politicians will stop trying to spin their version of Murdoch's truth and start running the country according to democratic principles.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 185.

    nutgone
    13 Minutes ago
    Mrs Thatcher changed the law to allow a foreign national to run a British media company!

    Labour were in power for 13 years. They could have changed the law but they didn't . Don't you wonder why?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 184.

    Hang on,this committee voted on political lines not on the evidence.What the bleep was the point of that?Labour members out for revenge for the Sun not supporting them at the election and Tories for business.Surprise surprise.Not!Lets hope the levenson inquiry does better than this sham of a committee.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 183.

    Well, at least old "Sir" Rupert knows he'll still get a warm welcome from Kim-Jong-Eck Salmond, tea at Bute House and no risk of any criticism from the SepNatP. But then given the behaviour of their members like Bill "basher"Walker MSP, Cllr Lyall "burn RBS staff" Duff and activist Tommy "all Uk soldiers are child killers" Ball, they probaly can't see he's don anything wrong!

  • Comment number 182.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 181.

    An interesting split in the report which reveals as much about the Conservative MP's as it does about the Murdochs. But, like most outcomes of select Committee reports, I expect to see it quietly buried. Could not agree less with your contributor, Andrew Davies.

  • rate this
    -5

    Comment number 180.

    Behold The Sun King At The Enquiry:
    http://opuss.com/s/18jq

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 179.

    John @110. You can't have it both ways.Certainly there are a lot of corrupt politicians and I'm sure we haven't heard the last of it yet but do give credit to those on various select committees who ferret out this information. MP's like Tom Watson have suffered personally from trying so hard and should be congratulated.

  • rate this
    +17

    Comment number 178.

    How sad to see the report on phone hacking being divided on tribal (party) lines yet again politicians being fearful of the Murdocks and ducking the dificult decisions on party lines. No wonder the general public think most politicians are a waste time and havent got the B-----s to make difficult decisions

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 177.

    You needed an MPs report to tell you this? The naivety of the British public amazes me. Of course the report is politically biased, Murdoch has been in bed with the tories since day one, apart from a brief fling with Tony when he didn't want to be seen supporting a doomed Conservative party, so why would you be suprised that the Labour and Lib-Dems want to nail him?

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 176.

    Pot calling kettle black me thinks! Besides he's a foriegn national, for sure he does not have a GB passport! Just more of my UK Tax £'s getting wasted, again! Otherwise, past, present and future should not accept any form of hospitality from similar others in the future, if they do its these UK nationals that should be charged as unfit!

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 175.

    The hypocrisy shown by MPs beggars belief, this Country, over the last 15 years as been Governed by the most dishonourable parliamentarian's in our history. All Ministers have had close links to the Murdochs, all are guilty of courting their popularity for personel & political gain.

  • rate this
    -21

    Comment number 174.

    Just before the baying mob demand Murdoch's head, can we remember that his competitors, the BBC, ITV, and press, are not exactly independent on this issue as they have a direct vested interest is seeing him fail. Since he has shown more entrepreneurial flair than most of them put together I find that rather sad. And who now is to challenge the market share and opinions of the BBC ?

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 173.

    Will this report stop it happenning again ? No. If you are a victim of a crime, or a friend or relative of the victim, or the police investigating, or anyone assisting the family your privacy will STILL be blasted into space.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 172.

    because the tory party have been in bed with the murdoch's it is no surprise that mensch says what she says, she is just desperate to get her name in the press. what do u expect from a party that have failed on every election promise?

  • rate this
    +36

    Comment number 171.

    @04 'Albert'
    " ...Rupert Murdoch might be a reasonable toilet cleaner if he was carefully supervised"
    ~~
    'Albert' - your comment is an insult to toilet cleaners?
    Furthermore, with bank bail-outs by, us, the tax-payers - we are ALL still cleaning up the excrement left by the global collapse caused by casino investment & hedge funds that still roam our world with impunity yet can't be flushed/busted

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 170.

    I think the Murdochs are guilty of a lot of things, but so are other newspapers. But its the Hutton Enquiry all over again. If there are not 5 trusted witnesses who video recorded everything from every angle and the suspect admits responsibility, bloody knife in hand, and politically the crime fits then they will get a slap of the wrist.

  • rate this
    +9

    Comment number 169.

    Yes, but I wonder how many politicians or politcal parties have benefited from this unfit bosses wealth?

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 168.

    The Murdochs have had a poisonous effect on British life. It is highly regrettable that tory MPs should demean themselves by refusing to recognise this.

 

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