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”

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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
    +5

    Comment number 227.

    Nothing will happen, if it did then party donations would stop. And that is why the side most likely to benefit from this will not endorse it. The man is a tyrant and should be removed from the UK. If any "Normal" person had done all this they would be in prison for some considerable time. Money really is the best protector. Shame on UK politics and law for not doing whats actually right.

  • rate this
    -5

    Comment number 226.

    Personally I don't see what all the fuss is about. If the papers are hacking politicians and public figures then it's just another way of keeping tabs on them. The hacking of family of murder victims is unacceptable. The whole enquiry is a complete waste of time and money. People should be concentrating on the economy.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 225.

    Despite the rain today is looking brighter already.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 224.

    @ 206.Rufus McDufus
    @ "187.
    Total Mass Retain

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

    Every 5 years. At least we can all stop buying Murdoch products today.

    By the next Gen. Election they will reduce taxation and we will all forget Leveson. 5 years is far too long to wait given these findings

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 223.

    Never trust a man with a melted face.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 222.

    It's called "plausible deniability" - it didn't protect Nixon during Watergate and it isn't working for the Murdochs now.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 221.

    Well what a waste of time and money that was. Now lets get back to the real task that of investigating crooked MP's

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 220.

    If the people at the top want "all the rewards" when things are "good", then they have to take the responsibilty for when it all goes wrong. That is what being at top entails, no ifs, no, buts, no maybes. It goes with the territory, and you CANNOT blame anyone else.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 219.

    Well at least News International can quickly solve this and appoint a new CEO and chairman but what about us poor beggars , we have a whole parliament that are not fit and proper to run a nation . We dont have a choice and as a result the whole nation despairs of Labour , conservative and lib dem .. all a bunch of lightweights , at least old man Murdoch was a heavyweight in what he did if wrong

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 218.

    They could have clipped the wings of the Murdoch emipre years ago. For example when they usurped British Satellite Broadcasting's position as the country's official licenced satellite broadcaster in 1990. by broadcasting from a communications satellite. No wonder Mr Murdoch's empure did whatever they wanted. No one ever stopped them did they ? The MPs can only blame themselves for that.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 217.

    @203. Labour don't have a conscience, they just play along when it suits them. As if they'd have ever done this when they were in power

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 216.

    Oh dear, Rome is burning, while the politicians deal with the important stuff.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 215.

    I really don't know how these people have got the brass neck. Along with millions of others I could've told 'em that 30 or more years ago!! They're so thick skinned that it beggars belief. Why the hell dp we put up with them? "It's not my fault." "It was like that when I got here." etc. Nobody takes any responsibilty. Ever.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 214.

    Those of us of a certain age will remember the battle of Wapping, this sets the scene for the 'ruthless' Mr Rupert Murdoch; subsequent events will have encouraged sycophancy amongst his underlings, who were very afraid of losing their jobs (like the printers). It would not be surprising if he were not informed until it was too late that there was a crisis brewing. Like father like son!

  • Comment number 213.

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

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 212.

    People get the press they deserve. When RM bought the Daily Herald and turned it into a salacious tabloid they were happy enough to buy it; complete with its titillating photographs. They have always been happy to buy the News of the World, even before it was bought by the Murdochs. If you don't like what the Murdoch's stand for - don't buy his papers or subscribe to his TV channels.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 211.

    @SpiceitUp

    MPs dont believe the Murdochs knew nothing. Most feel he definately knew, problem is proof. Try reading the story.

  • Comment number 210.

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

  • rate this
    +11

    Comment number 209.

    Now lets get to the bottom of Cameron's dealings with Murdochs empire as well as Bought and sold Politicians like Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. And lets not use this report to bash good Journalists who exposed Public theft of tax payers money by all the 3 parties, its the gutter press of the Sun and people like Piers Morgan that need outlawing.

  • rate this
    -5

    Comment number 208.

    This is just another futile gesture by emmotionally and immorally bankrupt MP's to look strong to the electorate. Nothing will change the Murdochs will hire some slick front man for the company, the government will have appeared to have pushed him out whilst he still chooses who should be taking what post within the government. MP's apprear to bite their masters hand when they are licking it

 

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