UK Lawmakers: Rupert Murdoch Unfit to Lead Company
LONDON (AP) - News Corp. chief Rupert Murdoch must take responsibility for serious failings that caused Britain’s tabloid phone hacking scandal, lawmakers said Tuesday in a scathing report - as a narrow majority also insisted the tycoon was unfit to lead his global media empire.
In a report on the malpractice at Murdoch’s now shuttered News of The World tabloid, legislators accused Murdoch and his son James of overseeing a corporate culture that sought "to cover up rather than seek out wrongdoing."
Parliament’s cross-party Culture, Media and Sport committee unanimously agreed that three key News International executives had misled Parliament by offering false accounts of their knowledge of the extent of phone hacking - a rare and serious censure that can see offenders hauled before Parliament to make a personal apology.
The panel said the House of Commons would decide on the punishment meted out to the three executives: New York Daily News editor Colin Myler, a former News of The World editor; the British tabloid’s longtime lawyer Tom Crone and Les Hinton, the former executive chairman of News International, former publisher of The Wall Street Journal and former board member of The Associated Press.
Members of the panel said Rupert Murdoch, 81, had insisted he was unaware that hacking was widespread at the News of The World, blaming his staff for keeping him in the dark. That explanation was not accepted.
The legislators said if that was true, "he turned a blind eye and exhibited willful blindness to what was going on in his companies."
In a ruling opposed by 4 Conservative Party members of the 11-member committee, the panel cast serious doubt on Murdoch’s credentials as an executive.
"We conclude, therefore, that Rupert Murdoch is not a fit person to exercise the stewardship of a major international company," the report said.
The judgment on Murdoch implies that News Corp., which he heads, is also not fit to control British Sky Broadcasting, in which the company has a controlling stake of 39 percent.
Ofcom, the broadcast regulator, said it is reading the report with interest.
"Ofcom has a duty ... to be satisfied that any person holding a broadcasting license is, and remains, fit and proper to do so," the statement read. "Ofcom is continuing to assess the evidence."
Louise Mensch, a Conservative Party member of the panel, told reporters the committee had been divided over the harsh criticism of Murdoch. Four Conservative members opposed the suggestion that Murdoch was unfit to lead a global company, but that stance was endorsed by four Labour Party members and one Liberal Democrat. The panel’s chairman, a Conservative, did not vote, in line with convention.
Conservative panel member Philip Davies said the conclusion was "not only over the top, but ludicrous."