Senior opposition Labour Party politicians have renewed their attacks on Rupert Murdoch and son James over News Corporation’s involvement in the phone hacking scandal and the bid to take control of BSkyB.
In particular, the Murdochs’ ongoing part-ownership of BSkyB faced savage criticism from Labour MPs Chris Bryant and Tom Watson. In separate speeches to their party’s autumn conference, the pair laid into James Murdoch and called on regulator Ofcom to rule against him, as it considers whether he constitutes a ‘fit and proper person’ to run a broadcasting company.
Watson, who led the campaign against phone hacking in Parliament, said: “Let’s tell Ofcom what we think about James Murdoch. I wouldn’t put him on the board of an ornamental garden; he’s certainly not a fit and proper person to chair a major broadcaster.”
Bryant said he had hoped former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks would be in prison by now, and that people would go to jail for the “criminal cover-up” at the News of the World. He questioned BSkyB’s dominance of the pay TV market, before criticising Labour’s past familiarity with senior NI chiefs. “There’s another scandal, which is that we allowed it to happen. Not our finest moment. And I think in the future we should choose our bedfellows with a little more care.” He called on Labour to find some “backbone” and hoped it would no longer be a “creepy-crawly party to the media”.
Delegates at the conference were asked to back a motion calling for James Murdoch to stand down as chairman of BSkyB. Len McCluskey general secretary of the Unite trade union, who moved the motion that delegates will vote on later in the conference, said: “For our party, there should also have been an element of shame, because for years we were complicit in propping up Murdoch’s power.”
Shadow culture secretary Ivan Lewis revealed that the party would also produce stricter rules on media ownership and back independent regulation of the press, In a message to Rupert Murdoch, said: “The integrity of our media and our politics is not for sale,” and declared: “Never again can one commercial organisation have so much power and control over our media. In the period ahead, Labour will bring forward proposals for new, tougher cross-media ownership laws.”
Lewis said that a new system of independent regulation was needed, “including proper, like-for-like redress, which means that mistakes and falsehoods on the front page receive apologies and retraction on the front page.”