The Parliamentary Media Committee has stopped short of accusing James Murdoch of lying to them – something that would certainly have cost his place on the BSkyB board – but has concluded that Rupert Murdoch “is not a fit person to exercise the stewardship of a major international company”, something that may have wider ramifications for Ofcom’s probe into BSkyB’s broadcast licence and for News Corp in America.
The cross-party committee said Murdoch senior had exhibited “wilful blindness” to what was going on in his media empire. It also concluded that the News of the World and News International through its executives misled Parliament about the scale of phone hacking.
The Committee heard evidence from Rupert 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”.
The Committee targeted three former News International executives – former executive chairman Les Hinton, former News of the World editor Colin Myler and former legal manager Tom Crone. “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 Myler and Crone in their evidence. At one point, James said he had received the email on his Blackberry but had not read the relevant attachment.
All the News representatives had held to the ‘one rogue reporter’ line, but then paid out massive settlements – that included secrecy clauses – to victims they knew had nothing to do with that reporter and then denied this was in order to cover up the affair.
There are now more than 6,000 possible victims 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. Among those arrested are Renekah Brooks, former CEO and Andy Coulson, a former NotW editor who went on to be Communications Director for PM David Cameron.