Murdoch condemned as "not a fit person" to helm major international company

Joseph O'Halloran ©RapidTVNews | 02-05-2012

The future of Rupert Murdoch in media has been thrown into question after a damning verdict was delivered on him, son James and senior executives in the wake of the phone hacking scandal.

The long-running House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee investigation into News International and phone hacking concluded with the statement 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.” The committee said that such a culture permeated from the top throughout Murdoch’s organisation and “speaks volumes about the lack of effective corporate governance at News Corp and News International.” The conclusion was that “that Rupert Murdoch is not a fit person to exercise the stewardship of a major international company.”

The role of James Murdoch in the affair was also similarly criticised, and other senior News Corp executives were accused on misleading the committee.

In a statement responding to the judgement, News Corp admitted that “hard truths have emerged from the Select Committee Report: that there was serious wrongdoing at the News of the World; that our response to the wrongdoing was too slow and too defensive; and that some of our employees misled the Select Committee in 2009.” It did, however, express regret that the Committee's analysis of the factual record was followed by “commentary that we … consider unjustified and highly partisan.”

The ramifications of the report could be serious for the Murdoch family. Only weeks ago, James Murdoch, once heir apparent to the Murdoch media empire, resigned as chairman of BSkyB in what was seen as a pre-emptive move to protect the reputation of the company in which News Corp has a 39% stake and which Murdoch has long aimed to wholly own. Furthermore, there are serious concerns that a damming judgement as to the suitability of Murdoch as a corporate leader could affect seriously business hldings in the US.

Already the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) has sent a letter to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Julius Genachowski asking the FCC to revoke the 27 Fox broadcast licenses News Corp. holds in the United States. Under U.S. law, broadcast frequencies may be used only by people of good "character," who will serve "the public interest," and speak with "candour." CREW claims that significant character deficiencies may warrant disqualification from holding a license and it also sent letters to the House and Senate Commerce Committees asking for hearings into whether Rupert and James Murdoch meet the FCC's character standards.

Said CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan: "The House of Commons report makes clear that both Rupert and James Murdoch were complicit in New Corp.'s illegal activities. If the Murdochs don't meet the British standards of character test, it is hard to see how they can meet the American standard."