Rupert Murdoch declared unfit to lead. The price of half-truths?
A UK parliamentary committee declared Rupert Murdoch 'unfit' to run his global media empire, which could have implications for his stake in the profitable satellite TV network BskyB.
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But NotW employees had broken into her cellphone and deleted messages in her full inbox, hoping they'd be able to eavesdrop on future messages left by her worried family. Those deletions gave the Dowler's false hope that their daughter was still alive. As the story came out, the British public and members of parliament were outraged.Skip to next paragraph
Dan Murphy is a staff writer for the Monitor's international desk, focused on the Middle East. Murphy, who has reported from Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, and more than a dozen other countries, writes and edits Backchannels. The focus? War and international relations, leaning toward things Middle East.
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To be sure, investors don't appear worried about the prospect of News Corp. losing some or all of its stake in BskyB. News Corps shares were up 1.5 percent in mid-morning trading, following the release of the report. A forced sale of part or all of the BskyB stake is still a dim possibility, and since it's worth about $4.5 billion and there would be plenty of willing suitors, there would be a lot of cash to help News Corp move on.
The report was issued over the objections of all of four voting Conservatives on the committee, arrayed against five Labour MPs and one Liberal Democrat who voted in favor. The committee will seek an endorsement of its findings from the full House of Commons in the next week or so.
In the full house, the Conservatives control 305 seats against 253 for Labour and 57 for the Liberal Democrats. Bloomberg quotes one of the dissenting Conservatives on the committee, Philip Davies, as saying: “Rupert Murdoch clearly is a fit and proper person to run an international company ... he’s been running businesses since before I was born. We’ve seen absolutely no evidence to suggest that Rupert Murdoch was aware these things were going on.”
The report charges that Les Hinton, who is one of Murdoch's most trusted lieutenants and was put in charge of Dow Jones & Co. (which owns the Wall Street Journal) after News Corp's takeover in 2007, "misled the committee about the extent of his knowledge of allegations that phone-hacking extended beyond Clive Goodman and Glenn Mulcaire to others at News of the World." Mr. Hinton stepped down last summer as the scandal unfolded.
Mr. Goodman was NotW's royal correspondent, and he and Mr. Mulcaire, a private investigator employed by the paper, were caught hacking into the phone messages of people connected to the British royal family. After that scandal, Hinton and other Murdoch employees insisted that it was an isolated incident.
The report clearly is a result of the frustration of its drafters over what it paints as a pattern of half-truths and concealment in testimony over the years and details how members of the committee itself have occasionally been put under surveillance by phone hacking and the hiring of private investigators by News International employees as far back as 2001.
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 hackings; by making statements they would have known were not fully truthful; and by failing to disclose documents which would have helped expose the truth.
In failing to investigate properly and by ignoring evidence of widespread wrongdoing, News International, and its parent News Corporation exhibited willful blindness, for which the companies directors – including Rupert Murdoch and James Murdoch – should ultimately be prepared to take responsibility.