BSkyB responds to Rupert Murdoch criticism in parliamentary report

May 2, 2012

A British parliamentary committee issued a blistering report Tuesday about whether witnesses misled them as they probed a phone-hacking scandal at News International. Karla Adam reports:

Rupert Murdoch “is not a fit person to exercise the stewardship of a major international company,” a British parliamentary committee said Tuesday in a scathing report on News Corp.’s handling of the phone hacking scandal.

The report, which culminates months of investigation by a select committee, was far more condemning of the 81-year-old media titan than expected, saying the chairman and chief executive of News Corp. had “turned a blind eye and exhibited wilful blindness” over the widespread malpractice at his now-closed News of the World tabloid.

“This culture, we consider, permeated from the top throughout the organization and speaks volumes about the lack of effective corporate governance at News Corporation and News International,” the report said.

The committee approved the report six votes to four, with the four members from Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservative Party staunchly objecting to the description of Murdoch as an unfit proprietor.

BSkyB later responded to Parliament’s report. AP reported:

British Sky Broadcasting PLC on Wednesday defended itself as a “fit and proper” company, a day after Rupert Murdoch, the chief executive of the satellite broadcaster’s biggest shareholder, was branded as unfit to hold the reins of an international company.

On Tuesday, a parliamentary committee sharply criticized Murdoch, the chairman and chief executive of News Corp., over the hacking scandal that eventually forced the closure of the News of the World tabloid.

Though the conclusion has no legal sanction, the move is likely to ratchet up the pressure on Britain’s media regulator, which is reviewing “whether BSkyB is and remains fit and proper to continue to hold its broadcast licenses.” OFCOM said Tuesday it would consider the committee’s report as part of its deliberations.

BSkyB said Wednesday it is “engaging with OFCOM in this process and continues to believe that it remains a fit and proper license holder, as demonstrated by its positive contribution to U.K. audiences, employment and the broader economy, as well as its strong record of regulatory compliance and high standards of governance.”

Olga Khazan identifies some of the highlights of Parliament’s report:

●The panel rejected Murdoch’s explanation that he was unaware that hacking was widespread at the News of The World, blaming his staff for keeping him in the dark, the AP reports.

The committee said that former News of The World editor and current New York Daily News editor Colin Myler, and the News of The World’s lawyer Tom Crone misled the committee about the extent of the hacking. “Both Tom Crone and Colin Myler deliberately avoided disclosing crucial information to the Committee and, when asked to do, answered questions falsely,” they wrote.

The AP reports that in a statement, Myler said he stood by his evidence and believed ongoing British police inquiries would “establish the truth” of his account. “I have always sought to be accurate and consistent in what I have said to the committee,” Myler said.

●The panel concluded that Les Hinton, a former executive chairman of News International, was “complicit” in a cover-up of wrongdoing at the media empire, the Guardian reports. The committee further condemned Hinton’s decision to provide severance pay to Clive Goodman, the former royal editor convicted of phone hacking in 2007.

“When Clive Goodman was dismissed in February 2007, Les Hinton made it clear that the company was not obliged to pay him anything, but was offering him a year’s salary in recognition of long service and the needs of his family,” the committee wrote. “We are astonished that a man convicted of a criminal offence during the course of his work should be successful in his attempt to seek compensation for his perfectly-proper dismissal. Illegally accessing voicemails is wrong and News International should have been willing to stand up in an employment tribunal and say so.”

●Rebekah Brooks, the former editor of the News of the World, is on bail after being arrested in connection with the phone hacking scandal in March.

More from The Washington Post:

Timeline of the phone-hacking scandal

Parliamentary report adjudicates Murdoch's fitness

A look at the execs involved in the hacking scandal

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