A parliamentary committee has issued a 121-page report condemning News Corp. and Rupert Murdoch for their actions in propagating and addressing the long-running phone-hacking scandal. The vote on this strongly worded report split along partisan lines. As the Washington Post’s Karla Adam notes, the report was approved on a six-to-four vote, with all the dissenters coming from Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservative party.
Those “nay” votes reportedly expressed disapproval of the report’s characterization of Murdoch himself.
Huh. What could have so incensed these Conservative lawmakers? Did the report call Murdoch a “genocidal tyrant”? Did it call him an incompetent editor whose understanding of headlines and captions leaves him unfit to oversee tabloids? Did it call him a “moth-eaten kangaroo”?
On the basis of the facts and evidence before the Committee, we conclude 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. This culture, we consider, permeated from the top throughout the organisation and speaks volumes about the lack of effective corporate governance at News Corporation and News International. We conclude, therefore, that Rupert Murdoch is not a fit person to exercise the stewardship of a major international company.
According to Conservative MPs, this “not-fit” characterization was a dealbreaker. No way were these legislators going to agree that a guy who’d shown up last July for testimony with limited knowledge of anything operational at his company, who blamed the situation on people he “trusted,” who later admitted there’d been a coverup, who conceded that he hadn’t properly overseen News of the World, whose lieutenants at various stages were guilty of either ignorance or amnesia or worse, was somehow not fit to run a company.
“Fitness,” of course, is a serious word over there in Britan media circles. Regulators there are now looking into whether BSkyB, of which News Corp. owns a large share, is a “fit and proper” broadcast licensee.
So maybe that was the problem. The language was too loaded with business and regulatory consequences. Perhaps if they’d just written that Murdoch “isn’t the best guy right now” to be running the company, they would have managed to bridge their partisan differences. Which brings up the comforting part. If these politicians can’t agree on what the ample phone-hacking record says about Rupert Murdoch, then the American political system is looking pretty functional right now.