Murdoch not fit to run a major company, British panel says

LONDON — A committee of British lawmakers called Rupert Murdoch unfit to run his global media empire — a finding that reflects just how deeply the phone hacking scandal born of his defunct News of the World has shaken the relationship between the press and politics.

The ruling Tuesday against Murdoch, his son James and three of their executives also exposed the waning influence of the media tycoon, and could jeopardize his control of a major broadcaster in Britain.

Parliament's Culture, Media and Sport committee — a panel that scrutinizes the standards of Britain's press and sports authorities — began an inquiry amid disclosures about widespread tabloid hacking of voice mail, concerns over bribes paid to police for scoops, and politicians who may have overstepped the bounds by cozying up to key players in the Murdoch empire.

Tarring the credentials of both the 81-year-old media mogul and James Murdoch, a former executive chairman of News Corp.'s newspaper division in Britain, the committee's scathing words on the Murdochs could affect their controlling stake in the satellite giant British Sky Broadcasting.

Britain's broadcasting regulator Ofcom acknowledged it was studying details of the report, which unanimously agreed that three key News International executives had misled Parliament — a verdict that can see offenders hauled before legislators to make a personal apology.

"We conclude, therefore, that Rupert Murdoch is not a fit person to exercise the stewardship of a major international company," the report said.

The three executives are Les Hinton, the former head of News International, who the panel said was "complicit" in a coverup. The lawmakers also said that Colin Myler, the former editor of News of the World and now editor at the New York Daily News, and Tom Crone, the tabloid's former legal manager, "answered questions falsely" while testifying.

Crone denied the allegations in a statement, Hinton described them in a separate statement as "unfounded, unfair and erroneous," and Myler said he stood by the evidence he had given the committee.

In a message to News International staff, Murdoch said that he found the findings "difficult to read" and that he deeply regretted "what took place."

"We certainly should have acted more quickly and aggressively to uncover wrongdoing," he wrote. "There is no easy way around this, but I am proud to say that we have been working hard to put things right."

Among the 11-member committee, four lawmakers from Britain's Conservative Party refused to endorse the report. It was supported by one Liberal Democrat and five members of the opposition Labour Party.

The chairman, a Conservative, did not vote in line with parliamentary convention.

Information from the Washington Post was used in this report.

Murdoch not fit to run a major company, British panel says 05/01/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 1, 2012 10:41pm]

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