Thursday 21 September 2017

Future of Murdoch BSkyB stake in watchdog's hands

David Cameron says there was no deal with Rupert Murdoch over the BSkyB merger
David Cameron says there was no deal with Rupert Murdoch over the BSkyB merger

Gordon Rayner in London

THE British industrial watchdog Ofcom must decide swiftly whether to force Rupert Murdoch to give up his stake in BSkyB, MPs said last night, after a parliamentary report concluded he was "not a fit person" to run an international company.

News Corporation, which owns 39pc of the satellite broadcaster, and its subsidiary News International were accused of "wilful blindness" over the phone-hacking scandal at the 'News of the World', which stemmed from a "lack of effective corporate governance".

Mr Murdoch, the chairman of News Corp, "turned a blind eye", while his son James, the company's deputy chief operating officer, showed "wilful ignorance", according to the report by the culture, media and sport select committee.

Three former senior News International executives, including Mr Murdoch's most trusted lieutenant Les Hinton, could now be summoned before the UK parliament to apologise after MPs found they had deliberately misled the committee.

Its findings could have serious implications for Mr Murdoch's business interests in the UK, as the broadcasting regulator is already carrying out an inquiry into whether News Corp is "fit and proper" to hold a broadcasting licence.

Ofcom confirmed it would take the findings of the committee into account when making its decision. A spokesman said Ofcom was reading the report "with interest and continuing to assess the evidence" relating to News Corp.

Don Foster, one of three senior Liberal Democrat MPs who asked Ofcom to investigate News Corp last year, said: "It's nearly a year since we asked for this review. The public will want Ofcom to conclude its work on this issue as quickly as possible, and I urge them to do so."

Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister, said it was "absolutely right" that Ofcom should look at the report, while the prime minister's spokesman said it was "a matter for the regulatory authorities" to decide whether News Corp passed the "fit and proper" test.

The report found that Mr Murdoch is "not a fit person" to run an international company because he showed "wilful blindness" to the extent of phone-hacking at the 'News of the World', a report by MPs concluded yesterday.

The News Corporation chairman "turned a blind eye" to what was going on at News International as it sought to "cover up wrongdoing", the culture, media and sport committee said.

His son James was guilty of "wilful ignorance" of what was going on under his nose.

The committee's 121-page report into whether witnesses misled the committee when they gave evidence for a previous report into hacking in 2010 pulls no punches in its criticism of News Corp's most senior executives. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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