News Corp. exec sends letter to U.K. lawmakers

LONDON — James Murdoch has written to the committee of British pols that could decide his future as chairman of U.K. paybox BSkyB expressing deep regret for the phone-hacking scandal.

In the “long letter” Murdoch once again states his innocence with regard to his knowledge of the extent of phone hacking at the now defunct U.K. tabloid the News of the World, according to a report in the Financial Times.

The committee of MPs is close to finalizing its report on the saga that continues to rock News Corp. and which Tuesday saw the former CEO of the conglom’s U.K. publisher News International, Rebekah Brooks, arrested for a second time, this time on suspicion of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

If the MPs criticize Murdoch and suggest that he has misled parliament (the committee have grilled him and his father Rupert about phone hacking) his role at BSkyB would look increasingly fragile.

In his letter, Murdoch accepts responsibility for not uncovering criminality at News International earlier and makes a personal apology to those who have had their privacy invaded.

He also said his decision to ankle as executive chairman of News International last month was done in order to focus on News Corp.’s global pay TV activities.

Despite Murdoch’s contrition, several BSkyB investors quoted by the FT said that his chances of remaining chairman of the satcaster looked slim.

One unnamed investor told the FT: “Even his cheerleaders are having doubts. It looks as if the sand on which he is standing is being washed away.”

Last week, it emerged that U.K. media regulator Ofcom had stepped up its investigation into whether News Corp. and James Murdoch are “fit and proper” to have such dominant positions at the highly profitable paybox.

The pols’ report is scheduled to be published by the end of the month.

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