MPs deliver damning report on hacking controversy

LONDON Rupert Murdoch is “not a fit person” to exercise stewardship of a major international company, a committee of British pols has concluded.

The politicians’ report, released on Tuesday, is highly critical of the tycoon and his son James Murdoch’s role in the News of the World phone-hacking affair.

The culture, media and sport select committee said that James Murdoch, until recently executive chairman of News Corp.’s U.K. newspaper arm News Intl. and chairman of BSkyB, showed wilful ignorance of the extent of phone hacking during 2009 and 2010.

Murdoch loyalist Les Hinton, the former executive chairman of News Intl. who resigned as CEO of Dow Jones last July, was complicit in a cover-up at the newspaper group, said the British members of Parliament.

They added that Colin Myler, former editor of the now defunct News of the World, and ex-News Intl. legal boss Tom Crone deliberately withheld crucial information and answered questions falsely.

All three were accused of misleading Parliament, a verdict that was not applied to the Murdochs.

However, the pols’ damning view of both Murdochs will up the ante still further in this long-running scandal that goes right to the core of the British establishment.

The pols split along party lines on whether Rupert Murdoch was fit to run News Corp.

Labour MPs and the sole Liberal Democrat on the committee, Adrian Sanders, voted together in a bloc of six against the five Conservatives to insert the criticisms of Murdoch and beef up remarks about James. But they were united in their criticism of Hinton, Myler and Crone.

The report said Rupert Murdoch “did not take steps to become fully informed about phone hacking” and “turned a blind eye and exhibited wilful blindness to what was going on in his companies and publications.”

The pols found that the culture at News Intl.’s newspapers “permeated from the top” and “speaks volumes about the lack of effective corporate governance at News Corp. and News Intl.”

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

James Murdoch was described as showing a “lack of curiosity … wilful ignorance even” in 2008 when £700,000 ($1.13 million) was paid to British soccer official Gordon Taylor to settle his phone hacking allegation.

The report said: “We are astonished that James Murdoch did not seek more information or ask to see the evidence and counsel’s opinion when he was briefed by Tom Crone and Colin Myler on the Gordon Taylor case.”

Murdoch’s youngest son was also criticized for failing to appreciate the significance of the News of the World hacking when an email from the paper’s chief reporter, Neville Thurlbeck, showing that the practice was widespread became public in 2009.

It was “simply astonishing” that Murdoch failed to realize that the “one ‘rogue reporter’ line was untrue” until late 2010, after a previous inquiry by the culture select committee, which ran during 2009 and reported in February 2010.

In a statement, News Corp. said it “fully acknowledges significant wrongdoing at the News of the World, and apologizes to everyone whose privacy was invaded.”

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