UK parliamentary committee report declares Rupert Murdoch unfit for stewardship
May 1, 2012 6:40 PM   Subscribe

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.

The report (800 KB PDF) may increase the likelihood that U.K. regulator Ofcom concludes News Corp. is unfit to hold a broadcasting license and asks the company to reduce its 39 percent stake in British Sky Broadcasting Group Plc. (BSY) The phone-hacking scandal prompted News Corp. to abandon a 7.8 billion-pound ($12.7 billion) bid for the rest of BSkyB, the U.K.’s biggest pay- television provider, last year. - Bloomberg
posted by Trurl (27 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
BBC News:
In response, News Corp admitted it was "too slow" to respond to the crisis.

But it insisted it had "acted on" the failings identified in the MPs report.

In a separate memo to employees of the News Corp-owned Dow Jones, Mr Murdoch admitted mistakes had been made but said his company was "working hard" to put them right and its business had "never been stronger".
posted by Trurl at 6:44 PM on May 1, 2012

I wonder if the News Corp board would consider his removal.
posted by uraniumwilly at 6:46 PM on May 1, 2012

Also from the Beeb, this interactive guide to the links between the political, police, and media figures ensnared in the imbroglio.
posted by Trurl at 6:47 PM on May 1, 2012

Once the stock holders come to the same conclusion get back to me.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:03 PM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Wow, that's surprising. I guess there is still some political independence in the UK.
posted by wierdo at 7:07 PM on May 1, 2012

He would still be the perfect person to run Fox News, which is not fit to do the news.
posted by twoleftfeet at 7:09 PM on May 1, 2012 [7 favorites]

And man, look at the doublethink in this quote:
“Rupert Murdoch clearly is a fit and proper person to run an international company,” said Philip Davies, another dissenting Conservative. “He’s been running businesses since before I was born. We’ve seen absolutely no evidence to suggest that Rupert Murdoch was aware these things were going on.”
I wonder if he realizes the third sentence contradicts the first and the second is wholly irrelevant.
posted by wierdo at 7:11 PM on May 1, 2012 [12 favorites]

Well, it means everyone is sticking to his offered version of events where he's implausibly stupid, not activly criminal.
posted by Artw at 7:16 PM on May 1, 2012 [4 favorites]

He’s been running businesses since before I was born.

I think he meant "he's been ruining businesses since before I was born.
posted by twoleftfeet at 7:19 PM on May 1, 2012 [4 favorites]

I'm willing to believe he's incompetent and complicit.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:32 PM on May 1, 2012 [4 favorites]

from the 20th century: Heartless Man in a Spineless World!
posted by ovvl at 7:36 PM on May 1, 2012

Adam Curtis - Murdoch's Revolution, innit
posted by Damienmce at 7:44 PM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

It's about the time the rubbish was taken out.
posted by roboton666 at 9:06 PM on May 1, 2012

The Guardian has a good illustration and breakdown of the voting. And Louise Mesch, a tory, has been banging on about how it would ""be “correctly seen as a partisan report” because none of the Conservative MPs could support its key conclusions."

Partisan? They broke the law, hacked, bugged and bribed. They hacked into a dead 13 year old girls voice mail and Mensh sticks up for them? Truly, the nasty party are back.
posted by marienbad at 2:52 AM on May 2, 2012 [3 favorites]

Maybe Democrats could try labelling the Repulican party as the Nasty Party. Didn't stop the tories winning the election though.
posted by marienbad at 3:09 AM on May 2, 2012

Well... the issue there presumably is that OfCom, the British telecommunications watchdog, is currently entering the evidence-gathering stage of its investigation into whether BSkyB can be purchased outright by News Corporation - which would give Murdoch a yet larger chunk of the British media. One of the conditions OfCom has to be satisfied with is the "fit and proper" test - a rather vague line in the 1990 Broadcasting Act. At the time, the issue there had been about the plurality of media ownership in the UK, but it fairly quickly took on a new meaning as the News of the World scandal broke.

So, declaring Murdoch not a fit person to run a corporation looks very much like a comment on that ongoing process, and by extension puts more pressure on the Culture, Media and Sport Minister, Jeremy Hunt, who is being accused of too close a relationship with, in particular, James Murdoch, who was until fairly recently the Chairman of BSkyB.

So, there is an ongoing issue around ownership of BSkyB, Jeremy Hunt's ministerial position and David Cameron's taintedness regarding both his own links to the Murdochs and his cabinet's. Mensch, in her own way, is trying to suggest that the report has been tainted in turn by connecting itself to the language of the Act, and thus the Hunt situation.

Mensch, then, is on the other pole - cabinet loyalism - from Britain's own Michelle Bachmann, Nadine Dorries, who has broken ranks and is calling Cameron and his Chancellor "arrogant posh boys". I don't envy her that assignment, but I guess someone has to do it.
posted by running order squabble fest at 3:28 AM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

The best thing to come out of the Levenson inquiry was when Rupert said he had never HAD TO ASK a prime minister for anything.

Having the leaders of democratic countries try to anticipate your unstated needs is pretty much the pinnacle of power.
posted by srboisvert at 3:30 AM on May 2, 2012 [5 favorites]

Louise Mensch, according to her Wikipedia page, lied about Piers Morgan being involved in phone hacking, then used Parliamentary privilege to protect herself from a lawsuit.

It would seem that, like many conservatives, she has a bit of a problem with honesty.

I'm not sure what her stance on drugs is - but since she admits that it was "highly probable" that she took a "controlled substance" in the 1990s - presumably Cocaine? - I would hope that she is a strong advocate of liberalising drug laws. Unlike her party.

I am not sure that she can fairly represent herself as impartial, or as very trustworthy.
posted by lucien_reeve at 3:35 AM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

(Sorry - totally failed to finish a sentence there. The takeover bid was abandoned, obviously, after the scandals went big. The question now is whether News Corp - which retains a large minority stake in BSkyB - will retain a broadcast license. BSkyB has come back today, asserting that it is most definitely a "fit and proper" company.)
posted by running order squabble fest at 3:38 AM on May 2, 2012

The Guardian has a good illustration and breakdown of the voting. And Louise Mesch, a tory, has been banging on about how it would ""be “correctly seen as a partisan report” because none of the Conservative MPs could support its key conclusions."

Nobody really seems to know why Mensch has been so vocal about this. Opinions vary from her believing that the Murdochs will still have some power in years to come and she wants to be first in line, to the idea that she's so grasping in her career that she doesn't know good publicity from bad. I'm leaning toward the latter.
posted by Jehan at 4:44 AM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

All the news I've heard uses words like "suggests", "asks", "may conclude"... Can someone versed in UK law explain to me if there's any real teeth in any of this, or if it's just posturing for the public?
posted by IAmBroom at 8:04 AM on May 2, 2012

IAmBroom: The UK has very strict libel laws; it could be that press commentary is being cagey to avoid a lawsuit.
posted by orrnyereg at 8:15 AM on May 2, 2012

Sorry, but "could be" just continues the wiggle word problem.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:01 AM on May 2, 2012

All the news I've heard uses words like "suggests", "asks", "may conclude"... Can someone versed in UK law explain to me if there's any real teeth in any of this, or if it's just posturing for the public?

Neither, exactly. This is a Select Committee report. Parliamentary committees have wide and varying remits, but they don't make laws themselves. Specifically, a select committee for a department - like the Select Committee for Culture, Media and Sport - investigates the spending, policies and administration of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

So, basically, it produces reports, on behalf of the Commons and the electorate as a whole, which the department of Culture, Media and Sport then responds to. So, in a sense, this is further holding of the feet of Jeremy Hunt, the Secretary for Culture, Media and Sport, to the fire over his relationship with the Murdochs, over which he is currently fighting for his job. However, that is not its objective - which is to provide a report summarizing its findings and making recommendations to the House.

(This account of Hunt, in 2010, hiding behind a tree to try to avoid being seen approaching a soirée with Jame Murdoch, really does reward reading.)

OfCom, the organisation which, among other things, decides on broadcast licensing, has a totally different reporting structure. It was created by an act of Parliament, and is responsible for ensuring that the laws relating to broadcasting are upheld. It's kind of the British FCC...

The Select Committee report is expressing an opinion - it's an influential opinion, but it has no force in law in itself - the Select Committee itself does not have the power to disbar Murdoch from leading even British companies, much less American ones. And it has no direct impact on OfCom's decision, which is about whether News Corporation represents a threat to the quality or independence of broadcasting, to the point where it should be deprived of a broadcast license.

(As stated in the FPP and totally garbled by me earlier, the "fit and proper test" was originally about whether News Corp could take over BSkyB entirely, but OfCom have subsequently said that their remit extends to considering News Corp's suitability as a holder of a 39% stake, and that their decision can be made independently of legal findings.)

There's another level to this - which involves Prime Minister David Cameron's stated desire while in opposition to dismantle OfCom - which is in turn connected both to its status as a creation of New labour, and to an ideological opposition to the BBC, which Conservatives see as both anticompetitive and a hive of leftist ideology. Dismantling OfCom would have returned policymaking decisions (like this one) to the remit of the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (that is, a body over which the Prime Minister has direct authority, as the leader of the Conservative party and the Lib/Con coalition) - which, before all this, would have been seen as not a bad idea, and would probably have cleared the way for more vigorous action on addressing the BBC's funding model, and further deregulation of broadcast licensing in the name of customer choice.

So, when people say this report "may" or "could" make it more likely that OfCom will decide that News Corp has to reduce or divest its holding in BSkyB, it's basically because that's what it means - it is a data point which OfCom will take into account, but there is no direct connection between the findings of the Select Committee and whether News Corp gets to keep a 39% holding in BSkyB.
posted by running order squabble fest at 5:34 PM on May 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

I love how people of Murdoch's "stature" are supposed to be such strong leaders, such efficient micromanagers, so fiercely intelligent and integral to their company's fortunes that of course they need to be paid $68.4 skillion in salary and stock options every year -- they're totally worth it! But when shit hits the fan? They're powerless. In the dark. Not responsible. Just a figurehead, really.
posted by Rhaomi at 1:34 AM on May 3, 2012 [3 favorites]

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