A British parliamentary report has accused media mogul Rupert Murdoch of willful blindness to the phone-hacking scandal at his now-defunct News of the World tabloid. It also said he was unfit to lead a major company.
A cross-party British parliamentary committee heavily criticized Rupert Murdoch and executives at his News International newspaper arm on Tuesday. The panel found that executives from the company mislead parliament with false accounts of their knowledge of phone hacking at the disbanded News of the World, which belonged to News International.
The long-awaited report on malpractice said that Murdoch, the 81-year-old chairman at News International had "turned a blind eye and exhibited willful blindness to what was going on in his companies and publications."
The lawmakers also deemed him unfit to lead the company.
"Rupert Murdoch is not a fit person to exercise the stewardship of a major international company," the report concluded.
That statement, however, did not receive unanimous backing. The panel approved the 121-page report by a majority of six to four but was split along party lines. Members of the opposition Labour party and one Liberal Democrat backed its findings that Murduch was unfit while Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservatives opposed this view.
The Culture, Media and Sport committee also criticized Murdoch's heir and chief executive of News International, James Murdoch, aged 39, saying he had displayed "willful ignorance" about the scale of hacking.
Three execs face punishment
Three executives were singled out as having misled parliament: New York Daily News editor Colin Myler, an ex-News of The World editor; the British tabloid's lawyer, Tom Crone; and Les Hinton, the former executive chairman of News International and former publisher of The Wall Street Journal.
The panel said it was now up to the lower chamber of parliament, the House of Commons, to decide "what punishment should be imposed" on those it thinks had treated the committee with contempt.
News Corp to respond soon
US-based News Corporation, which owns News International, said on Tuesday it was "carefully reviewing" the report and would "respond shortly."
Murdoch senior closed down the long-running News of the World in July 2011 after relevations had emerged that the tabloid had accessed the voicemails of a schoolgirl who was abducted and murdered in 2002.
"The company fully acknowledges significant wrongdoing at News of the World and apologizes to everyone whose privacy was invaded," News Corp. said on Tuesday.
Satellite channel under scrutiny
The parliamentary report could have an impact on Murdoch's holdings in the BSkyB, Britain's largest satellite broadcaster, currently, at 39.1 percent. Murdoch's attempt to gain a greater holding was thwarted by the phone-hacking scandal.
Britain's media regulator Ofcom is examining whether News International is indeed a fitting candidate to have a broadcasting license.
"Ofcom has a duty under the Broadcasting Acts 1990 and 1996 to be satisfied that any person holding broadcasting licence is, and remains, fit and proper to do so," Ofcom said on Tuesday.
Since 2007, the parliamentary committee had been investigating the scandal over phone-hacking, which is now known to have affected several thousand people, including celebrities.
Millions of pounds in compensation have been paid out to News Corporation's hacking victims, while more than 40 people have been arrested in relation to the scandal.
ncy/ipj (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)