Murdoch Deemed Not ‘Fit’ to Head News Corp in Split Vote

May 2, 2012 Updated: October 1, 2015
Protesters wearing large Rupert and James Murdoch masks
Protesters wearing large Rupert and James Murdoch masks demonstrate outside the High Court in London as former News International Chairman James Murdoch gives evidence to The Leveson Inquiry on April 24. (Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

The U.K. parliamentary committee tasked with investigating allegations of phone hacking at Rupert Murdoch’s News International newspapers has deemed Rupert Murdoch unfit to oversee a major international organization.

The committee said in its report published Tuesday that Rupert Murdoch—founder, chairman and CEO of News Corp.—”did not take steps to become fully informed about phone hacking; he turned a blind eye and exhibited willful blindness to what was going on in his companies and publications.”

According to the House of Commons media committee, this culture permeated down from the top throughout the entire organizations in both News Corp. and its subsidiary News International, which was previously chaired by Murdoch’s son, James Murdoch.

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

While this point was included in the committee’s report by majority vote, members were split on it largely along party lines. The four Conservative members or Parliament voted against it, and five Labor and one Liberal Democrat member voting in favor. Chairman John Whittingdale, a Conservative, as chair did not vote.

Speaking at a press conference, Conservative committee member Damian Collins said that describing Murdoch as unfit to lead a major international company is an opinion that goes beyond what the committee had taken evidence on.

The wording is especially sensitive as Britain’s independent regulator for the communications industry, Ofcom, uses the terminology of “fit” to decide who can hold a broadcasting license.

Ofcom announced in March this year that it is investigating whether James Murdoch, who stepped down earlier this year as chairman of British Sky Broadcasting (BSkyB) in the middle of the phone-hacking scandal, was a “fit and proper” person for the position.

Since the phone-hacking and bribery scandal revolving around the now dissolved News of the World Tabloid (NOW) broke last year, Rupert Murdoch withdrew a $12 billion bid for BSkyB.

The Murdochs have both appeared several times before the parliamentary commission over allegations of hacking at the News of the World tabloid. Both have denied having any knowledge of the extent phone hacking and other illegal practices at News International, blaming subordinates for keeping them ill-informed about the cases.

“To suggest that there is some sort of glass ceiling that did not reach Rupert Murdoch or indeed James Murdoch is, in the words of the report, ‘astonishing’,” committee member Jim Sheridan told the press conference on Tuesday.

Both Murdochs have also denied knowledge of payments of 600,000 pounds ($973,200) and 1 million pounds ($1.6 million) by NOW to phone-hacking victims.

“To suggest that huge amounts of money were paid out to people without senior executives knowing about it is incredible. So the general public will draw the conclusion that it is astonishing that people at that level running a company did not know what was happening,” Sheridan said.

“Rupert Murdoch was at the top of the tree so he, I believe, should carry the can,” Sheridan said.

News International’s former Chairman Les Hinton, former NOW editor Colin Myler, and former legal manager Tom Crone, were all accused by the commission of misleading Parliament by providing false answers. The committee is now calling on Parliament to debate the accusations and decide what to about the matter.