We’ve known it for years, but now it’s official - “Rupert Murdoch is not a fit person to exercise the stewardship of major international company”. This is the damning summation of a UK Government Select Committee report into the News of the World phone-hacking scandal.
The Commons Culture, Media and Sport committee also accused Rupert Murdoch of “wilful blindness” towards the wrongdoing in his organization, and that there had been “huge failings of corporate governance”, whose sole aim was “to cover up rather than seek out wrongdoing and discipline the perpetrators”.
The report accused 3 former senior executives from News International - Les Hinton, Colin Myler, and Tom Crone - of misleading the committee during its inquiries into Hackgate.
James Murdoch’s competence was called into question, and he was said to have had a “wilful ignorance” about events at News International and the News of the World.
But the most damning indictment was made against Rupert “Digger” Murdoch, the report concluded:
“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.”
“In my opinion, they are not truly sorry, only sorry they got caught.”
Not a truer word said, for the News of the Screws would have carried on their underhand, illicit and corrupt methods if the Guardian had not been assiduous in their investigation of the whole Phone Hacking Scandal. Indeed, Charlotte Church said she only agreed on the settlement with the News International because they planned “to go after my mother again”.
On Wednesday, James Murdoch announced his resignation from News International - this is damage limitation, possibly as a precaution against future criminal proceedings and against the further tarnishing to the family business. But wait - can Murdoch’s brand be even more tarnished and disreputable? An organization currently under investigation for corruption, bribery and extensive illegal activities?
Of course, there will always be those dumb apologists who make the pitch that without Murdoch we wouldn’t have had this or that or the other. Well, this that or the other, just isn’t so, for if one was to take all the good Murdoch’s papers have allegedly achieved, and weigh it up against the bad it has actually perpetrated across the UK and the world, then the Murdochs would be found sadly wanting.
Murdoch’s suitability to be running a business, let alone a newspaper, is the question posed by respected journalist and broadcaster Peter Oborne, in the Daily Telegraph, where he asks:
Is Rupert Murdoch a fit and proper person to run a company?
It may seem an obvious question, but it’s not the sort one expects to find in the conservative Telegraph, where Oborne writes:
Until now, it is only the lesser people who have carried the can for the culture of criminality that flourished inside News International, with the buck stopping with editors such as Andy Coulson and Rebekah Brooks. The time has come to look higher up – and I am not thinking of hapless James Murdoch, who belatedly resigned as the chairman of News International yesterday afternoon.
Rupert Murdoch, the company’s founder, insists that he never had any knowledge of wrongdoing, and no doubt that is true. But he was the man at the top. He took a very keen interest in the way his British newspapers were run (a newspaperman to his fingertips, last weekend he could be seen hard at work in the newsroom as the Sun on Sunday was launched) and it was he, and nobody else, who set the culture.
We learn more about this culture practically every day. It was a culture of bullying and intimidation, where facts were distorted and lies told. It was a culture which merged the boundaries between police, media and the political class. Though brilliant in many ways, it also did a great deal to debase and even to destroy our public life. Now Rupert Murdoch, an American citizen of Australian heritage, is promoting the break-up of Britain through an alliance with Alex Salmond, leader of the Scottish National Party (they met yesterday).
Murdoch’s culture, we now know for a fact, included the criminal culture at the News of the World. We have also heard the corruption allegations from Sue Akers concerning the Sun. Of course nothing has been proved, but if even half of what she says turns out to be true, then it is time to ask whether Rupert Murdoch is a fit and proper person to run not just a newspaper, but any British public company.
Undoubtedly, Murdoch is a wily businessman, but the core values his business seed and promote are the lowest, most insidious and craven, which clearly reveal Murdoch’s true ambition - his thirst for power.
James Murdoch has quit as director of The Sun and the London Times newspapers, the Evening Standard reports:
Companies House filings show James Murdoch has stepped down from the boards of both News Group Newspapers Limited, publisher of The Sun, and Times Newspapers Limited, which operates The Times and Sunday Times.
NGN used to operate the News of the World and remains embroiled in legal action over phone-hacking.
The departures come as James Murdoch also faces calls to quit as chairman of BSkyB at next week’s annual general meeting. His decision means no member of the Murdoch family now sits on the boards of the flagship UK papers.Rupert Murdoch used to be a director of NGN and TNL but stepped down after his son took over as NI executive chairman in 2007. James Murdoch has also quit at least one other subsidiary, News International Holdings.
Murdoch’s decision to quit is possibly one of damage limitation over the recent News of the World ‘phone hacking scandal.
The Evening Standard quotes Claire Enders, founder of Enders Analysis, who said:
“Because it is inescapable that there will be some kind of censure from the Culture, Media and Sport select committee, it is inevitable that people will say maybe you’ve got too much on your plate, it makes sense to step back from some of the roles.” But Enders said Murdoch still faces intense pressure as the police investigate hacking at the News of the World.
“He can step down from all these positions but he won’t stop any of the other issues surrounding his stewardship,” she said.
Though Enders dismissed talk News Corp would sell the UK papers, Murdoch’s surprise resignation does suggest a shift in relationship between the parent company and the newspapers.
Tonight’s breaking news that James Murdoch had been arrested over the News of the World ‘phone hacking scandal, has proved too good to be true. Sky News tweeted Mr. Murdoch had been arrested at 22:00 hours GMT and taken to London’s Paddington Green Police Station for questioning. Shortly afterwards, the tweet was deleted.
The question is: Was Sky News hacked? Or, was it a case of wishful thinking from a journalist?
Andy Coulson, former ‘NOTW’ editor and Clive Goodman
It looks like the Murdochs and their former News of the World editor Andy Coulson are finally fucked over the ‘phone hacking scandal today, after the publication of a letter by former employee.
Clive Goodman is the former News of the World Royal Correspondent, who was arrested in August 2006, and jailed in January 2007 for illegally intercepting mobile phone messages involving members of the Royal Household. In March 2007, Goodman wrote a letter, published Tuesday, which claimed that ‘phone hacking was widely discussed by editorial staff at the tabloid, until, then editor, Andy Coulson banned any reference to it. The Guradian reports:
Rupert Murdoch, James Murdoch and their former editor Andy Coulson all face embarrassing new allegations of dishonesty and cover-up after the publication of an explosive letter written by the News of the World’s disgraced royal correspondent, Clive Goodman.
In the letter, which was written four years ago but published only on Tuesday, Goodman claims that phone hacking was “widely discussed” at editorial meetings at the paper until Coulson himself banned further references to it; that Coulson offered to let him keep his job if he agreed not to implicate the paper in hacking when he came to court; and that his own hacking was carried out with “the full knowledge and support” of other senior journalists, whom he named.
The claims are acutely troubling for the prime minister, David Cameron, who hired Coulson as his media adviser on the basis that he knew nothing about phone hacking. And they confront Rupert and James Murdoch with the humiliating prospect of being recalled to parliament to justify the evidence which they gave last month on the aftermath of Goodman’s allegations. In a separate letter, one of the Murdochs’ own law firms claim that parts of that evidence were variously “hard to credit”, “self-serving” and “inaccurate and misleading”.
Goodman’s claims also raise serious questions about Rupert Murdoch’s close friend and adviser, Les Hinton, who was sent a copy of the letter but failed to pass it to police and who then led a cast of senior Murdoch personnel in telling parliament that they believed Coulson knew nothing about the interception of the voicemail of public figures and that Goodman was the only journalist involved.
The letters from Goodman and from the London law firm Harbottle & Lewis are among a cache of paperwork published by the Commons culture, media and sport select committee. One committee member, the Labour MP Tom Watson, said Goodman’s letter was “absolutely devastating”. He said: “Clive Goodman’s letter is the most significant piece of evidence that has been revealed so far. It completely removes News International’s defence. This is one of the largest cover-ups I have seen in my lifetime.”
Goodman’s letter is dated 2 March 2007, soon after he was released from a four-month prison sentence. It is addressed to News International’s director of human resources, Daniel Cloke, and registers his appeal against the decision of Hinton, the company’s then chairman, to sack him for gross misconduct after he admitted intercepting the voicemail of three members of the royal household. Goodman lists five grounds for his appeal.
He argues that the decision is perverse because he acted “with the full knowledge and support” of named senior journalists and that payments for the private investigator who assisted him, Glenn Mulcaire, were arranged by another senior journalist. The names of the journalists have been redacted from the published letter at the request of Scotland Yard, who are investigating the affair.
Goodman then claims that other members of staff at the News of the World were also hacking phones. Crucially, he adds: “This practice was widely discussed in the daily editorial conference, until explicit reference to it was banned by the editor.” He reveals that the paper continued to consult him on stories even though they knew he was going to plead guilty to phone hacking and that the paper’s then lawyer, Tom Crone, knew all the details of the case against him.
In a particularly embarrassing allegation, he adds: “Tom Crone and the editor promised on many occasions that I could come back to a job at the newspaper if I did not implicate the paper or any of its staff in my mitigation plea. I did not, and I expect the paper to honour its promise to me.” In the event, Goodman lost his appeal. But the claim that the paper induced him to mislead the court is one that may cause further problems for News International.
As MP Tom Watson explains in the video clip below, if Goodman’s letter is accurate, then the whole foundation of the James and Rupert Murdoch’s and News International’s defense collapses, and if the allegations against former NOTWeditor, Andy Coulson, are proved to be correct, then the game of bluff is over and criminal prosecutions will be inevitable.
It was a splatter of foam pie rather than any humble pie that Rupert Murdoch received today. It added a surreal touch to an odd day for the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee Hearing, where Rupert Murdoch at first came across as a seemingly frail Wizard of Oz. It was only his hand slamming the table in front of him that gave any hint this is a man used to getting his own way; a man who is rarely questioned, let alone cross examined by a round table of MPs, who were, let’s be fair, rather ineffectual.
Rupert was humbly evasive, while is son, James easily deflected questions, though he did admit the rather shocking news News International has been (and may still be) paying the legal fees of the phone hacking journalist Clive Goodman and private detective Glenn Mulcaire.
Then came the pie master, an alleged comedian called Johnnie Marbles, who may have delivered a better hit than any member of the Select Committee, but in doing so took away from the serious intent of the proceedings.