Murdochs phone-hacking update

House of Commons committee report: Rupert Murdoch is unfit to run News International.

The House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee has published its report on the News International phone-hacking scandal. Direct pdf link here; TPM’s requires a Facebook account.
Key graf (page 70, paragraph 229):

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

The paragraphs including this sentence were adopted on a party-line vote (page 115). But even if you take out the amendments on which the committee was split, the MPs are all still pretty angry at being lied to so much.

Gender wars footnote: the Committee staff are all women (frontispiece).

Author: James Wimberley

James Wimberley (b. 1946, an Englishman raised in the Channel Islands. three adult children) is a former career international bureaucrat with the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. His main achievements there were the Lisbon Convention on recognition of qualifications and the Kosovo law on school education. He retired in 2006 to a little white house in Andalucia, His first wife Patricia Morris died in 2009 after a long illness. He remarried in 2011. to the former Brazilian TV actress Lu Mendonça. The cat overlords are now three. I suppose I've been invited to join real scholars on the list because my skills, acquired in a decade of technical assistance work in eastern Europe, include being able to ask faux-naïf questions like the exotic Persians and Chinese of eighteenth-century philosophical fiction. So I'm quite comfortable in the role of country-cousin blogger with a European perspective. The other specialised skill I learnt was making toasts with a moral in the course of drunken Caucasian banquets. I'm open to expenses-paid offers to retell Noah the great Armenian and Columbus, the orange, and university reform in Georgia. James Wimberley's occasional publications on the web

14 thoughts on “Murdochs phone-hacking update”

  1. And they’re going to do…………………………?

    (I’m asking because in the USA, Congress and the media have no problem at all being lied to)

  2. Yeah, I don’t get what this means. Are they going to force him to sell? Close it down? Take it away? Or are they just going to make frownie faces and talk about Murdoch’s temerity for continuing in the face of such disapproval?

    1. The NYT article suggests that the report amounts to a frownie face, with the threat of more frownie faces to come for the News Corp. underbosses:

      The committee’s findings appeared certain to set off a new storm in Parliament, with the Labour opposition signaling that it intended to press for a vote finding Mr. Hinton, Mr. Myler and Mr. Crone guilt of contempt of Parliament, a rarely used sanction in modern times that Labour supporters said would do serious damage to the men’s reputations and professional careers.

  3. As far as I can see, the proposal is that News Corp be held in contempt of Parliament (paras 279-280). I don’t think there are any constitutional limits on Parliament’s powers in such a case, only political ones. Cameron will presumably resist calls for billion-pound fines or dragging Rupert in chains to the Tower, but I wonder if he’ll be able to limit the damage to symbolic punishment. Stay tuned.

    1. My guess is that the major consequence is that News Corp. will not be allowed to assume complete control of B Sky B. This is largely what the political witch hunt has been about from the beginning. The pretext is all window dressing.

  4. The statement (which, as James noted, the Conservatives didn’t support) is relevant with respect to section 3 (3) of the Broadcasting Act 1996 (and the matching provision of the Broadcasting Act 1990):

    (3) The Commission—
    (a) shall not grant a licence to any person unless they are satisfied that he is a fit and proper person to hold it, and
    (b) shall do all that they can to secure that, if they cease to be so satisfied in the case of any person holding a licence, that person does not remain the holder of the licence;

    That could, in theory, lead to Ofcom stripping News Corporation of its broadcasting license, though that would be unprecedented and unlikely. More likely (not counting the possibility of a slap on the wrist or a really stern talking-to — the most likely outcomes) would be a restructuring of News Corporation’s broadcasting or corporate leadership arrangements.

    1. Katya: thanks, this is emerging as the key issue in this line of this multi-stranded Dickensian or Balzacian scandal. An ITN reporter pointed out tonight that OFCOM has an ongoing duty to comply with 3(b), they don’t need a reference from anybody and must now consider the MPs’ report and the evidence given and lies told to the committee.
      How does this mesh with US investigations, the Hunt scandal, and the Leveson inquiry? How are News Corp.’s shareholders reacting? Stay tuned for the next episode!

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

    He is not fit to be an American…

    This foreign SOB needs to get his foreign wife, his largest investor– a foreign Arab prince– and get the hell out of my country.
    Murdoch is a cancer. Cut him out, spit him out, put him on a slow boat to China, whatever. But rid the country of this foreign menace.

  6. What I like about this is that it finally takes the executive-ignorance bull by the horns. In the US, the standard appears to be that it’s OK (the tiny little teeth of Sarbanes-Oxley notwithstanding) for top managers in a wrongdoing enterprise to keep pulling down salary and bonus (and avoid prosecution) by claiming they had no idea what the people they ostensibly managed were doing right in front of their faces.

    1. It’s not quite that easy, alas. Corporate criminal liability in England and Wales is based on the so-called identification model or “directing mind doctrine” developed in Tesco Supermarkets Ltd v Nattrass.

      While in theory that looks like it assigns responsibilities to the movers and shakers, in practice the consequence is that large corporations often have a comparatively easy time to establish plausible deniability by arranging [1] carefully for any wrongdoings to be performed by an underling who is not part of the “directing mind” of the company. What is so surprising about the News Corporation case is that the senior management of News Corporation allowed itself to be caught with its hands in the cookie jar rather than being able to blame rogue employees.

      [1] The “arranging” has to be done subtly enough so that senior management can claim with a straight face that it has taken a due diligence approach, of course. Which, in a large company with several layers of insulation between senior management and those employees that interact with the public (or their telephones) is not all that difficult.

      1. As far as I understand this report, however (which may not be far at all) it explicitly makes the claim that for senior management to have been unaware would by itself constitute a failure of due diligence. In the US, that’s almost always a determination left to the stockholders (whose proxies are mostly held by the managers in question).

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