A report published today by the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee has concluded that Rupert Murdoch “is not a fit person to exercise the stewardship of major international company,” and he and his son James should take “ultimate responsibility” for the scandal. As the ripples continue to spread, below is a summary of the main points with links to reports from across the UK media.
The committee of MPs began its inquiry in July 2011 after fresh newspaper revelations about the extent of hacking at the News of the World were brought to light, with reported victims including the murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler and the families of victims of the 7/7 London bombings. After hearing evidence from Rupert and James Murdoch, the BBC reports that the committee said that it was “simply not credible” that Rupert Murdoch had “no inkling” of phone-hacking at the News of the World and in fact, Murdoch had excellent powers of recall and grasp of detail when it suited him”.
The report concluded that “Corporately, the News of the World and News International misled the committee about the true nature and extent of the internal investigations they professed to have carried out in relation to phone hacking; by making statements they would have known were not fully truthful; and by failing to disclose documents which would have helped expose the truth.”
The committee chose to apportion significant responsibility to Rupert Murdoch and his son James, for their “lack of curiosity … wilful ignorance even” at the time of the negotiations surrounding the 2008 Gordon Taylor phone-hacking settlement and into 2009 and 2010. The select committee said that they were “astonished that James Murdoch did not seek more information or ask to see the evidence and counsel’s opinion when he was briefed by Tom Crone and Colin Myler on the Gordon Taylor case.” James Murdoch is also said to have failed to appreciate the implications of the News of the World hacking when the “for Neville” email first became public in 2009.
The cross-party collection of MPs say in their report that Les Hinton, the former executive chairman of News International was “complicit” in a cover-up at the newspaper group, and Colin Myler, former editor of the News of the World, and Tom Crone, the paper’s former head lawyer “answered questions falsely” when they gave evidence. On the whole, Rebekah Brooks managed to avoid much of the MPs’ criticism, but she “should accept responsibility” for the culture that allowed hacking to take place to such epic proportions, The Guardian reports. The MPs said: “The attempts by the News of the World to get a scoop on Milly Dowler led to a considerable amount of police resource being redirected to the pursuit of false leads.”
John Whittingdale was asked whether the report should be considered a “shambles” given the divisions. The Times reports that he replied: ‘the vast majority of the report was unanimously agreed upon. Louise Mensch says it was “put to Tom (Watson)” that if the Rupert Murdoch fit and proper line was left out then Conservative MPs would back it, but he insisted “on a point of principle” which he was “completely within his rights to do so”
As to the question of what should be done about people who are found to have misled parliament, The Times noted that ‘Louise Mensch says that an offence should be created of “contempt of parliament” akin to “contempt of court” to punish them. The committee will be feeding into a separate investigation which will look at increasing the powers of select committees.’ (story available to Times subscribers here)
The report may be taken into account by Ofcom, as they attempt to determine whether News Corporation should be allowed to continue to hold a broadcasting licence for Sky. Ofcom said in a statement:
“We note the publication of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee report, which we are reading with interest. Ofcom has a duty under the Broadcasting Acts 1990 and 1996 to be satisfied that any person holding a broadcasting licence is, and remains, fit and proper to do so. Ofcom is continuing to assess the evidence that may assist it in discharging these duties. As part of this we are considering the Committee report.”
The select committee report can be viewed in full here.