PJ Vogt is a producer for On the Media. He's on Twitter here.
A “BOMBSHELL” LOBBED AT RUPERT MURDOCH
Tuesday, May 01, 2012 - 04:21 PM
"This Report examines whether or not there is good evidence to suggest that the Committee and its predecessor Committees have been misled by any witnesses during thecourse of their work on the phone-hacking scandal, which continues to reverberate around News International and to have major repercussions for the British newspaper industry as a whole."
Today the British Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee released their report on the Murdoch’s News International phone-hacking scandal.
I called journalist Peter Jukes, who we spoke to for last week’s show (embedded below), to find out what surprised him about this week’s news, and what’s going to happen next. This week, Jukes has continued his excellent coverage of the proceedings over at the Daily Beast.
Jukes said that James Murdoch, Rupert’s son, “dodged a bullet,” – because he wasn’t accused of misleading the UK parliament -- but that the report contained a “bombshell,” namely that Rupert Murdoch was deemed “not a fit person to exercise the stewardship of a major international company.” The parliamentary committee isn’t saying that Rupert Murdoch lied when he told them he was unaware of phone-hacking in his media empire, but they are saying that if he didn’t know, he’s probably too dumb to be a mogul.
The possible consequence? News Corp still holds a majority interest in BskyB, the enormous British private broadcast company. As Jukes wrote, “The term “fit person” expressly refers to broadcast regulator, Ofcom, which last week stepped up its investigation into News Corp., and whether its directors passed the “fit and proper” test required for a broadcast license.”
Besides the specter of Murdoch losing his broadcast license, what else can we look forward to on the horizon? Well, three things:
1. (Soon) Three key figures in the scandal are about to get their day in court.
The three figures are Tom Crone, former legal affairs manager for News of the World; Colin Myler, former News of the World editor; and Les Hinton, former head of News International. They’re expected to be brought before the House of Commons. They’re in trouble because they allegedly misled parliament. They’re essentially expected to be publically censured there, although in theory they could be imprisoned, too.
2. (Soonish) This is the one I’m interested in. Rebekah Brooks, former CEO of News International, and Andy Coulson, former editor of News of the World, are expected to be formally charged in the near future. The reason this is going to be interesting is because it’s very possible that their testimony, particularly Brooks’s, will reveal new information. Brooks and Coulson were very close to the Murdoch’s, and Brooks in particular has promised to reveal all emails and texts between her and the Cameron administration. It’s not hard to imagine that her testimony would have wider consequences both for the Murdochs and the UK government. The New York Times has an article today, Cameron Stands to Lose Much as Scandal Wears On, about the potential scope of the fallout.
3. (Who-knows-when) The last part Jukes talked about was the continuing fallout in the US. Right now, shareholders haven’t quite revolted against the Murdoch’s control over the company. One reason for this is that Rupert Murdoch has been able to take the money they would have spent on their failed BskyB acquisition attempt and applied it towards buying up stock in their company, thereby keeping the stock price up a bit. They’re halfway through that money, which means at some point, things will change. It’ll be interesting to see what happens then. When it does, check back on the show – we’ll be covering it.