As part of the ongoing fallout from the News Corp. phone-hacking scandal, James Murdoch, who earlier this year resigned as head of Murdoch's UK newspaper empire, today appeared at a judicial inquiry about press culture in the UK.
In keeping with his (and his father's) pattern of denying knowledge of the extent of the hacking at the News of the World tabloid, Murdoch reportedly told the inquiry that News of the World executives kept him in the dark about the scale of the hacking problem.
He has consistently maintained that the paper's management failed to alert him to the scale of the problem.
"Knowing what we know now about the culture at the News of the World in 2006, and from what we know about the alleged widespread nature of these poor practices, then it must have been cavalier about risk and that is a matter of huge regret," James Murdoch told a packed courtroom.
Asked if he read the weekly News of the World, he said "I wouldn't say I read all of it," and asked about its daily sister paper, the Sun, he said he had "tried to familiarize myself with what was in it".
Murdoch was also pressed on a 2008 email chain that mentioned a "nightmare scenario" involving potential legal consequences of phone hacking at News of the World. When these emails first surfaced in December, Murdoch released a statement admitting to both receiving and replying to the email, but also denying having read "the full e-mail chain." According to the BBC, Murdoch repeated this defense today:
In December, another email from 2008 was released indicating Mr Murdoch had been copied into messages referring to the "rife" practice of phone hacking at the News of the World and also citing the "For Neville" email.
Mr Murdoch has said although he was copied into the email, he did not read it fully.
He told the inquiry: "I didn't read the email chain. It was a Saturday, I had just come back from Hong Kong, I was with my children. I responded in minutes."
He said he now accepts that the "For Neville" email was "a thread" that raised the suspicion of wider phone hacking at the News of the World.
"The fact it suggested other people might have been involved in phone hacking - that part of its importance was not imparted to me that day," he said.
News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch is scheduled to appear before inquiry on Wednesday and Thursday.
A former editor for Rupert Murdoch's shuttered tabloid News of the World is defending the publication's routine use of the fictional byline "Edward Trevor," a practice which is reportedly under investigation by Scotland Yard.
Over the weekend, The Independent reported that "[d]etectives are interested in Trevor because this 'house byline' appeared on work that for various reasons the real author did not want to be associated with." Trevor's byline appears on hundreds of stories published in the infamous British newspaper, which Murdoch closed last year amidst allegations that reporters there engaged in widespread phone hacking and police bribery.
But Stuart White, who served as News of the World's LA-based American Editor from 1994 to 2003 and is now a novelist, tells Media Matters there is nothing unique or nefarious about the use of a "house byline" like Edward Trevor, adding, "the back story to this is that both The Independent and the Guardian are obsessed with ravaging the corpse of the News of the World."
Due to the ongoing investigation of the News Corp. phone-hacking scandal, James Murdoch has stepped down as chairman of UK satellite broadcaster BSkyB. BBC reported:
James Murdoch has resigned his role as chairman of UK satellite broadcaster BSkyB, but will remain on the board.
His father Rupert founded its parent company News Corporation, which had to drop its bid for BSkyB amid a phone-hacking scandal at a UK newspaper.
James Murdoch said in a statement that he did want want BSkyB to be undermined by "matters outside this company".
Sources told Robert Peston, the BBC's business editor, that it was Mr Murdoch's own decision to leave.
Mr Murdoch said on Tuesday: "As attention continues to be paid to past events at News International, I am determined that the interests of BSkyB should not be undermined by matters outside the scope of this company.
"I am aware that my role as chairman could become a lightning rod for BSkyB and I believe that my resignation will help to ensure that there is no false conflation with events at a separate organisation."
In February, James Murdoch resigned as chairman of News International.
From the March 3 edition of MSNBC's Up with Chris Hayes:
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More than eight months after News Corp.'s long-simmering phone-hacking scandal erupted in Britain last July, and eight months after Rupert Murdoch and his top lieutenants insisted the law-breaking inside his London tabloids had been limited to a rogue element, the scandal yet again this week has accelerated with surprising force.
Two days after Scotland Yard revealed that Murdoch's tabloid The Sun had engaged in a sweeping pattern of illegal activity, and one week after it was alleged that News Corp. had implemented a policy of deleting sensitive emails regarding hacking at News of the World, today Murdoch's son James resigned as chairman of News International, a coveted post that oversees Murdoch's U.K. newspaper empire.
Prior to the hacking humiliation, the 39-year-old Murdoch was seen as the likely heir to his father's global media throne. In making the announcement today, News Corp. made no mention of the hacking investigation, instead noting that Murdoch had resigned his position as part of a previously announced relocation from London to News Corp.'s world headquarters in New York. But it's impossible to view the resignation outside of the scandal that continues to eat away at the Murdoch family reputation.
The pressing problem the Murdochs now face is that the blockbuster story has truly morphed into a hacking and bribery scandal, and James Murdoch is implicated in both.
What's telling is that when Rupert Murdoch's legal troubles mounted last year, he specifically devised a defense that he thought would help inoculate James, according to a recent report in BusinessWeek. That strategy, and the larger News Corp. cover-up, has failed.
The first News Corporation shareholders meeting since news of the company's scandalous widespread phone-hacking broke is scheduled for today in California. News Corp. is already facing a shareholder lawsuit and was recently placed on a list of risky investments as a result of poor corporate governance. The New York Times reports that shareholders will vote on the company's board members and speak directly to the Murdochs at the meeting:
The gathering is expected to be the company's most contentious in years, with frustrated shareholders taking the microphone to demand accountability after a phone-hacking scandal in Britain that has embarrassed the company.
Investors will also have the chance to vote on the company's board members, including Mr. Murdoch and his sons, James and Lachlan. While the family's 40 percent stake virtually guarantees they will be re-elected, the chorus of discontent has put the company in an uncustomary defensive position.
MP Tom Watson of the British Labour Party will also attend the shareholder meeting:
The most forceful, and potentially most ominous protest is likely to come from Tom Watson, the British Labour Party legislator who has led the investigation into phone-hacking at News Corporation's British newspaper unit. Mr. Watson, who acquired nonvoting proxy shareholder status to attend the meeting, said he planned to accuse the company of engaging in further criminal wrongdoing involving surveillance techniques that extend beyond the phone hacking. He did not discuss potential evidence.
"A lot of institutional investors do not know the scope nor the implications of what's happening in the U.K.," Mr. Watson said in a phone interview. "You can delegate power but not responsibility, and Rupert Murdoch for whatever reason has failed to put in corporate governance arrangements that prohibit crimes from being committed."
From the July 13 edition of NBC's Today:
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"Climate change poses clear, catastrophic threats," Rupert Murdoch declared in a 2007 speech announcing News Corp.'s new climate initiative. "We may not agree on the extent, but we certainly can't afford the risk of inaction."
"We can do something that's unique, different from just any other company," said Murdoch. "We can set an example, and we can reach our audiences. Our audience's carbon footprint is 10,000 times bigger than ours.
"That's the carbon footprint we want to conquer."
Four years later, News Corp. has achieved its goal of carbon neutrality. Yet no media outlet in the United States does more to aggressively undermine climate science than Fox News. The network regularly distorts data, fabricates controversies, and smears climate experts. One of Fox's top editors has even ordered reporters to cast doubt on the basic fact that the planet is warming. And Sean Hannity has used his Fox show to tell viewers that global warming "doesn't exist."
The contrast between what News Corp.'s chairman says and what its employees actually do is a stark illustration of the company's attempt to play both sides of the climate issue.
When Murdoch launched his company-wide initiative to radically reduce News Corp.'s carbon footprint and combat climate change, one business expert said that it "could be one of the most brilliant strategic moves I've ever heard of."
With Fox News, explained Joe Priester of the University of Southern California, News Corp. had secured a lucrative spot with conservative consumers but had alienated those at the opposite end of the political spectrum. By launching its climate initiative, the company could make a play for more liberal consumers too.
But now Murdoch's attempt to promote -- and profit from -- contradictory messages on climate change could put News Corp. on a collision course with its green-conscious advertisers, as environmental organizations that have partnered with the company start to speak out on the damage being done by Fox News.
Like father's employee, like son?
Rupert Murdoch's son James reportedly crashed the London offices of The Independent because the paper had produced promotional ads stating, "Rupert Murdoch won't decide this election. You will."
The Guardian reports:
But [Rupert's] son James seems less ready to turn the other cheek, as it were. And this would seem to be the most plausible explanation for why Murdoch the younger, the chairman and chief executive News Corporation Europe and Asia, caused a media sensation on Wednesday by striding across the editorial floor at the Independent newspaper to berate its editor-in-chief, Simon Kelner.
In common with so many of the unpleasant episodes involving angry young men in modern London, it was a squall about reputation and respect. The newly relaunched Independent had produced a series of relatively innocuous promotional ads assuring readers: "Rupert Murdoch won't decide this election. You will."
There is no evidence that Murdoch senior has even seen the ads, but witnesses report that directly upon seeing Kelner, who was supervising the final production stages of that night's paper, Murdoch the younger began angry remonstrations. "What are you fucking playing at?" was his opening gambit.
The episode left experienced journalists shocked. "They strode in like a scene out of Dodge City," said one. "Murdoch scanned the room, you could almost hear him saying 'Where is he?'"
It looks like the younger Murdoch may be a big fan of Fox News' Bill O'Reilly who has become infamous over the years for ambushing those critical of the conservative network.