News Corporation's Rupert Murdoch is "not a fit person" to run an international company, British lawmakers have said.
A report by the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee, which has been investigating allegations of phone hacking by UK newspapers, concluded that Murdoch showed "wilful blindness" to misconduct at his publications.
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The committee accused News International, the branch of News Corp. that publishes a number of British papers, of misleading its inquiry and attempting to cover up wrongdoing. Specifically, three former executives, Tom Crone, Colin Myler and Les Hinton, were accused of giving misleading evidence, the BBC said.
Murdoch himself has denied knowledge of phone hacking, blaming the misconduct on his employees. The committee, however, accused him of turning a "blind eye and exhibit[ing] wilful blindness to what was going on in his companies and publications."
Its report concluded:
"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."
That judgment was not unanimous, however, the UK Press Association reported. The four Conservative members of the committee refused to back its conclusion, which was voted through by the six Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs on the panel. Conservative MP Louise Mensch said the criticism of Rupert Murdoch went beyond the inquiry's scope and would cost it "a very great deal of its credibility."
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According to the BBC, the committee does not have the power to impose sanctions. However, its damning report may affect an upcoming ruling on whether British satellite broadcaster BSkyB, of which News Corp. owns 39 percent, is fit to hold a broadcasting licence. UK media regulator Ofcom can decide to withdraw the licence if the company's directors are considered unsuitable.
Furthermore, both Rupert and James Murdoch are set to face "increasing shareholder pressure to surrender their respective positions at News Corp.," according to the Telegraph.
News Corp. said it was reviewing the committee's report and would respond shortly. "The company fully acknowledges significant wrongdoing at News of the World and apologizes to everyone whose privacy was invaded," a statement said.
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