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Rupert Murdoch: I Do Not Accept Responsibility For Wrongdoing At News Of The World

The phone hacking scandal that has claimed the jobs of Britain’s two most high-profile police officers, caused the closure of one of the country’s most famous newspapers, prompted 10 arrests so far and led to calls for the resignation of the Prime Minister reached a critical juncture today with a moment of high drama to rival anything that the British media has produced before, either in real life or fiction.

The founder and the appointed heir to the world’s most famous media empire too centre stage in the next act of the hacking saga.

Rupert and James Murdoch sat before a panel of MPs and faced questions that the company over which they preside was involved in phone hacking on an “industrial scale”, made illegal payments to police officers and sought to corrupt the democratic process by “owning” politicians. In their answers, for which they were carefully drilled by a team of lawyers and media trainers, the pair attempted to rescue a tarnished reputation and distance themselves from serious criminality.

They did so under intense pressure from their own shareholders, who have seen the value of their stock fall by almost a fifth – 17.9 per cent – since it emerged that the murdered schoolgirl Millie Dowler had been among victims of the company’s journalists. The answers of the Murdochs will also be analysed by a number of investigating bodies, including the media regulator Ofcom which is gathering evidence on whether News Corp is “fit and proper” to own a broadcasting license in the UK, and the Serious Fraud Office.

A contrite Mr Murdoch declared: “This is the most humble day of my life”.

Sitting alongside his son, James, the 80-year-old media mogul said that he was “more than prepared” to answer the questions of the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee into the phone hacking scandal.

The start of the keenly-awaited hearing in the Wilson Room of Portcullis House was briefly disrupted as some protesters were removed.

James Murdoch, News Corp’s deputy chief operating officer, opened by saying how sorry he and his father were to the victims in the News of the World phone-hacking scandal.

“It is a matter of great regret of mine, my father’s and everyone at News Corporation. These actions do not live up to the standards our company aspires to everywhere around the world,” he said.

“It is our determination both to put things right, make sure these things don’t happen again, and to be the company that I know that we have always aspired to be.”

James Murdoch told the committee the company acted “swiftly” as soon as it became aware of fresh evidence over phone hacking following a series of civil actions in 2010, particularly the case involving actress Sienna Miller.

It became apparent that more people than originally believed were victims of the practice, he added.

Mr Murdoch Jnr said: “Subsequent to our discovery of that information in one of these civil trials at the end of 2010, which I believe was the Sienna Miller case, the company immediately went to look at additional records around the individual involved, the company alerted the police and restarted, on that basis, the investigation that is now under way.”

He said the company had apologised “unreservedly, which I repeat today,” to phone hacking victims.

He added: “The company acted as swiftly and transparently as possible.”

Asked by Labour MP Tom Watson whether he had been “misled” by senior employees, Mr Murdoch senior replied: “Clearly.”

Mr Watson pointed out that former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks admitted in 2003 that police were paid for information.

Mr Murdoch senior said: “I am now aware of that, I was not aware at the time. I’m also aware that she amended that considerably very quickly afterwards.”

Mr Watson said: “I think she amended it seven or eight years afterwards but did you or anyone else in your organisation investigate it at the time?”

Mr Murdoch replied: “No. I didn’t know of it.

“I’m sorry, if I can just say something and this is not as an excuse, maybe it’s an explanation of my laxity.

“The News of the World is less than 1% of our company. I employ 53,000 people around the world who are proud and great and ethical and distinguished people, professionals in their work.



5 Responses

  1. The legal rule is that the principal is liable for the acts of the agent done within the scope of agency. His only defense might be if he could claim that the News of the World was being run by an autonomous editorial board (similar to the London Times or the Wall Street Journal), but that wasn’t the case.

    If he didn’t have actual knowledge of the illegal acts, he isn’t personally criminally liable, but the corporation remain liable, and the penalty for a criminal coroporation is basically “death” (dissolution – think Arthur Anderson).

  2. FOR #1–get your law straight.

    1) It depends on who did the act.

    Usually in these cases, if there is a “criminal” prosecution of a corporation, it results in fines.

    2) Arthur Andersen (get the spelling right) was eventually cleared of criminal involvement but it was too late. The American system of “justice” assured that one of the most respected accounting firms in the world was killed. Unlike the rest of the world, the U.S. system assures that bad publicity will kill someone even if they are eventually cleared.

  3. Arthur Andersen disbanded because convicted felons cannot audit public companies and the firm was convicted of obstruction of justice. There is no such rule for making movies or operating a newspaper

  4. “There is no such rule for making movies or operating a newspaper”

    True! The First Amendment gives the media blanket permission to publish both lies and licentiousness with no real limit, and Murdoch’s publications take full advantage of that heter.

  5. charliehall:

    As a conservative, I always read your posts as a breath of fresh air. Even though I highly disagree with your liberal viewpoints, you have always brought clear arguments and civil tone to back you up.

    Please don’t degenerate into name-calling like ML and his ilk. I don’t know the full deal with Murdoch, but I personally don’t think WSJ and FOX spread lies. But if you have an argument, please bring it up. Don’t just mouth off.

    Kol habrochos,

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