Hacking report is a devastating account which condemns Rupert Murdoch

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‘From the civil claims to date, it’s clear that phone-hacking at the News of the World started as far back as 2001’ says today’s report. More than a decade later it concludes, ‘The whole affair demonstrates huge failings of corporate governance at the company and its parent, News Corporation.’

The report by the Culture, Media and Sport Committee of parliament provides a devastating account of how employees of a company became involved in illegal activity and how its executives then attempted to cover up the wrongdoing. Corporately News International’s ‘instinct throughout, until it was too late, was to cover up rather than seek out wrongdoing’, it says.

News International and it’s parent company News Corporation exhibited wilful blindness, for which the companies directors – including Rupert Murdoch and James Murdoch – should ultimately be prepared to take responsibility

– Culture, Media and Sport Committee report
BSkyB Chairman James Murdoch appears before a parliamentary committee on phone hacking
BSkyB Chairman James Murdoch appears before a parliamentary committee on phone hacking Credit: Reuters

The report reserves judgement on some key figures such as Rebekah Brooks, Rupert Murdoch’s right hand woman for so many years, because she has been arrested by the police. But it is no less damning for that.

And as so often with scandals it is the attempted cover up that is most damaging. By June 2008 the Chief Executive of the Professional Footballers Association Gordon Taylor had received a payment from News International totalling £700,000. The report says, ‘this huge amount of money was paid over a story which was never actually published and was clearly done to buy silence’.

The committee says it cannot ‘come to a definitive conclusion’ as to what James Murdoch knew when he agreed this payment. But it says it is ‘astonished’ that James Murdoch did not seek more information before authorising this ‘not inconsequential’ sum of money. It concludes that for James Murdoch ‘this clearly raises questions of competence on the part of News International’s then Chairman and Chief Executive’.

News Corporation Chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch
News Corporation Chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch Credit: Reuters

There is much more about who knew what and when. Many of those involved may never recover their reputations after this report. But more than anything it raises serious questions for News Corporation and its share holders about the way the company has been run by the Murdoch family.Near the end it says this:

On the basis of the facts and evidence before the Committee, we conclude that, if at all relevant times Rupert Murdoch did not take steps to become fully informed about phone-hacking, he turned a blind eye and exhibited wilful blindness to what was going on in his companies and publications.

It concludes that ‘Rupert Murdoch is not a fit person to exercise stewardship of a major international company’.