News Corp. COO James Murdoch. Photo credit: Sky News
Rupert Murdoch may have taken a pie to the face at the culture select committee hearing, but it seems son James could be hit by something rather more serious over the next few days. Two former News of the World (NotW) senior executives have disputed the BSkyB chairman’s claim that he was not shown a key email suggesting phone hacking at the paper was widespread at the Sunday tabloid; James Murdoch insisted his evidence was “truthful”. Meanwhile, Murdoch the Younger is also facing questions over his future at BSkyB, ahead of a company board meeting on 28th July.
“In fact, we did inform him of the ‘for Neville’ email.” Statement by Colin Myler and Tom Crone.
- “Mistaken”. Much of the controversy over James Murdoch’s statements to the culture select committee centres on the so-called “For Neville” email, which strongly suggested phone hacking was not confined to a rogue reporter at the NotW. Murdoch told the committee he “was not aware” of the email at the time he authorised a payout to hacking victim Gordon Taylor in 2008. But Colin Myler, former NotW editor, and Tom Crone, NotW legal manager, issued a statement saying he was “mistaken”: “In fact, we did inform him of the ‘for Neville’ email which had been produced to us by Gordon Taylor’s lawyers.” Following the latest allegations, Prime Minister David Cameron offered a less than ringing endorsement of James Murdoch, saying he “clearly has got questions to answer in Parliament”. And to make Murdoch’s week even more fun, another senior News International lawyer has come forward to allege “serious inaccuracies” in the committee statements. The select committee is due to discuss the issue on Friday, taking into account additional written evidence from James Murdoch. But it seems the head of the committee isn’t entirely pleased with the way the claims have been made: “It is somewhat frustrating to keep hearing media reports about people wishing to correct evidence. If they have doubts about any testimony they should get in touch with us immediately,” John Whittingdale told The Evening Standard.
“The biggest issue is whether James Murdoch is to remain chairman.” Steve Liechti in The New York Times.
- Clinging on. Unsurprisingly, The New York Times reported that James Murdoch’s position as chairman of BSkyB was looking increasingly tenuous: “‘The biggest issue is whether James Murdoch is to remain chairman,’ said Steve Liechti, an analyst at Investec Securities in London. ‘Given the issues going on with News Corp and James Murdoch’s position within that business, it may be seen that it is not appropriate.’” Writing in The Washington Post, Paul A. Argenti claimed James Murdoch had damaged his future as a leader by mishandling the phone-hacking crisis: “Everyone knows that Rupert and James Murdoch, as well as the entire senior management team at News Corp., did just about everything wrong from a crisis communication perspective… They did not show the requisite amount of remorse and provide the necessary amount of transparency.” However, according to Jane Martinson in The Guardian, James Murdoch has won the backing of BSkyB deputy chairman Nicholas Ferguson, following a private meeting. What’s more, Martinson suggested that Murdoch Junior has also retained the support of other key players (apart from his dad): “Murdoch’s record at Sky, where he was a highly successful chief executive before moving to Wapping to head News International in 2009, as well as his continuing good relations with the current chief executive, Jeremy Darroch, is understood to have persuaded several board members to support him.”
- Money problems. Writing in The Guardian, Dan Sabbagh revealed that James Murdoch is due a $12 million bonus, according to News Corp’s last annual statement. However, Sabbagh pointed out that Murdoch would be “unlikely” to be awarded the full amount, and News Corp have yet to issue a statement on the matter.
“I’ll be making no further comment on this #Hackgate nonsense. But important for everyone to know exactly who these lying smearers are.” Piers Morgan on Twitter.
- Time to look in The Mirror? James Murdoch is currently sharing the phone-hacking headlines with Piers Morgan after controversial remarks by the former Daily Mirror and NotW editor surfaced from 2007. Following the sentencing of Clive Goodman for phone hacking, Morgan told The Press Gazette: “I feel a lot of sympathy for a man who has been the convenient fall guy for an investigative practice that everyone knows was going on at almost every paper in Fleet Street for years.” Currently employed by CNN, Morgan issued a statement strongly denying any involvement in phone hacking during his career. But The Daily Beast subsequently reported that Morgan also apparently strongly implied to the BBC in 2009 that he was aware of dodgy tabloid practices, including phone hacking. Conservative MP and culture select committee member Louise Mensch used parliamentary privilege to accuse Morgan of phone hacking based on extracts from his book, leading to an angry confrontation between the two. Meanwhile, BBC Newsnight has apparently uncovered evidence of phone hacking at the tabloid, based on the allegations of a former Sunday Mirror journalist. As the Trinity Mirror share price tumbles, the company has announced a review of its “editorial controls and procedures”.
More on phone hacking
- Murdochs field hackgate questions
- Press freedom at stake?
- Murdoch nearly gets pied
- News Corp pulls plug on BSkyB deal
- Rebekah Brooks arrested, Paul Stephenson resigns