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Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Room at the top?

Apparently not - except at the Met

In one of the closing questions from the Commons Culture and Media Select Committee (July 19), Rupert Murdoch was asked if he would take responsibility as Chairman and Chief Executive of News Corporation and resign in the wake of the phone hacking scandal that has rocked his media empire. His response was an emphatic 'No' on the grounds that he was the best person to clear up the matter. This was a far more robust response from someone who at first appeared to be a sad, tired, old man who needed the support of his son to get him through the ordeal. 

One was left wondering how this faltering old man who, according to Wikipedia, "was listed three times in the Time 100 as among the most influential people in the world. He is ranked 13th most powerful person in the world in the 2010 Forbes' The World's Most Powerful People list.[4] With a net worth of US$6.3 billion, he is ranked 117th wealthiest person in the world.[5]" could possibly run a worldwide organisation employing over 50,000 people and be courted by a succession of political leaders.

By contrast his son James talked a lot but said little. Over deferential, he twice complemented his interrogators on the quality of their questions but generally his answers were routine; it was before his time, he hadn't been told, or he would be happy to co-operate by seeking to provide the information sought by the committee. I doubt that the Home Affairs Committee Chairman Keith Vaz would have allowed Murdoch Jr to talk at such length while saying so little. 

The long pauses employed by Murdoch senior and the groping manner of his son first gave me the impression that they were wired into their legal team but perhaps it was all part of the planned response. After sitting through all the evidence the only real excitement came when a protester hit Murdoch senior in the face with a shaving-foam pie, receiving a right hook from the much younger Mrs Murdoch for his trouble. 

Much later than expected Rebekah Brooks was called to give evidence but I was left none the wiser whether all three senior managers of the most influential media empire were completely ignorant of malpractice within their own organisation or whether their briefings were such that they simply managed to give nothing away. For an organisation that prided itself on exposing wrong-doing they failed to notice it in their own organisation. Earlier in the day, we heard the observation in response to evidence from the Metropolitan police to the Home Affairs Select Committee, that the Met and the News of the World were on a merry-go-round with the Met employing ex-NoW journalists and Met officers working for News Corp.

Next it is the turn of the Prime Minister to explain why, contrary to all the advice given to him, he employed Chancellor George Osborne's choice of ex-NoW editor Andy Coulson as his spin doctor. Will he will be as ignorant as the rest of them? Deceived, sorry and bewildered as characterised by Murdoch senior: “I feel that the people I trusted, I don't know at what level, let me down and I think they behaved disgracefully, betrayed the company and me and it's for them to pay. I think that frankly I'm the best person to clear this up.” Hmmm!


A report on the Home Affairs Select Committee conclusions can be read here.

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