Murdochs in line for criticism in phone hacking report
LONDON, United Kingdom (AFP) - A British parliamentary committee on Tuesday, May 1, publishes its report into phone hacking that is expected to criticise Rupert Murdoch and his son James for their handling of the affair.
After claims that the British government effectively operated a back channel to the Murdochs' News Corp. over its bid for full control of satellite broadcaster BSkyB, the report could heap more pressure on the Murdochs.
The Culture, Media and Sport Committee will publish its report at 1030 GMT (5:30 pm in Manila).
Lawmakers on the cross-party committee are reportedly divided on how far to criticise the Murdochs over the phone hacking scandal which prompted them to close down their 168-year-old News of the World tabloid in July.
Tom Watson, a member of the main opposition Labour party, is believed to have wanted a scathing verdict on James Murdoch in particular.
James Murdoch gave evidence to the committee twice, repeatedly denying he was aware of wrongdoing within News Corp.'s newspaper arm, News International, which published the News of the World.
At one point, Watson said to him: "You must be the first mafia boss in history who didn't know he was running a criminal enterprise."
Lawmakers calling for strong criticism of James Murdoch point to evidence given to the committee by the News of the World's last editor Colin Myler, and News International's former head of legal affairs Tom Crone.
Both men insist that James Murdoch was informed that phone hacking went further than just one rogue reporter at an earlier date than he told the committee, a claim that Murdoch has repeatedly rejected.
When Rupert Murdoch appeared before the committee last July, his wife intervened when he was attacked by a protester with a shaving foam pie.
When Murdoch senior gave evidence to a separate inquiry into press standards last week, he admitted there was a "cover-up" over phone hacking at the News of the World, but said he too was misled over the scandal.
The phone hacking scandal would, he said, blot his reputation for ever.
Murdoch, 81, also pointed the finger at a "clever lawyer" at the paper for taking charge of the cover-up.
The accusation drew a furious response from Crone, who said it could only refer to him and branded the charge a "shameful lie".
Murdoch told the standards inquiry last week that the hacking scandal had cost New York-based News Corp. "hundreds of millions of dollars".
He said he had launched a clean-up at the company which involved trawling through 300 million emails, of which two million received closer scrutiny.
Murdoch still owns The Sun, The Times and Sunday Times in Britain and the Wall Street Journal and New York Post in the United States.
The Murdochs took the decision to shut down the News of the World after it emerged the paper had hacked into the voicemail of a teenage girl, Milly Dowler, who was later found murdered.
The widespread nature of the hacking at the paper emerged later.
News Corp. has paid out millions of pounds in compensation to hacking victims, while more than 40 people have been arrested over hacking and alleged bribery of public officials by staff at the News of the World and The Sun.
In a related development, British Prime Minister David Cameron on Monday dismissed opposition calls for an inquiry into culture minister James Hunt over his handling of the now-abandoned bid by News Corp. for full control of BSkyB.
Cameron also reiterated his insistence that there was no "grand bargain" between his Conservative party and Murdoch's newspapers whereby they would support the party in 2010 elections in return for the go-ahead on the BSkyB bid. - Guy Jackson, Agence France-Presse