James Murdoch to testify again to UK committee

October 25, 2011 - 2:45 PM

LONDON (AP) — British lawmakers said Monday they will grill Rupert Murdoch's son James about newspaper phone hacking for a second time next month, as Murdoch's former right-hand man denied that he knew about the scale of the wrongdoing when he paid 250,000 pounds ($400,000) to a reporter convicted of illegal eavesdropping.

The House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport committee said James Murdoch, his father's heir-apparent, will give evidence on Nov. 10.

Rupert Murdoch shut down the 168-year-old British tabloid News of the World in July after it was accused of illegally hacking into the voice mails of celebrities, politicians and crime victims in search of scoops.

Both Murdochs denied knowing about the scale of the hacking when they appeared before the panel of lawmakers the same month, and a slew of executives from Murdoch's News Corp. media empire has kept to the same line.

Les Hinton, former publisher of the Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal, told the Commons committee Monday that he had had no idea hacking was rife when he personally approved a quarter of a million pound payment to Clive Goodman, the News of the World reporter jailed in 2007 for eavesdropping on the mobile phone voice mails of royal aides.

Hinton, who was then executive chairman of Murdoch's British newspaper division, acknowledged he had seen a letter from Goodman to the company's human resources department in which the reporter alleged phone hacking was widespread at the paper and common knowledge among editors.

Hinton said he had launched a "pretty thorough" internal investigation into Goodman's claim, but said "there was no basis found for it."

He said he fired Goodman for gross misconduct, but decided to pay him the substantial sum, almost three times the reporter's annual salary, to end an unfair dismissal claim by Goodman.

"I decided at the time that the right thing to do was to settle this and put it behind us," Hinton said, giving evidence by video link from the United States.

Hinton worked for Murdoch for 52 years until the scandal, which has convulsed Britain's media landscape. In July he resigned as publisher of the Journal and CEO of Dow Jones & Co.

Hinton said Monday that he had resigned because "although unaware, I was in charge of this company at the time of the core wrongdoing."