UK lawmakers: Rupert Murdoch unfit to lead company

May 1, 2012 - 6:06 AM

LONDON (AP) — News Corp. chief Rupert Murdoch is unfit to lead his global media empire, an influential group of British lawmakers said Tuesday.

In a scathing report, the lawmakers said his company misled Parliament about the scale of phone hacking at one of its tabloids.

Parliament's cross-party Culture, Media and Sport committee said News International, the British newspaper division of Murdoch's News Corp., had deliberately ignored evidence of malpractice, covered up evidence and frustrated efforts to expose wrongdoing.

Murdoch has insisted he was unaware that hacking was widespread at his now-shuttered News of the World tabloid, blaming underlings for keeping him in the dark.

The legislators said if that was true, "he turned a blind eye and exhibited willful blindness to what was going on in his companies."

"We conclude, therefore, that Rupert Murdoch is not a fit person to exercise the stewardship of a major international company," the report by the panel of 11 lawmakers said.

Labour Party panel member Tom Watson said the decision had not been unanimous, and Conservative lawmakers Louise Mensch — who opposed condemning Murdoch — said the split had been along party lines.

The judgment on Murdoch implies that News Corp., which he heads, is also not a fit to control British Sky Broadcasting, in which News Corp. holds a controlling stake of 39 percent.

The committee agreed unanimously that three key News International executives misled Parliament by offering false accounts of their knowledge of the extent of phone hacking at the News of The World — a rare and serious censure which usually demands a personal apology to legislators.

Murdoch closed down the 168-year-old Sunday tabloid last July amid public revulsion at the hacking of voice mail messages of celebrities and victims of crime, including murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler.

Throughout the scandal, News International's approach "was to cover up rather than seek out wrongdoing," the legislators wrote.