Elisabeth Murdoch Cancels Edinburgh TV Festival Appearance

3:01 PM PST 08/22/2011 by Mimi Turner
Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images

The Shine exec had intended to discuss her company's global success but pulled out amid fears her talk would be overshadowed by News Corp.'s phone-hacking scandal.

LONDON - Elisabeth Murdoch has backed out of appearing at the Edinburgh International TV Festival later this week in the wake of the deepening scandal around phone-hacking, it was confirmed Monday.

Murdoch, the founder and creator of Shine Productions -- which was acquired earlier his year by News Corp for $680 million in a move that had angered some shareholders -- had agreed to take part in a discussion about how to build a global production company from the UK.

The decision to bail out was made "several weeks ago" according to insiders, after it was felt that any appearance she attempted would be overshadowed by the continuing fallout from the crisis affecting the Murdoch family and News Corp.

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The annual conference kicks off  Friday and brings together a whole range of executives from across the broadcasting industries in the U.K. This year will see Google chief executive Eric Schmidt deliver the keynote MacTaggart lecture on Friday night.

"The organizers approached Elisabeth some time back with the idea of a session around 'How to Build a Global Production Company from the UK', which had been in discussion. This will now not go ahead at this year's festival but it is hoped can be revisited in subsequent ones," said Shine spokesman Patrick Keegan.

Shine Group president Alex Mahon is already confirmed discuss an almost identical theme at the Royal Television Society conference in Cambridge in three weeks, alongside Fremantle Media CEO Tony Cohen and BBC Worldwide boss John Smith.

Earlier this month Murdoch told the News Corp board that it would "inappropriate" for her to take a seat on the News Corp board, as had been her intention earlier this year, despite the fact she has had no connection to the phone-hacking scandal and is admired in the U.K. for both creative and commercial savvy.

The decision was announced by Viet Dinh, chairman of News Corp's corporate governance committee, and said Elisabeth had "suggested to the independent directors some weeks ago that she felt it would be inappropriate" to include her nomination to the board of New Corp.

Her decision to back out of the Edinburgh International Television Festival panel comes as attention in the phone-hacking scandal has shifted to more damaging questions about the role played by News Corp deputy COO James Murdoch, who is also chairman of BSkyB.

James is expected to face a recall to Parliament to answer more questions about what he knew about a series of emails and documents that suggest phone-hacking was widespread at the News of The World,  including a letter from jailed reporter Clive Goodman who said he had been told he would keep his job at the paper if he did not implicate the company in his court case.

A date to recall James Murdoch is expected when Parliament reconvenes next month after the summer recess. Twelve reporters and former executives from the paper have been arrested as part of an investigation into the criminal acts of phone message hacking and paying police officers for information.

The scandal has already forced News International to close down one of its most popular, and profitable, newspapers and has forced parent company News Corporation to abandon its cherished strategic goal of completing the $12 billion buyout of British pay-TV powerhouse BSkyB.

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