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LONDON – A British media report said Monday that News Corp. deputy COO James Murdoch could make a decision over his future with U.K. satcaster BSkyB before the government’s department of culture, media and sport publishes its report into the phone-hacking scandal.
According to the report, Murdoch may decide to step down as BSkyB chairman before the findings of the Parliamentary committee investigation into the phone-hacking allegations engulfing News International, the newspaper publishing division of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., are published within the next few weeks.
One source familiar with the conglomerate said discussion about a possible departure from the BSkyB chairman role was logical given Murdoch’s recent relocation to New York and broader News Corp. responsibilities. But the source couldn’t say if Murdoch was indeed mulling a change of his role at the satellite TV firm.
A News Corp. spokesman in New York declined to comment on Murdoch’s role at BSkyB. BSkyB couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.
A Wall Street observer said a decision in this regard would be in line with Murdoch’s recent scaling back of his board commitments. For example, he earlier this year said he would leave his board seat at drug giant GlaxoSmithKline and more recently severed all ties with News International.
According to a report in The Daily Telegraph Monday, pressure on the father and son team has been building as speculation that the pair may be called to give evidence to the Leveson inquiry into media ethics increases. An appearance before that inquiry would cause a similar media circus as the pair’s appearance before the Parliamentary select committee did last year.
The Murdoch son is also facing an Ofcom probe into his right to sit on BSkyB’s board as reams of evidence of phone-hacking builds from an ongoing police probe and the Leveson inquiry. It is this perfect storm that Murdoch junior finds himself in that is causing some disquiet on the BSkyB board, The Daily Telegraph report said.
With two BSkyB directors expected to leave this year and another one changing his role, a trio of independent board members are expected to join the company. They are likely to be wary of backing Murdoch as strongly as the company’s current board, the paper said.
Whatever Murdoch may decide to do at the U.K. pay TV firm, a News Corp. source said that the conglomerate remains committed to its BSkyB stake. BSkyB has so far continued to publicly support James Murdoch and lauded his contributions. And Murdoch is focusing his time at News Corp.’s New York headquarter on the company’s international pay TV business, of which BSkyB is a key part.
Should the Parliamentary committee consider censure against James Murdoch for failing to fully investigate phone hacking, Ofcom would almost certainly extend its investigation into whether or not he is a “fit and proper” person to oversee a media organisation.
Awaiting the Culture committee reports before deciding on his future runs the risk of him leaving with his reputation further tarnished, according to observers.
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