SKY is “fit and proper” to hold a broadcasting licence but its former chairman James Murdoch was spared no criticism yesterday after the media regulator slammed his handling of the phone hacking scandal.
• Ofcom finds Sky ‘fit and proper’ to broadcast
• James Murdoch’s conduct described as ‘ill-judged’
While Ofcom said there was no evidence that Mr Murdoch knew of wrongdoing at the News of the World or that he was complicit in a cover-up, it hit out at his failure to uncover the problems earlier.
It said: “We consider James Murdoch’s conduct, including his failure to initiate action on his own account on a number of occasions, to be both difficult to comprehend and ill-judged.”
Media regulator Ofcom carried out a review of Sky after James Murdoch and News Corporation, which owns 39 per cent of its shares, were engulfed in the phone hacking scandal, which led to the closure of News Corp’s News of the World.
Ofcom found no evidence that Sky was involved in any wrongdoing.
Mr Murdoch – son of media mogul Rupert Murdoch, who controls News Corp – has since resigned as chairman at Sky in a bid to distance the broadcaster from the scandal. He remains a non-executive director of BSkyB and an executive director at News Corp.
Mr Murdoch apologised for his conduct in a letter to the culture, media and sport select committee in March, when he said he should have “asked more questions, requested more documents and taken a more challenging and sceptical view of what I was told”.
He was not involved in News International until the end of 2007, almost a year after the sentencing of News of the World’s royal editor Clive Goodman and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire for phone hacking. But after he took over as chief executive, he received an e-mail suggesting criminal activities were more widespread, although he claimed he failed to read the correspondence fully.
Ofcom added: “The events set out above raise questions regarding James Murdoch’s competence in the handling of these matters and his attitude towards the possibility of wrongdoing in the companies for which he was responsible.”
In relation to Rupert Murdoch, who was a director of News International until July, Ofcom said there were currently no grounds to conclude that he acted inappropriately.
Ofcom’s ruling lifts a cloud from Sky, which welcomed the decision and said the regulator was right to conclude that it was a fit and proper broadcaster.
It said in a statement: “We take our regulatory obligations extremely seriously. As Ofcom acknowledges, our record of compliance in broadcasting is good.”
Ofcom was satisfied it had considered all relevant evidence but would consider any further information as it emerged.
News Corp welcomed Ofcom’s decision but defended James Murdoch, praising him for leading Sky to its outstanding record as a broadcaster.
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