The Murdoch empire strikes back

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THE board of News Corporation has announced its full support for Rupert Murdoch to remain at the helm of the company after the media mogul was told in a report by a committee of MPs that he was “not a fit person” to run an international company.

A statement last night from members stated their confidence in Rupert Murdoch’s “fitness” to carry out the role, saying he had “demonstrated resolve to address the mistakes of the company identified in the Select Committee’s report”.

The news came on the same day that satelitte broadcaster BSkyB insisted it “remains a fit and proper licence holder” as it continues to come under the glare of media regulator Ofcom.

The watchdog is considering whether BSkyB should hold a broadcast licence in the wake of the phone-hacking crisis at News International, which is owned by BSkyB shareholder News Corporation. Mr Murdoch, chief executive of NewsCorp, has a 39 per cent stake in BSkyB.

But BSkyB, which yesterday revealed a net rise in customers of 78,000 to 10.5 million in the three months to March 31, hailed its “positive contribution to UK audiences, employment and the broader economy”.

Shares in the company were two per cent higher as the update was well-received by investors and Richard Hunter, head of equities at Hargreaves Lansdown Stockbrokers, said the firm was “powering ahead” despite other “distractions”.

But Labour leader Ed Miliband said Ofcom should look at the report from the Commons Culture Committee and question whether Mr Murdoch was the right person to be in charge at BSkyB.

The phone-hacking scandal at News International, which led to the closure of Sunday tabloid the News of the World, scuppered News Corp’s plans to take full control of the company and ultimately led to Rupert Murdoch’s son, James, stepping down as chairman of the broadcaster.

Elsewhere in the update, BSkyB said it had concluded its review of the editorial practices at Sky News and had “found no evidence of impropriety or cause for concern”.

Referring to two incidents in which a Sky News journalist accessed the email of individuals suspected of criminal activity, BSkyB said “the action was justified in the public interest and subject to proper editorial oversight”.

Mr Murdoch also confirmed that the company’s Management and Standards Committee had completed its review of The Times, Sunday Times and The Sun. He made clear that only one incident had been identified at the broadsheet publications – where an individual was disciplined for hacking the email of a police blogger.

However, he pointedly stopped short of providing the results from the investigation at the tabloid.

Meanwhile the row about the split between Conservatives and their Labour and Liberal Democrats counterparts on the Select Committee over whether to condemn Mr Murdoch continued yesterday.

While members had agreed unanimously that Mr Murdoch’s media empire had misled their inquiry into phone hacking in a “blatant fashion”, Tory MPs refused to support the report after Labour and the sole Liberal Democrat pushed through the criticism of Mr Murdoch by a vote of six to four.

Conservative Louise Mensch had said the insistence of Labour MP Tom Watson on inserting a conclusion that was “wildly outside the scope” of the inquiry had undermined the report’s credibility.

Former Labour MP Tony Wright, who was chairman of the Public Administration Select Committee, said he did not understand how it had not been possible for the committee to reach agreement.