Rupert Murdoch on Tuesday suffered a huge setback in his bid to protect his other media interests from the damaging fallout of the News of the World phone hacking scandal as his son and heir apparent James Murdoch was forced to resign as chairman of the British satellite broadcaster BSkyB (popularly known as Sky TV) saying that he did not want its interests to be “undermined by matters outside the scope of this company”, a reference to the controversy over his role in the hacking row.
“I am aware that my role as chairman could become a lightning rod for BSkyB and I believe that my resignation will help to ensure that there is no false conflation with events at a separate organisation,” he said in a statement.
He will remain on the board of BSkyB as a representative of News Corp, his father's New York-based company which has a 39-per-cent stake in Sky.
The announcement followed growing pressure from News Corp shareholders concerned that the widespread criticism of his handling of the hacking scandal, particularly the accusation that he misled MPs over his own role, made him unsuitable to head the organisation.
The report of a high-level parliamentary committee, due out soon, is expected to reject his claims that he was not aware of the full scale of the hacking scandal.
This is the second important position Mr. Murdoch has lost in a space of a few weeks. Last month, he was forced to step down as executive chairman of News International, publisher of the defunct NoW, following fresh allegations of a cover-up. At the time it was stated that he was stepping down to play a bigger role in the company's television business which includes Star TV and the Sky network.
Tuesday's developments mean that his father's ambition to seize full control of Sky by acquiring the remaining 61 per cent of its shares may never be fulfilled. Barely a few months ago he came close to pulling it off but the deal was blocked following the NoW row.