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Updated: July 15, 2011 02:21 IST

Murdoch bows to pressure to appear before MPs

Hasan Suroor
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This July 10, 2011 photo shows News Corporation chief Rupert Murdoch and his son James Murdoch. The duo have been summoned to testify before a British parliamentary committee investigating phone hacking.
AP This July 10, 2011 photo shows News Corporation chief Rupert Murdoch and his son James Murdoch. The duo have been summoned to testify before a British parliamentary committee investigating phone hacking.

He will field questions on the phone-hacking scandal, along with son James and Rebekah Brooks

Rupert Murdoch and his son James, chairman of his British media group News International, on Thursday bowed to pressure from MPs to appear before the House of Commons' media committee next Tuesday to answer questions about the phone-hacking scandal after initially declining to do so.

Until late in the evening, the line from Wapping, their East London headquarters, was that while Murdoch Sr. would not be “available” at all, his son was too busy till next Tuesday and could make it only in August.

Opportunity welcomed

Only Rebekah Brooks, chief executive of News International, promptly agreed saying she “welcomed the opportunity” to clarify her role in the scandal which relates to the period when she was editor of the defunct News of the World.

The position that Mr. Murdoch was said to have taken was that as an American citizen he could not be forced to appear before British MPs though he was “fully prepared” to give evidence to a separate judicial inquiry announced by Prime Minister David Cameron on Wednesday. But the committee's chairman Whittingdale insisted that “all three should appear to account for the behaviour of News International and for previous statements made to the committee in Parliament, now acknowledged to be false.”

Formal summons

Formal summons were then issued and the Leader of the Commons Sir George Young made it clear that in theory anyone defying them could be fined or even imprisoned. It was for the first time in nearly two decades that a commons select committee had to issue formal summons.

The last time it happened was in 1992 when the sons of another media tycoon, the late Robert Maxwell, were ordered to appear before a committee.

As the pressure grew, a spokesperson for the Murdochs announced that they would, after all, attend next Tuesday's hearings. “We are in the process of writing to the select committee with the intention that Mr. James Murdoch and Mr. Rupert Murdoch will attend next Tuesday's meeting,” the official said.

Mr. Whittingdale said he hoped that they “would take it seriously and they will give us the answers that not just we want to hear but I think an awful lot of people will want to hear.”

“I think it is important that the British public hear Rupert Murdoch, James Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks give an account of what has been going on in their newspaper and apologise,” he said.

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