In a ruling on Thursday, Ofcom said: “In July 2011, in light of the public debate about phone hacking and other allegations, Ofcom confirmed that it had a duty to consider whether Sky was fit and proper to continue to hold its broadcast licences.
“Ofcom considers that, on the evidence currently available and having taken into account all the relevant factors, Sky is fit and proper to hold its broadcast licences.”
Ofcom said, however, that “should further evidence become available” it may review the issue. Criminal investigations into phone hacking continue and several court cases involving senior executives from News International are pending.
However, the conduct of James Murdoch, who resigned as chairman of BSkyB in April (but remains a non-executive director) and has also relinquished his role at the UK newspaper group, was questionable, Ofcom concluded.
The regulator said: “Ofcom considers on the basis of the evidence available to date… James Murdoch’s conduct in relation to events at NGN [the newspaper group] repeatedly fell short of the conduct to be expected of him as a chief executive officer and chairman.
“However, Ofcom considers that the evidence available to date does not provide a reasonable basis to conclude that James Murdoch deliberately engaged in any wrongdoing.”
While acknowledging that many of the circumstances over phone hacking were outside of Mr Murdoch’s control or unknown to him, Ofcom criticises severely his failure to make himself aware of the deepening scandal.
“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.
“We consider that the events… 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,” Ofcom said.
The regulator said that Mr Murdoch’s non-executive role on the BSkyB board did not impact on its “fit and proper” test, because there were other “experienced individuals who would be expected to be capable of exercising effective independent oversight”.
Ofcom continued: “We recognise that whether it is appropriate for James Murdoch to be a director in light of the events is a matter for the board and shareholders of Sky.”
Yesterday, he described Gordon Brown as ‘unbalanced’, someone who had declared war on News Corporation in reponse to The Sun switching its support from Labour to David Cameron’s Conservatives.
Today, Rupert Murdoch admitted that he had missed the ‘cover-up’ at the News of the World, a newspaper he also said should have been closed down long ago.
When asked who the buck stopped with at all his newspapers, he replied the Editor, he, Rupert Murdoch, had of course overall responsibility, however he had delegated.
If the 81-year-old the standing of the media mogul had suffered from the phone hacking scandal, then his appearance today and yesterday at the Royal Courts of Justice may have gone someway to recovering any lost ground.
Great power is best exercised when it is understated, especially when it is exposed before the glare of the media spotlight.
And that is exactly what the world saw, as arguably one of the most powerful men in the world explained how he did not intefere in the running of his newspapers, content or welfare of staff and how he closed the NoW after revelations that the phone of tragic schoolgirl Milly Dowler had been hacked. He said he “could feel the blast coming in the window, almost”, as soon as the story broke.
All this will of course make the headlines, however what was perhaps more telling was how he viewed the future of the newspaper industry in the midst of the current electronic revolution.
He gave newspapers another ten years, this from a man for whom running a newspaper is clearly a passion.
How would the new media make money, well the Huffington Post was getting millions of hits but was struggling to make anything.
There are bloggers out there whose work can reach any where.
Work can be pilfered and then put out there with little or no respect for intellectual property rights.
If this was some else talking, then it could be dismissed as yet another world view, however here is the owner of The Sun (as well as Sunday), The Times and The Sunday Times admitting that he could not see a long term future for the newspaper industry.