Today Rupert Murdoch becomes one of the few people to appear before the House of Commons’ Culture, Media and Sport select committee after being served with a warrant. Members of Parliament are questioning Murdoch and his son James on the recent News of the World phone-hacking scandal. Not only could the results of today’s meeting affect News Corp.‘s (NASDAQ:NWSA) deal to buy British Sky Broadcasting (PINK:BSYBY), but it will also determine the future of the Murdoch family’s dominant role at News Corp.
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James Murdoch heads News International, the newspaper branch of News Corp. Evidence showing that he sanctioned payments to hacking victims doesn’t bode well for his position that he didn’t previously know about the hacking campaign. While his father is far removed from the newspaper business, especially a single British tabloid, James’ job puts him in closer contact with the paper’s editors whose knowledge of the hackings seems more likely, though it is being largely denied.
Rebekah Brooks, former editor of News of the World and chief executive of News International, is also currently appearing before the House of Commons. She was arrested on Sunday but released on bail after 12 hours of questioning. Former News of the World editor Andy Coulson is also under investigation for his involvement in the scandal, which has contaminated the British government, going so high as Prime Minister David Cameron himself, who is a close friend of Rebekah Brooks and her husband and appointed Andy Coulson as his personal spokesman last year.
News of the World and other News Corp. newspapers in the U.K. are alleged to have illegally retrieved phone messages, medical records, bank information, and more, ranging from the family members of 9/11 victims to former Prime Minister Gordon Brown. While many British tabloids have been sued by celebrities whose personal communications had been hacked, public outcry was never so great as it is now. People lined the streets outside Parliament today to get a look at Rupert and James Murdoch as they arrived. While there is limited standing room in the small evidence-hearing chamber in the House of Commons for journalists, witnesses, and Parliamentary staff, many television stations will be broadcasting the hearing, including CNN (NYSE:TWX), MSNBC (NASDAQ:CMCSA), and Fox News (NASDAQ:NWSA) in the U.S., with CNN even live streaming the hearing online.