Murdochs face MPs, media reaction: 'Has anyone been murdered or ruined?'

I was amazed yesterday to see the depth of ignorance professed by Murdoch senior about the unfolding phone-hacking affair.

But I thought James Murdoch put in a pretty assured performance and seemed more than equal to the MPs.

Here are some of my stand-out pieces from today’s press coverage of the Murdoch’s parliamentary showdown yesterday.

Daily Telegraph head of business Damian Reece provided a good account of Murdoch senior’s sometimes faltering performance:

The chairman and chief executive of a $41bn media colossus should have acquitted himself better. Being humble is one thing, being exposed is quite another.

If I was a News Corp shareholder I would now be more inclined, not less, to think it’s time for Rupert to at least split his roles of chairman and chief executive, if not start to plan his retirement entirely. When it comes to crises, the size of your company doesn’t matter. Murdoch claimed he didn’t know anything for years about the escalating scandal in the UK and no one was telling him. But neither was he asking, if you believe his account of the casual and irregular conversations he has with editors.

The alternate account was provided by Sun associate editor Trevor Kavanagh. Whereas Sky News and The Times have met the News Corp crisis with a pretty straight bat in recent weeks – Kavanagh shows his loyalty to Murdoch senior in his account:

Going in on wife Wendy Deng’s defence of Murdoch from a foam pie, he said: “Men can only dream their own partners would leap to their defence with such deadly grace.”

On Murdoch senior’s performance, he said (print only):

His enemies’ image of a flinty-hearted mogul crumbled as he delivered yet another apology. We were privileged to get a glimpse of the real Rupert Murdoch in action.

Former Times editor Simon Jenkins -writing somewhat against the grain of the paper in The Guardian – said the phone-hacking scandal has been thrown out of all proportion:

Has anyone been murdered? Has anyone been ruined? Is the nation gripped by financial crash or pandemic, earthquake or famine? Are thousands homeless or millions impoverished? A squalid surveillance of the sort long conducted by the tabloid press went beyond what in this business is laughably called good taste and constituted a crime.

He added:

But today’s stormcloud of hysteria is a poor prelude to what could emerge from this, not a sensible attempt to redefine journalistic ethics but a cack-handed attempt to restructure an industry. Perhaps instead the vast political and media resources currently on display might be redirected at the dire state of the nation, Europe and the world. They need it.

The Daily Mail similarly suggested that MPs’ attention should be elsewhere in its front page report about the unfolding global financial scandal:

While Westminster fiddled over the phone-hacking frenzy, the European economy was burning last night.

World financial watchdogs issued an extraordinary warning of a global economic ‘earthquake’ triggered by the failure of many countries to get to grips with massive debts.

To add insult to injury, it emerged yesterday that those largely responsible for bringing Britain’s economy to its knees – bankers and finance workers – have scooped bonuses totalling £14billion this year.

While the phone-hacking scandal will be investigated by a public inquiry led by a  senior judge, there has been no equivalent investigation into the actions of bankers and the Government’s failure to hold them to account for triggering the financial crisis.

And finally, I was intrigued by David Wighton’s report in The Times about the financial make-up of News Corp (paywall), and the fact that proprietor Rupert Murdoch only owns a small part of the company himself.

News Corp is one of the relatively small number of public companies with different classes of shares that allow founding families to retain control, even though they own a small minority of the total number of shares.

The Murdoch family owns only 13 per cent of News Corp shares, but has 40 per cent of the voting rights, giving Mr Murdoch effective control.

Critics say this allows Mr Murdoch to use other investors’ money to pursue personal interests, including his passion for newspapers. News Corp has been hit by a US investor lawsuit over the recent £382 million purchase of the production company owned by his daughter Elisabeth Murdoch.

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