British Parliament Issues Phone-Hacking Report

A group of lawmakers investigating Britain's phone-hacking scandal have published a report on how the crisis was handled. The report could be detrimental to News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch and his son James. The investigation exposed cozy ties between media elites and politicians.

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And I'm David Greene. Over the course of more than 60 years in the media business, Rupert Murdoch has earned a reputation as a blunt-spoken businessman who comes out swinging. Well today, British parliamentarians didn't pull their punches against him. They released the findings of an investigative panel that spent months looking into the illegal phone-hacking practices at Murdoch's News of the World, the now-closed British tabloid.

It concluded that as one of the world's most powerful media barons, Murdoch was not fit to run an international corporation. It had equally harsh words for his company, News Corp. We're joined now by NPR's Philip Reeves in London, who has more on this report. And Phil, this report sounds pretty damning. Give us a sense of what it said.

PHILIP REEVES, BYLINE: Well, it says that corporately, News International - Murdoch's British subsidiary - and the News of the World newspaper, now closed, misled the committee, and therefore Parliament, about its investigations into hacking. They made statements, it says, that would have known weren't truthful. They failed to disclose documents, their instinct was to cover up. And by failing to investigate about hacking and ignoring evidence, News Corp. exhibited what it called willful blindness.

Tom Watson is one of the members of this committee. He's also led the campaign to call Murdoch to account, and this is what Watson had to say after the report was released.

TOM WATSON: We find News Corporation carried out an extensive cover-up of its rampant rule breaking. Its most senior executives repeatedly misled Parliament, and the two men at the top, Rupert and James Murdoch, who were in charge of the company, must now answer for that. In the view of the majority of committee members, Rupert Murdoch is not fit to run an international company like BSkyB.

GREENE: That's committee member Tom Watson, bringing up the company BSkyB. That's of course the satellite broadcaster that Murdoch has stake in. Well, Phil, you know, Murdoch not being fit to run an international company. He, of course, has, you know, plenty of media properties in the United States; the New York Post, you know, Fox News and The Wall Street Journal come to mind. What could the significance of that be in this country?

REEVES: Well, note what the wording that Watson used. He says, in the view of the majority of the committee members. This committee has members from all three main political parties, and it's now emerging that it was deeply divided over this report, particularly over those words - that Rupert Murdoch is not fit to run an international company. Several of them are now making it clear that they disagree with that, although it is - it must be stressed - those words are in the report. However, that disagreement may limit the impact that this report will ultimately make.

It's important, too, to note that some individuals working for Rupert Murdoch at the time have been singled out in this report. Les Hinton, the former executive chairman of News International, who's very close to Rupert Murdoch, it says misled Parliament about what he knew about phone hacking. And so did the News of the World's long-serving lawyer Tom Crone, and so did Colin Myler, the former editor of the News of the World, who's now editor of the New York Daily News.

GREENE: So, is misleading a parliamentary committee - I mean, that's a very serious matter in Britain. And I just want to be really clear here. Is Rupert Murdoch being accused of personally misleading investigators, or being part of a cover-up? And what might the consequences be?

REEVES: No. This doesn't say that he personally misled Parliament. It's very important to stress that. But it says, News International and certain witnesses demonstrated blatant contempt for the parliamentary committee system. We don't know what happens if someone lies to Parliament, but the committee says it's up to the lower house of Parliament to decide what punishment - decide there's been offense and what punishment to introduce.

GREENE: All right. We'll be following all the reaction to this report in the coming days. Phil, thanks so much.

REEVES: You're welcome.

GREENE: NPR's Philip Reeves in London.

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