Although widely criticized for his role in the UK hacking scandal, the company is preparing to give Deputy COO James Murdoch “direct responsibility for News Corp’s U.S. television businesses,” the Financial Times reports. His mandate would include the Fox Networks Group, which includes Fox Broadcasting and cable networks FX, National Geographic, and SPEED — but not Fox News. The paper says that the head of Fox Networks Group, Peter Rice, would report to James. Rupert Murdoch‘s son lobbied for this in July when Rice landed the job, but the CEO and COO Chase Carey “resisted.” The story says its undisclosed sources have different thoughts about when the new arrangement might be announced. At least one person “close to the company” says that some execs want to wait until they know more about Scotland Yard’s investigations into phone and computer hacking, and bribery, at the company’s UK tabloid newspapers including the now-defunct News Of The World while James ran News International, the unit that runs the publications.
But FT says that News Corp felt vindicated earlier today when UK broadcast regulators at Ofcom released a report that said they found “no evidence” that indicates BSkyB was “directly or indirectly involved in any of the wrongdoing” alleged to have taken place. News Corp owns a major stake in Sky, and James had been its chairman until this past April when he stepped down. While Ofcom also said that it couldn’t demonstrate that Murdoch had tried to cover up the scandal, it said that his “failure to initiate action on his own account on a number of occasions (was) both difficult to comprehend and ill-judged.” News COrp responded that it was “pleased” by the conclusion, but added that the criticisms of James “are not at all substantiated by evidence.”
The FT says that Murdoch doesn’t plan to move from New York to Los Angeles, but has been “spending more time” there “working with the Fox channels group.”
Several shareholders likely would protest at News Corp’s annual meeting on October 16 in Los Angeles if the company gives James additional responsibilities. The company plans to fight resolutions calling for the chairman to be an independent director, and to eliminate the dual-class stock arrangement that gives the Murdoch family about 40% of the company’s votes although they just own 12.5% of the equity. The shareholder proposing to scrap the current stock structure says that News Corp’s “anemic initial response to the hacking scandal, including a cursory internal investigation, suggested a reluctance to hold James Murdoch (then head of the News International division) accountable.”