UPDATE: News Corp. “is pleased” with the UK regulator’s decision that BSkyB is fit to hold a broadcast license. But, the company took issue with Ofcom’s stance on former chairman James Murdoch, whose actions were called “ill-judged.” News Corp. said: “We disagree with with certain of the report’s statements about James Murdoch’s prior actions as an executive and Director, which are not at all substantiated by evidence.” (Full statement below)
PREVIOUS, 12:01 AM PT: Sky has passed the “fit and proper” test. British regulator Ofcom has concluded its months-long consideration of whether the satcaster is fit to hold a broacast license in light of phone hacking and other allegations surrounding News Corp.-controlled media properties in the UK. News Corp. owns 39% of Sky. The org today said: “There is no evidence that Sky was directly or indirectly involved in any of the wrongdoing either admitted or alleged to have taken place” at News Of The World or at The Sun. However, Ofcom was critical of James Murdoch, who stepped down as chairman of BSkyB in April this year. The org said today: “The evidence available to date does not provide a reasonable basis to find that James Murdoch… was complicit in a cover up” at the News International newspapers. But, while Murdoch was exec chairman of News International, Ofcom says it considers his 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.”
Regarding his father, Ofcom says it does not consider the evidence currently available “provides a reasonable basis on which to conclude that Rupert Murdoch acted in a way that was inappropriate in relation to phone hacking, concealment or corruption by employees of [News Group Newspapers] or News International.” It also gave a pass to News Corp., saying it has no evidence to “reach any conclusion that News Corporation acted in a way that was inappropriate in relation to phone hacking, concealment, or corruption.”
In March, it emerged that Ofcom had ramped up a probe into whether the company, James Murdoch and News Corp. itself were fit to own a broadcast license. Had they been deemed unfit, speculation was that News Corp. could be forced to reduce its BSkyB stake to a non-controlling level.
Today Ofcom noted: “Should further relevant evidence become available in the future, Ofcom would need to consider that evidence in order to fulfil its duty” to be satisfied that all broadcast licensees are fit and proper.
Here’s News Corp.’s response in full:
NEW YORK, NY – Sept 20, 2012 – News Corporation today issued the following statement in response to Ofcom’s decision regarding BSkyB’s broadcasting license:
“We are pleased that Ofcom recognizes BSkyB as a fit and proper holder of a broadcast license and remain proud of both News Corporation’s and James Murdoch’s distinguished record in facilitating the transformation of Sky into Britain’s leading pay television and home communications provider.
“We are also pleased that Ofcom determined that the evidence related to phone hacking, concealment and corruption does not provide any basis to conclude that News Corporation and Rupert Murdoch acted in a way that was inappropriate, and that there is similarly no evidence that James Murdoch deliberately engaged in any wrongdoing.
“We disagree, however, with certain of the report’s statements about James Murdoch’s prior actions as an executive and Director, which are not at all substantiated by evidence. As Ofcom itself acknowledged, James deserves credit for his role as Chief Executive, then Chairman and now non-executive Director, in leading Sky to an outstanding record as a broadcaster, including its excellent compliance record. We look forward to Sky’s continuing to execute on its mission to provide viewers with the best television experience imaginable, and are honored to play a role in the many contributions it makes to Britain, its people, and its economy.”