James Murdoch distances himself from newspapers to focus on TV


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The Independent Online

James Murdoch severed ties with his father's stable of British newspapers as he resigned from News International following fresh revelations of a corporate cover-up of the company's involvement in phone hacking and bribery of public officials.

Mr Murdoch gave up his position as executive chairman of NI only two days after a senior police officer gave evidence that the news organisation presided over a "culture of illegal payments" at The Sun.

Mr Murdoch, who remains as News Corp's deputy chief operating officer, will continue to have responsibility for international businesses including Star TV, Sky Deutschland, Sky Italia and BSkyB. He has had limited involvement in NI, which also publishes The Times and The Sunday Times, since he was promoted to a New York-based role in March last year. One well-placed source compared that move to "an SAS operation to remove a hostage from a vulnerable situation". Since then, James Murdoch was recalled to give evidence last July before a parliamentary committee on phone hacking, when he told MPs there were "no immediate plans" to create a Sunday Sun in place of the News of the World.

When Rupert Murdoch flew to Britain to oversee last Sunday's launch of a new edition of The Sun, he pointedly left James behind and took his elder son, Lachlan, on a morale-boosting tour of the paper's newsroom. In his own statement yesterday, James Murdoch linked the birth of the new paper to his departure.

"With the successful launch of The Sun on Sunday and new business practices in place across all titles, News International is now in a strong position to build on its successes in the future," he said.

The resignation of James Murdoch does not mean he will avoid Britain in future. As chairman of BSkyB he will attend board meetings of the satellite broadcaster and he retains an office at its headquarters in Isleworth, west London. Media analyst Douglas McCabe highlighted Mr Murdoch's talents as a television executive and said he would be "relieved" to concentrate on what he does best. "It is about distancing him from News International and from problems at The Sun but he maintains his wider roles," he said. "Within the broader context you have to remember that newspapers are a relatively small part of revenue and profits within News Corp..."