Murdochs to face the music in Parliament

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The Independent Online

The founder and the appointed heir to the world's most famous media empire will take centre stage in the next act of the hacking saga today.

Rupert and James Murdoch will sit before a panel of MPs and face questions that the company over which they preside was involved in phone hacking on an "industrial scale", made illegal payments to police officers and sought to corrupt the democratic process by "owning" politicians. In their answers, for which they have been carefully drilled by a team of lawyers and media trainers, the pair will attempt to rescue a tarnished reputation and distance themselves from serious criminality.

They will do so under intense pressure from their own shareholders, who have seen the value of their stock fall by almost a fifth – 17.9 per cent – since it emerged that the murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler had been among the victims of phone hacking. The answers of the Murdochs will also be analysed by a number of investigating bodies, including the media regulator Ofcom which is gathering evidence on whether News Corp is "fit and proper" to own a broadcasting licence in the UK, and the Serious Fraud Office.

The pair's evidence will be followed by that of Rebekah Brooks, who resigned her post last week, before being arrested on Sunday.

Yesterday Ms Brooks fought back. Her lawyer, Stephen Parkinson said: "Despite arresting her yesterday and conducting an interview process lasting nine hours, [the Metropolitan Police] put no allegations to her and showed her no documents connecting her with any crime. They will in due course have to give an account of their actions and in particular their decision to arrest her with the enormous reputational damage that this has involved."

As James Murdoch prepared to take his seat in front of the House of Commons Culture, Media & Sport committee today, he was facing criticism from those who doubt that he possesses the abilities to run the News Corp empire founded by his father.

The pressure on him intensified yesterday with a growing clamour for him to relinquish his role as chairman of BSkyB, the satellite broadcaster which he helped to build into a successful business. BSkyB's non-executive directors were reported to be unconvinced that Mr Murdoch can cope with the job when he is caught up in the phone hacking affair.

Yesterday the Liberal Democrats asked Ofcom to act now on whether News Corp should be allowed to have even the 39 per cent stake in BSkyB that it possesses.

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