James Moore: Murdoch finally jumps – but not far enough away from BSkyB

 

Outlook James Murdoch's King Canute act has finally come to an end. The word was yesterday being put out that the now former chairman of BSkyB was not pushed out. The decision to step down was his alone.

That, however, is just so much sophistry. He jumped out of the way before being hit by a really big wave. Whether that wave was generated by the Leveson inquiry into press standards, or by his regulators at Ofcom or perhaps even – heaven forbid – by his own shareholders is immaterial. It was surely coming.

The wonder is that it took so long.

Mr Murdoch, of course, continues to deny all knowledge of the phone-hacking scandal that continues to cash a long shadow over his father's media empire. But in that case the fundamental question for BSkyB is still this: if Mr Murdoch was unable to see what was going on as an executive in command of the family newspaper business, then how can he be trusted to oversee the corporate governance of a FTSE 100 company? The fact that they are very different businesses is immaterial.

Perhaps the waters were muddied by the limp reaction to the scandal by some of those independent shareholders. One might wonder what it would take for the likes of Scottish Widows Investment Partnership and M&G, both of whom voted in Mr Murdoch's favour at the company's November AGM, to reject a chairman's reappointment. Similar problems will crop up again and again while fund managers like them continue to shirk their responsibilities to the people who put money in their charge – and who pay their fees.

In the meantime, BSkyB is still left facing some difficult questions.

Mr Murdoch will be succeeded by the company's senior independent director, Nicholas Ferguson, who will be the first non-Murdoch family member in the role.

The company will be hoping that he will be sufficiently reassuring to get the more vocal critics among the group's independent shareholders to shut up for a while. He, as the senior independent director, is after all the person whose ears they have been bending.

However, the question mark hanging over him, and indeed the other independent directors, is why they didn't suggest, forcefully, that Mr Murdoch step aside much earlier in BSkyB's own interests. Given his connections to the business – and he once ran it rather successfully in addition to it being one of the jewels in the family's crown – it was always going to be difficult for Mr Murdoch to act on his own.

Another related problem that won't go away is that Mr Murdoch will remain a director of the company. The impression this gives is that he is being left in situ so that he can take his place at the head of the boardroom table when the fuss has all died down.

For the company's own good, that's an impression which needs to be corrected.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
voices
News
general electionThis quiz matches undecided voters with the best party for them
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen starred in the big screen adaptation of Austen's novel in 2005
tvStar says studios are forcing actors to get buff for period roles
News
Prince William and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge show their newly-born daughter, their second child, to the media outside the Lindo Wing at St Mary's Hospital in central London, on 2 May 2015.
news
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Senior SEO Executive

£24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior SEO Executive is requi...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before