Phone hacking scandal:

Murdochs in the dock

The phone hacking scandal that has claimed the jobs of Britain's two most high-profile police officers, caused the closure of one of the country's most famous newspapers, prompted 10 arrests so far and led to calls for the resignation of the Prime Minister reaches a critical juncture today with a moment of high drama to rival anything that the British media has produced before, either in real life or fiction.

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.

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 Millie Dowler had been among victims of the company's journalists. 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 as their chief executive at News International last week, before being arrested on Sunday by police investigating the hacking and illicit payments made to officers. Yesterday Brooks fought back. Her lawyer, Stephen Parkinson, hinted that his client would take steps to redress damage to her reputation. "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."

For James Murdoch the appearance before MPs will be a screen test like no other. As he 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 Murdoch can cope with the job when he is caught up in the phone hacking affair, and that they would watch his performance today ahead of discussions later this week.

That view was echoed by the satellite broadcaster's first chairman, Andrew Neil, a former editor of the Murdoch-owned Sunday Times. "Non-Murdoch shareholders in BSkyB [are] indicating James's future as Chairman [is] likely determined by his Commons performance," he said last night.

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. Don Foster, the party's media spokesman, said James should follow the example of senior police officers and his colleague Rebekah Brooks and resign, even if he was not admitting wrong doing. "I think his position is untenable," he said. A poll for ITV News last night showed that two-thirds of the public thought James should quit.

The hearing

Rupert Murdoch, Chairman and Chief Executive, News Corp

What would represent a victory?

He emerges as an honourable tycoon who was kept in the dark about the scale of the scandal. He demonstrates that he had no knowledge of the out-of-court settlements to Gordon Taylor and Max Clifford in 2008; that it was at his insistence that News International co-operated with the police; and that he does not exercise undue influence in the police, media and government. He apologises.

And defeat?

He admits he had knowledge of widespread phone hacking prior to January 2011. Yet it becomes apparent that he failed to take charge of the crisis and ensure News International co-operated fully with police. He comes across as arrogant or mendacious and/or appears to be vague or doddery, casting questions over his ability run a global multimedia giant in the digital age.

And a score draw?

He avoids implicating himself in any direct knowledge of phone hacking prior to January 2011 but seems out of touch and acknowledges that he has made mistakes in handling the affair.

James Murdoch, Chief executive, Europe and Asia, News Corp

What would represent a victory?

MPs are impressed by his grasp of detail and candour. He demonstrates that he was badly advised by lawyers and executives over the 2008 settlements to Taylor and Clifford by naming the executives and detailing their advice. He comes across as an astute and honest executive dealing with a formidable range of business problems, and shows remorse for the scale of wrongdoing at News International.

And defeat?

He comes across as a management-speak dalek devoid of empathy. He admits that he knew wrongdoing extended to beyond a single reporter but yet failed to inform the Metropolitan Police. He puts up spurious legal arguments for not giving straight answers to straight questions. He shows his temper.

And a score draw?

He agrees that he was not in complete control of News International but comes across as a decent individual who has been shocked by what has happened.

Rebekah Brooks, Former chief executive, News International

What would represent a victory?

She persuades the committee that she had no role in any wrongdoing and that the fault lies with other executives. She proves that she was on holiday when a private investigator working for the News of the World hacked into the mobile phone of Milly Dowler while she edited the paper. She comes across as decent, vulnerable and hurt by the damage to her reputation. A victim not a perpetrator.

And defeat?

She is defiant, haughty or arrogant and refuses to give straight answers. Fails to explain how she could not have known about phone hacking and payments to police officers on her watch, nor the out-of-court settlements to Gordon Taylor and Max Clifford. Trapped by a skilled inquisition.

And a score draw?

She agrees she failed to grasp the seriousness of wrongdoing at the News of the World, but is able to show that she personally had no role in any wrongdoing.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
SPONSORED FEATURES
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent