RUPERT Murdoch has assumed the role of chairman of News Corp’s Australian arm in a bid to shore up its defence against an increasingly hostile government.
Current chairman of News Ltd John Hartigan, a veteran journalist, is retiring, paving the way for a homecoming for Murdoch. Investors in News Corp have been pressing for Murdoch and his son James to step back from the business after the phone hacking scandal that engulfed the firm and led to the closure of the News of the World over the summer.
The Australian unit represents a small but symbolically significant part of News Corp’s business. Murdoch built his father’s small South Australian newspaper business into a global media conglomerate.
The Australian government has slammed News Corp’s daily newspapers for their political coverage and has scrapped a tender for broadcasting Australian TV into Asia, which News Corp’s part-owned Sky News was tipped to win. The government has also launched a probe into media laws in the wake of the News Corp phone hacking scandal in the UK.
Meanwhile, James Murdoch will appear before a parliamentary today to face a second round of questioning about the phone-hacking scandal at the News of the World.
Analysts say his rapidly disappearing chances of succeeding his father at the company’s helm could hang on whether the committee establishes he was aware of the corruption.
He was recalled after his initial testimony was contradicted by Colin Myler and Tom Crone, the former editor and former head of legal for the News of the World.
His position has been precarious since it emerged he would not have been re-elected to News Corp’s board at the company’s annual meeting had it not been for the Murdoch family’s 40 per cent voting stake.