Murdoch’s Sky role in the balance

Steve Dinneen
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James Murdoch’s role as chairman of BSkyB could hinge on his performance at the crunch media select committee hearing this afternoon.

The heir apparent to the Murdoch empire has come under increasing pressure to relinquish the Sky chairmanship following News Corp’s handling of the phone hacking scandal.

Sources close to the Sky board have told City A.M. they will closely monitor how Murdoch fares in the bear-pit this afternoon before deciding his fate.

He will face tough questions from MPs over why he authorised out of court settlements to high profile victims of News of the World phone hackers.

These included payments totalling around £700,000 to former FA boss Gordon Taylor. If Murdoch fails to convince Sky board members his position is still tenable, it is likely he will be asked to step down, perhaps temporarily, while he concentrates on the firefighting operation at News Corp.

However, the main event will be the appearance of octogenarian Rupert Murdoch. The committee will be keen to discover how much the tycoon was aware of the practices of the newspapers in his empire.

Rebekah Brooks, who resigned as News International boss on Friday, will also face a grilling. She was editor of the News of the World when murdered teenager Milly Dowler’s phone was hacked. She had resisted early pressure to step down.