ELISABETH Murdoch last night distanced herself from her brother James, criticising his leadership of News International in the wake of the phone hacking scandal and attacking his rigorous focus on profit.

In her first public comments on the affair since joining the board of her father Rupert’s News Corp last year, she took the stage at the prestigious MacTaggart lecture in Edinburgh to deliver a speech that was received with cheers and applause by a crowd that had greeted her brother with hostility three years earlier.

Putting herself in the spotlight after James’s resignation from News International, she rejected her younger brother’s claims that chasing profits was the only way to guarantee an independent media.

“I think that he left something out: the reason his statement sat so uncomfortably is that profit without purpose is a recipe for disaster,” she said, in a highly personal 14-page speech from the 44-year-old. James had used the same platform in 2009 to attack the BBC, saying “the only reliable, durable and perpetual guarantor of independence is profit”.

Elisabeth – who had left her father’s media empire in 2001 – rejoined the company last year after the phone hacking scandal unfolded and her television production company Shine was bought by News Corporation for £415m.

She remains as chairman of Shine and now sits on News Corp’s board of directors with Rupert and James as well as her other brother Lachlan.

A string of damaging revelations following the scandal has hit News Corp’s reputation and led to James standing down as executive chairman of News International – the subsidiary that runs the Sun, the Times and the Sunday Times, and which ran the News of the World before last year’s closure. In distancing herself from the biggest casualty of the affair, Murdoch is likely to spark speculation that she is positioning herself for a higher role at News Corp.

Last night, in contrast to James, she defended the BBC and said the phone hacking scandal showed the need for a more responsible British media.

“Personally I believe one of the biggest lessons of the past year has been the need for any organisation to discuss, affirm and institutionalise a rigorous set of values based on an explicit statement of purpose,” Elisabeth said last night. “It is increasingly apparent that the absence of purpose – or of a moral language – within government, media or business, could become one of the most dangerous own goals for capitalism and for freedom,” she added.