News Corp. will bounce back from scandal: Murdoch

20th July 2011, Comments 0 comments

Embattled media mogul Rupert Murdoch vowed Wednesday that News Corp. would bounce back from the phone-hacking scandal, after telling British lawmakers he was not to blame for the crisis.

"I want all of you to know that I have the utmost confidence that we will emerge a stronger company," the 80-year-old Australian-born company chief said in a message to staff, seen by AFP.

"It will take time for us to rebuild trust and confidence, but we are determined to live up to the expectations of our stockholders, customers, colleagues and partners."

News Corp. shares, which had been hard hit by the scandal, opened 4.8 percent higher in Australia, mirroring a similar rally in New York, where they jumped 5.51 percent to close at US$15.79.

In a grilling before a British parliamentary committee Tuesday, Murdoch insisted he was not responsible for the crisis, which has engulfed Britain's press, politicians and police.

Appearing frail and at times stumbling to a halt in his testimony, he did however apologise to the victims, saying at the outset: "I would just like to say one sentence. This is the most humble day of my life."

The scandal has rocked Murdoch's global empire, forced two of Britain's top police chiefs to resign and placed British Prime Minister David Cameron under pressure.

Cameron cut short an African trip and returned to London late Tuesday ahead of addressing Britain's lower House of Commons and answering lawmakers' scrutiny over his links to Murdoch's media empire.

Murdoch said it was "not an excuse" but that with a company of 53,000 staff he could not be blamed for failing to uncover the scandal.

Asked whether "ultimately you are responsible for this whole fiasco", Murdoch tersely replied: "No". When pressed over who he blamed, Murdoch said: "The people that I trusted to run it and then maybe the people they trusted."

But he said he was "absolutely shocked, appalled and ashamed when I heard about the Milly Dowler case two weeks ago," referring to a murdered teenager whose phone was allegedly hacked by the News of the World.

His son James was also quizzed, with proceedings overshadowed by a protester attacking the elder Murdoch with a foam pie, which saw his Chinese-born wife Wendi Deng leap up and slap the assailant, who was dragged off by police.

The crisis spread to Australia on Wednesday when Prime Minister Julia Gillard stated that News Ltd, the Australian arm of Murdoch's media empire, had "hard questions" to answer over the scandal.

And in Britain opposition Labour party chief Ed Miliband prepared Wednesday to turn up the heat on Cameron over the leader's links to Murdoch's empire and apparent reluctance to face the crisis.

Cameron's Conservative party admitted that his former media chief Andy Coulson, himself an ex-News of the World editor, had received "informal advice" before elections last year from Neil Wallis, a key suspect in the hacking row.

Wallis was Coulson's deputy at the tabloid. Both men have been arrested for suspected hacking, and Cameron has faced opposition calls to apologise for hiring Coulson, who left Downing Street in January.

Wallis, meanwhile, is also at the heart of allegations that forced Scotland Yard chief Paul Stephenson, Britain's most senior police officer, and anti-terror chief John Yates to resign within the space of 24 hours.

A Home Affairs Select Committee report published Wednesday slammed the force over a "catalogue of failures" and "deplored" News International's attempts to "deliberately thwart" the original phone-hacking probe.

Rebekah Brooks, who resigned as News International chief executive on Friday and edited the paper when Dowler's messages were allegedly hacked, also testified to Tuesday's committee.

She said the hacking of Dowler's phone was "pretty horrific and abhorrent" but insisted she had no knowledge it had happened until papers obtained from police by lawyers for actress Sienna Miller, another hacking victim, emerged in 2010.

© 2011 AFP

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