Late Update 11:54 AM EST: The U.K.’s Culture, Media and Sport Committee says the Murdochs have indicated that they will give evidence on Tuesday after all.
Rupert and James Murdoch have declined a request to appear before the British Parliament next Tuesday to testify over the News Of The World phone hacking scandal.Rupert Murdoch told the Department of Media, Culture and Sport Committee on Thursday that he will not appear at the hearing, though he is “fully prepared” to provide evidence in the public inquiry that Prime Minister David Cameron announced Wednesday. James Murdoch said he could appear on a different day, August 10th at the earliest.
Rebekah Brooks, Chief Executive for News International, the branch of News Corp. in charge of Murdoch’s print holdings in the U.K., will appear, saying she “welcomed the opportunity” to testify.
The hearing Tuesday relates to numerous allegations that News Corp’s News Of The World tabloid, along with a few of its other newspapers, hacked into the phones of murder and terrorism victims, as well as various public figures. On Thursday, Neil Wallis, a former executive editor of The News of the Word, was the ninth person arrested in connection with the scandal.
Though the BBC notes that the Murdochs can’t be forced to testify because they are U.S. citizens, the MPs on the committee are not giving up quite that easily. In a statement, they said: “The committee has made clear its view that all three should appear to account for the behaviour of News International and for previous statements made to the committee in Parliament, now acknowledged to be false.”
“Accordingly,” the statement continued, “the committee has this morning decided to summon Rupert Murdoch and James Murdoch to appear before the Select Committee in Parliament at 2.30pm on Tuesday July 19 2011.”
According to the BBC, if the Murdochs still refuse the summons, the House of Commons could decide to hold them in contempt of Parliament — though it’s unclear what this would mean going forward.
News Corp’s troubles are not limited to the drama playing out in the U.K. A growing number of U.S. lawmakers are calling for various investigations in the wide-ranging allegations surrounding the scandal, to see if it stretched over to America. News Corp, which is based in the United States, has massive holdings here — including the Wall Street Journal, Fox News and 20th Century Fox Broadcasting, the New York Post, and even HarperCollins Publishing.
Sens. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and John Rockefeller (D-WV) called on Eric Holder and the SEC to investigate whether News Corp, which is based in the United States, may have violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) if News Corp reporters bribed law enforcement officials in the U.K.
Rockefeller, Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Rep. Peter King (R-NY) have also called for an investigation into whether News Of The World reporters tried to hack the phone records of people killed in the September 11th attacks.
And then of course there are questions about the future of the company itself, especially after it withdrew its $12 billion bid for control of British Sky Broadcasting, Britain’s main satellite TV network. News Corp already controlled 39% of BSkyB, and the plan to buy the remaining 61% might have been the biggest deal in history of the company. But the company’s shares rose after the announcement, and as the New York Times reports:
One person involved in the discussions said that the News Corporation chairman saw the withdrawal as a way to mollify his critics while waiting for the anger to die down.
“Rupert is thinking long term here, I don’t think he believes this deal is dead,” said this person, who did not want to be named while discussing confidential matters. “He’s just looking for ways to relieve pressure for the moment, to give this some breathing room. He fundamentally believes News Corp. can bounce back.”
And it seems at least one other News Corp shareholder is unfazed: Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Al Saud, who owns a 7% stake and is the second biggest shareholder after the Murdochs. “My confidence in News Corp. (NWSA), in Rupert Murdoch and James Murdoch is unshaken completely,” he told Bloomberg Monday. “We will sell nothing. We are standing by our friends.”
“This problem is really at the level of News of the World newspaper only. We can’t have this be contagious and affect all the empire. The reputation was affected, but it was not affected irreparably,” he said.
Full coverage of the News Corp scandal here.