20 Sep 2012

Sky keeps licence in wake of hacking scandal

Ofcom rules that Sky, which is partially owned by the Murdoch family, should hold onto its broadcast licence in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal.

Sky (Reuters)

The media regulator, in a decision published today, said that on the basis of evidence available, it did not think it was “no longer fit and proper” for Sky to have a licence.

However, Ofcom warned that there could be further reviews of the status of Sky’s licence pending the outcome of the Leveson Inquiry and the results of various criminal proceedings.

Under the terms of Ofcom’s review, it was looking into the actions of the broadcaster, the companies that owned it, and key figures. The review also looked at the conduct of Rupert Murdoch and his son James. Mr Murdoch’s News Corporation owns 39 per cent of Sky.

Conduct that fell short

Ofcom concluded that the conduct of James Murdoch, who is a director and former chairman at Sky’s parent company British Sky Broadcasting (BSkyB), “repeatedly fell short” of the standards expected of him. During the period under review, from 2006 to 2012, he served as both chairman and chief executive of News International.

Mr Murdoch, Ofcom said, had failed to “initiate action” over the wrongdoing at the News of the World, the paper at the centre of the phone-hacking scandal, and that this was both “difficult to comprehend and ill-conceived”.

However, the regulator said that evidence available “does not provide any reasonable basis to find that James Murdoch knew of widespread wrongdoing or criminality at News of the World”.

In July last year, News International’s planned take over of BSkyB was derailed by the unfolding phone-hacking scandal, in which it emerged that murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler’s voicemail had been hacked by the News of the World.

James Murdoch resigned as chairman of BSkyB in April this year in order to avoid becoming a “lightning rod” for the company amidst the scandal.

Good record

Ofcom also found that there was “no evidence currently available which provides a reasonable basis on which to conclude that Rupert Murdoch acted in a way that was inappropriate in relation to phone hacking, concealment or corruption of employees” at News International.

Ofcom said Sky’s compliance record during the period was “good” and that there is “no evidence that Sky was directly or indirectly involved in any of the wrongdoing either admitted or alleged to have taken place at News of the World or The Sun”.

Sky welcomed the decision, saying: “As a company, we are committed to high standards of governance and we take our regulatory obligations extremely seriously. As Ofcom acknowledges, our track record of compliance in broadcasting is good.”