Murdoch steps down as BSkyB chairman

Former News International executive chairman James Murdoch has stepped down as chairman of satellite broadcaster BSkyB, the company said today.

Former News International executive chairman James Murdoch has stepped down as chairman of satellite broadcaster BSkyB, the company said today.

Mr Murdoch serves as deputy chief operating officer at News Corp, BSkyB's controlling shareholder with a 39% stake and the owner of News International (NI).

NI publishes British newspapers The Times, The Sunday Times and The Sun, and published the News of the World before it was shut down.

Mr Murdoch said in a letter to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee last month that he accepts his share of the blame for not uncovering phone hacking at the Sunday tabloid sooner but denied he had turned a “blind eye” to allegations of criminal wrongdoing.

He was appointed chairman of BSkyB in December 2007, so has spent more than four years in the role. He was formerly chief executive of BSkyB between February 2003 and December 2007.

He was not reappointed as BSkyB chairman with ease, as a number of top investors raised concerns over how his links to the phone-hacking inquiry could damage the company’s reputation.

Nick Ferguson, who is deputy chairman, is expected to take over his role.

Mr Murdoch is expected to remain on the board of BSkyB as a non-executive director.

The DCMS committee is reportedly considering censuring him for failures to fully investigate allegations that accessing the voicemail messages of celebrities and others was widespread at NI.

The media regulator Ofcom is likely to extend its inquiry into Mr Murdoch if the Parliamentary committee finds against him. It is considering whether he remains a “fit and proper” person to oversee an organisation with a licence from the regulator.

Mr Murdoch said he decided to step down from NI to devote himself to other roles at News Corp – not because he had known about alleged criminal wrongdoing at the News of the World.

The accusations first came to light last summer when it emerged the phone of murdered teenager Milly Dowler was hacked by a private investigator employed by the newspaper.

BSkyB has seen its share price rise some 20% in the five years that Mr Murdoch held the position of chairman.

Mr Murdoch received the support of 75.4% of shareholders, with 17.4% opposed and 7.2% withheld, at last year’s annual meeting.

BSkyB stood by its chairman and said there had been “no effect on sales, customers or suppliers” in the wake of the phone hacking allegations.

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