London: A British parliamentary committee report on Tuesday said that Rupert Murdoch's News Corp showed "willful blindness" about the scale of phone-hacking at its News of the World tabloid.
In its report, the British panel said that Murdoch and his son James should take responsibility for the scandal that has made the family name politically toxic.
The long-awaited report by a committee of lawmakers said Rupert Murdoch was not fit to run a major international company, which had shown "huge failings" of corporate governance, and it raised questions about James Murdoch's competence.
"News International and its parent News Corporation exhibited willful blindness, for which the companies' directors - including Rupert Murdoch and James Murdoch - should ultimately take responsibility," it said.
"Their instinct throughout, until it was too late, was to cover up rather than seek out wrongdoing and discipline the perpetrators," the lawmakers said in an 85 page report.
"Even if there were a 'don't ask, don't tell' culture at News International, the whole affair demonstrates huge failings of corporate governance," they concluded.
Murdoch declared before the Leveson Inquiry in his witness statement last week that "As on 30 June 2011, approximately 8 per cent of News Corporation's revenues were generated in the UK, of which approximately 60 per cent were generated by News International."
Today's conclusion by the Culture, Media and Sport Committee is likely to set the tone for another crucial enquiry by Britain's regulator, Ofcom, which has a duty to be satisfied that anyone holding a broadcasting licence in the country is "fit and proper".
Significantly, responding to the committee's report, Ofcom said, "We note the publication of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee report, which we are reading with interest.
News Corporation owns 39 per cent of BSkyB shares.
The company was keen to take over the remaining shares in a multi-billion deal last year, but withdrew the bid in the face of intense revulsion over the phone-hacking issue.
The committee of MPs began its inquiry in July 2011 in the wake of fresh newspaper revelations about the extent of hacking at the now-defunct News of the World tabloid, with reported victims including the murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler and the families of victims of the 7/7 London bombings.
In the report, the committee said: "The notion that - given all that had gone on, right back to evidence given over payments to the police to our predecessor Committee in 2003, a hands-on proprietor like Rupert Murdoch had no inkling that wrongdoing and questionable practice was not widespread at the News of the World is simply not credible".
It added: "Given his evidently fearsome reputation, the reluctance of News International employees to be open and honest internally and in their evidence to the Committee is readily understandable.
"In assessing their evidence, the culture emanating from the top must be taken into account, and is likely to have had a profound effect on their approach in 2007 and 2009 in evidence given to the Committee".
News Corporation said in a statement: "News Corporation is carefully reviewing the Select Committee's report and will respond shortly.
"The Company fully acknowledges significant wrongdoing at - News of the World and apologises to everyone whose privacy was invaded".
After initially claiming that malpractice was limited to one "rogue" reporter at the News of the World, News International has now settled dozens of civil cases admitting liability for hacking between 2001 and 2006.
More than 6,000 possible victims have been identified and the police have so far made a number of arrests in connection with an investigation reopened in January 2011 - although no charges have yet been brought.
With PTI inputs
First Published: Tuesday, May 01, 2012, 16:42