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Why did it take James Murdoch so long to do the right thing?

Category : Business

It still feels like News Corp is not seeing the big picture. Firms can’t change their reputation by shuffling people around

Perhaps it was inevitable, but James Murdoch has finally done the right thing and resigned as chairman of BSkyB, more than six months after his testimony before the House of Commons culture, media and sport committee.

Shareholders appear to have expected such an announcement as the share price was little changed around the time of the announcement, before the BSkyB board named the new chairman.

Ofcom has been shining a spotlight on BSkyB to make certain it is run by individuals who are “fit and proper”, and Murdoch clearly realised that unless he left the chairman’s post the company might find it was no longer allowed to broadcast in Britain.

It still feels like News Corp is not seeing the big picture. If companies want to change their culture and reputation, they must start at the top and not just shuffle people around. BSkyB has not added anyone to its board; it has just moved the faces around.

I am curious why it took so long for Murdoch to make this decision, particularly as his successor is not an outsider but has been on the board for some years. Why is Murdoch remaining on the board as a non-executive director? Why is Tom Mockridge, the chief executive of News International as well as a longtime BSkyB board member, being made deputy chairman?

And who is chairman of News International now? Mockridge seems to report directly to an employee of News Corp, Chase Carey, and not to a News International chairman. Last year, News Corp set up its management and standards committee with the aim of ensuring News International’s business was underpinned by robust governance, compliance and legal structure. Tuesday’s announcement does not give me the impression of robust changes to the governance of its UK-based empire.

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