A little over a month ago, James Murdoch stepped down as chairman of News International. Now it has been announced that he is resigning as BSkyB chairman too. The Guardian writes that Nicholas Ferguson will replace James Murdoch as chairman of the UK satellite company as it continues to assessed by OfCom to determine whether it is a “fit and proper” broadcaster in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal at News International.
News International chief executive Tom Mockridge has been named as the new BSkyB deputy chairman. James Murdoch will continue as non-executive director of the company, said BSkyB in a statement, quoted in full by The Guardian. He will also continue in his role as deputy chief operating officer of News Corp.
In the statement, Murdoch explained that "as attention continues to be paid to past events at News International, I am determined that the interests of BSkyB should not be undermined by matters outside the scope of this company.
“I am aware that my role as chairman could become a lightning rod for BSkyB and I believe that my resignation will help to ensure that there is no false conflation with events at a separate organisation."
News Corp owns 39% of BSkyB and previously made a bid to buy the whole company, but withdrew its offer under pressure in the aftermath of the phone-hacking scandal last year, as Poynter explains.
James Murdoch presided over BSkyB and News International at the time of the scandal that led to the closure of the News of the World. The BBC writes that he has been “braced for serious criticism of his stewardship” from the upcoming report into the allegations of wrong doing by the Commons Culture Media and Sport select committee. Murdoch, who has twice appeared before the committee to give evidence, has denied that he had knowledge of phone hacking at the News of the World while it was taking place, or that he tried to cover it up.
The Guardian speculates that “by standing aside now, James Murdoch hopes to draw the sting from any criticism, but it remains the case that members of the committee will try to agree a verdict on his running of News International.”
According to the BBC’s business editor Robert Peston, it was Murdoch’s own decision to leave the UK satellite broadcaster. The Guardian writes that his decision to step down has “surprised friends, given that only a few weeks earlier he resolved to stay on a Sky even as he relocated to New York and gave up his job as executive chairman of News International, the publisher of the now closed News of the World, the Sun and the Times.”
Peter Kafka at All Things D writes that "News Corp. is making a show of publicly backing James Murdoch" as he stands down. Kafka quotes a joint statement given by News Corp CEO Rupert Murdoch and COO Chase Carey: “we are grateful for James Murdoch's successful leadership of BSkyB. He has played a major role in propelling the company into the market-leading position it enjoys today – and in the process has been instrumental in creating substantial value for News Corporation shareholders."