NEW YORK--James Murdoch has rejected the claim that the phone-hacking scandal has plunged News Corp’s reputation into crisis, on the same day that the company apologised and offered to pay damages to victims of the practice.
Murdoch made the comment while being interviewed by Charlie Rose at the Arthur Page Spring Seminar - his first public appearance since the announcement that he will relocate to New York to become deputy COO of News Corp, and chairman and chief executive of its international operations.
When asked by Rose how the company was addressing the phone-hacking scandal, Murdoch said that News Corp had successfully detached the issue from its day-to-day business.
“The interesting thing about this one is - you talk about a reputation crisis - actually the business is doing really well,” said Murdoch. “It shows what we were able to do is really put this problem into a box. If you get everybody sucked into something like that, then the whole business will sputter which you don’t want.”
News Corp subsidiary News International today offered an “unreserved apology” in relation to the phone-hacking allegations, and admitted that previous inquiries had not been “sufficiently robust”. It also said it has instructed lawyers to set up a compensation scheme to deal with “justifiable claims.”
There are currently 24 active cases, including claims of breach of privacy brought by film star Sienna Miller, former culture secretary Tessa Jowell, football commentator Andy Gray, and designer Kelly Hoppen.
"Past behaviour at the News of the World in relation to voicemail interception is a matter of genuine regret,” read the statement.
At the seminar, Murdoch noted that investigating events from the past - before he took over News International in 2007 - had been “really hard”.
“It’s very important to be as thorough as possible to understand what happened,” said Murdoch. “And that is really hard, because sometimes it is not entirely clear. In this one, you had a sequence of events and investigations that were turning up new things.”
“The media frenzy around it has made it harder,” he added. “What you have to try to do is make sure when there is a problem - where there is a deviation from the standard - you make very sure that it is crystal clear where that deviation was and the individual responsible will be held accountable.”
“In the meantime it feels like the world is collapsing around you. They will always say things that you don’t like.”
Murdoch also claimed that News Corp’s reputation was “coloured” by its competitors. “Who are the people telling the story? You’re not going to have normal, rational behaviour around some of these things.”
In his opening remarks, Murdoch addressed the importance of reputation in today’s media environment. “Deviation from the truth, or the customer, is something that will be found out faster and more assuredly than ever before.”
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