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James Murdoch set for Leveson grilling

15:17 Tue Apr 24 2012
AAP
James Murdoch
James Murdoch

Former News International executive chairman James Murdoch will appear on Monday before the British inquiry into press standards set up after the tabloid phone-hacking row.

News Corporation boss Rupert Murdoch, James' father, will also appear before the Leveson inquiry on Wednesday and Thursday to answer questions over the operations of his British newspapers and his links to UK lawmakers.

James Murdoch is likely to be quizzed about how much knowledge he had of hacking at the now-defunct News International tabloid the News of the World and what actions he took.

Rupert Murdoch, 81, shut the paper down in July following revelations that its journalists had illegally accessed the voicemails of hundreds of public figures and victims of crime.

Both Murdochs appeared before a British parliamentary committee in July to answer questions about phone hacking, and James Murdoch was recalled in November to explain discrepancies in his testimony.

The parliamentary hearing in July had to be halted when a protester attacked Murdoch senior with a shaving foam pie.

This week's hearings, which will take place at London's Royal Courts of Justice, will be more formal with witnesses swearing an oath promising to tell "the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth".

The pair appeared together at July's hearing, with James frequently stepping in to help his father answer questions, but they will be grilled separately this week by respected lawyer Robert Jay.

Separately, Britain's media watchdog launched an investigation on Monday into two cases of email hacking by Sky News, the satellite broadcaster partly owned by Rupert Murdoch.

Youngest son James was executive chairman of News International, the arm of his News Corp. which published the scandal-hit tabloid, until he quit in February amid questions about what he knew about hacking.

Despite denying any knowledge that the practice went beyond a reporter and a private detective who were jailed in 2007, James Murdoch has relinquished all his major media roles in Britain in the past few months.

Once considered the heir to the News Corp empire, the 39-year-old resigned his job at News International, which also publishes The Times, The Sunday Times and The Sun, Britain's biggest-selling newspaper.

And earlier this month, he also quit as chairman of BSkyB, the British pay-television giant in which his father's company has a 39-percent stake.

However, James Murdoch remains deputy chief operating officer of News Corp, which is based in the United States.

The Leveson inquiry was set up by Prime Minister David Cameron after the hacking scandal exploded last July with the revelation that the News of the World had accessed the voicemail of a missing teenager who was later found murdered.

The scandal reverberated across the British establishment, claiming the jobs of two senior policemen who had ties to the News of the World and sparking the resignation of Cameron's media advisor, a former editor of the tabloid.

It has also resulted in dozens of arrests for phone hacking, the alleged bribery of police and other public officials, and computer hacking.