by Ray Fleming

James Murdoch's resignation yesterday as chairman of BSkyB (although apparently he remains as a non-executive director) may ease the pressures bearing down on its American parent company News Corporation but it will not end them. Mr Murdoch also stood down last month as chairman of News International, the UK newspaper company, publisher of The Times, The Sun and, formerly, The News of the World. Michael Wolff, a leading Murdoch-watcher in the US, commented yesterday: “James has no job now. He's just taking up desk space.” The pressure on James Murdoch to go has come from three sources --shareholders, parliament and the UK regulator OfCom. US shareholders, in particular, do not like the damage that News International's problems over phone hacking and other related issues is doing to News Corporation.

The report of the House of Commons Media Select Committee which interviewed both Rupert and James Murdoch last year has not yet said when it will report but is widely expected to be critical of James' role. Its chairman, John Whittingdale MP, said yesterday, perhaps ominously, that he was “surprised James Murdoch has taken so long to move to New York”. The UK media regulator OfCom is reviewing whether BSkyB is a “fit and proper” media company to hold a licence and the departure of James Murdoch from the chairmanship may simplify its task. What's next, I wonder.


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