Rupert Murdoch and News International have been savaged by an MPs' report into the News of the World phone hacking scandal.
The committee for culture, media and sport declared that it had been misled by News International and its parent company, News Corporation, throughout its investigation of the hacking scandal and claimed a cover-up that "permeated from the top throughout the organisation."
IBTimes UK has condensed the 121-page document to highlight its key points:
- The buck stops at Rupert Murdoch
The report pulls no punches when it comes to the media tycoon, declaring that he is "not a fit person" to run News Corporation, having displayed wilful ignorance of the extent of hacking at the NotW.
"On the basis of the facts and evidence before the committee, we conclude that, if at all relevant times Rupert Murdoch did not take steps to become fully informed about phone hacking, he turned a blind eye and exhibited wilful blindness to what was going on in his companies and publications," the report said.
"The culture, we consider, permeated from the top throughout the organisation and speaks volumes about the lack of effective corporate governance at News Corporation and News International.
"We conclude that Rupert Murdoch is not a fit person to exercise the stewardship of a major international company," the report claimed.
- News International's investigation following the arrest of Clive Goodman was insufficient
The report stated that News International repeatedly made "misleading and exaggerated claims" regarding investigations commissioned following the arrests of royal correspondent Clive Goodman and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire in 2006.
"The account we have heard of News International's internal e-mail review and the second review, conducted by Harbottle & Lewis, is unedifying. It is clear that the e-mails examined did not exonerate company employees from all suspicion of possible criminal wrongdoing, possibly not even from phone hacking," the report said.
"Ironically, by not taking Clive Goodman more seriously, the company ensured that, far from being put behind them, the matters that Clive Goodman raised in his appeal were left to fester untreated. The reputational damage is by now far worse that it would have been had the company acted on Clive Goodman's warning early in 2007."
- The Committee was misled by Les Hinton, Tom Crone and Colin Myler
Although the report did not directly accuse Rupert and James Murdoch of having misled it, former News International CEO Les Hinton, former legal affairs manager Tom Crone and former News of the World editor Colin Myler were looked upon less favourably.
The report claimed Hinton misled the committee with regard to his knowledge that Goodman had made serious allegations of phone hacking being rife at the NotW. The committee accused him of being "startlingly vague".
Crone is accused of having misled the committee in relation to payments made to football agent Gordon Taylor. Crone was involved in negotiations and "knew that the desire for confidentiality had increased the settlement amount". He misled the committee by seeking to give a "counter-impression".
Myler and Crone were both criticised for having given "repeated assurances" that there was no evidence that phone hacking affected employees other than Goodman. "Both Tom Crone and Colin Myler deliberately avoided disclosing crucial information to the committee and, when asked to do, answered questions falsely."
- James Murdoch showed 'wilful ignorance' with regard to the 'For Neville' e-mail
James Murdoch has insisted that he did not see the "For Neville" e-mail, which hinted at the extent of phone hacking, until 2010, in contrast to accounts made by Crone and Myler.
Although the committee "cannot come to a definitive conclusion" as to Murdoch's awareness, it accuses him of an "astonishing" lack of curiosity about the £700,000 payout made to Taylor.
The report claimed this "clearly raises questions of competence on the part of News International's then chairman and chief executive.
Murdoch, who became chairman in 2007, recently told the Leveson Inquiry into press ethics that: "By the time I arrived the issue of 2006/2007 [hacking allegations] was packed away. The company's defence had been in place formally for a while."
- News International does not take all of the blame
The original investigation by the Metropolitan Police, and its failure to uncover the depths of phone hacking, comes under fire in the report.
Director of public prosecutions Keir Starmer and former acting deputy commissioner of Scotland Yard John Yates "bear culpability for failing to ensure" that the case was properly investigated.
The Met "had no interest or willingness to uncover the full extent of the phone hacking which had taken place", while Surrey Police were criticised for a lack of action on evidence that the NotW had hacked the phone of murdered teenager Milly Dowler - an event for which former editor Rebekah Brooks "should accept responsibility".
- The committee could not agree
Despite the apparent strength of its rhetoric, the wording of the report itself was the source of great debate, with the strongest points - such as the claims against Rupert Murdoch's suitability to run News Corp - being passed by a vote of six to four.
The press conference following the report being published showed how clearly the division was drawn on party politics, with Labour politicians - Tom Watson being the most outspoken of them - having pushed through the strongest criticism of News Corporation.
Watson told reporters: "Rupert Murdoch, more than any individual alive, he is to blame. Morally the deeds are his. He paid the piper and he played the tune."
His comments drew the ire of Conservative members, with Tory Phillip Davies branding the conclusions made about Murdoch "completely ludicrous", as they were based on no concrete evidence of wrongdoing on his part.
Conservative Louise Mensch said she feared that the strength of the committee's report had been diminished by the "partisan" voting, while committee chairman John Whittingdale said the lack of a unanimous verdict was "a matter of some regret".
If the Commons passes a motion concluding that any of the committee witnesses were in contempt of Parliament, it could lead to them being made to apologise to the bar of the House.
News Corp immediately released a statement in response to the report, claiming it is "carefully reviewing the select committee's report and will respond shortly".
It "fully acknowledges significant wrongdoing at News of the World and apologises to everyone whose privacy has been invaded".