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3 April 2012

Political sketch: BSkyBow out

James Murdoch turned down his Godfather 6 role long ago.

By Peter McHugh

You knew it was serious even with the sound down because Kay Burley had her Huw Edwards face on as she confirmed on Sky News her boss was now attempting to write himself out of the script of The Godfather 6.

His formal resignation as chairman of BSkyB may have leaked out at lunchtime but the game was really up for James Murdoch last November when Labour MP Tom Watson asked him if he was, “familiar with the term Mafia”. The sharp silence that followed only matched the shock at an earlier hearing when his step-mother had flattened the lad who had slapped his dad in the face with a pie.

This time it was expensively-educated James who had to sit silent as Tom, who holds the same place in the Murdoch affections as John Mann does for George Osborne, plied his trade as torturer-in-chief.

“You must be the first mafia boss in history who did not know he was running a criminal enterprise,” said Watson with all the freedom parliamentary privilege can bestow. As James squeezed out the sentence “Mr Watson, that is inappropriate,” he must have known that despite closing  the News of the World, and despite the mea culpas of Murdoch senior, this one was going to run and run.

Even as he fled to the United States and abandoned all formal connections with the British newspaper end of the family business, the spotlight remained.

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As contagion spread to the Sun and arrests multiplied, even American investors started to wake up to the damage that could be done to the multi-billion pound BSkyB end of the business just by association. The TV regulator Ofcom revealed they were dusting off their “fit and proper persons” paragraph even as the Culture committee argued between themselves over just how big a boot they would put into Murdoch minor for what they see as “memory lapses” during his time at News International. 

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With the Committee’s report due out after Easter – no doubt followed by renewed pressure on Ofcom, do not forget – we are also about to move into charge time following the many arrests which have come out of the police inquiry into hacking.

Meanwhile, the Leveson inquiry provides daily up-dates and reminders that there are still plenty of legs left in the story. And then there are the private investigators and the blagging . . .

Can it only be 16 months since James and his wife sat down to a jolly pre-Christmas dinner with the then-News International chief executive, Rebekah Brooks, and her husband Charlie, and their mutual friends David and Samantha Cameron?