It's probably fair to say that the re-election of James Murdoch onto the board of BSkyB doesn't seem like the biggest scandal facing the media at the moment. With the shocking allegations of abuse at the BBC and the issuing of 'privacy claims' over alleged hacking at the Daily Mirror, the fact that Murdoch remains as a director of one of Britain's biggest companies could easily have gone unnoticed.
On Thursday Murdoch will seek re-election to a board on which he has served for almost a decade. He's served as the company's CEO and Chairman and he now sits on the top table as a non-executive director. His role should see him performing the vital function of keeping a critical eye on company decision making. Murdoch's performance over the last few years suggests that he may not be up to the job.
Earlier this year the usually conservative industry regulator, OfCom, had some strong words to say about James Murdoch's role in the covering up of phone hacking at the News of the World. The regulator questioned Murdoch's "competence" as chairman of News International and BSkyB, and noted that "we consider James Murdoch's conduct, including his failure to initiate action on his own account on a number of occasions, to be both difficult to comprehend and ill-judged".
This dressing down by OfCom came after the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee concluded that James Murdoch showed "wilful ignorance" of the extent of phone hacking during 2009 and 2010.
It's easy when talking about poor management at News International to forget the profound effect that phone hacking had on people's lives. It wasn't just high flying celebrities who were affected. Ordinary families, often in desperate situations of bereavement, saw their privacy invaded. The Royal British Legion dropped the News of the World as a campaign partner after allegations of the hacking of dead soldiers' phones. A police report has disclosed that officers were played a recording of missing schoolgirl Millie Dowler's voicemails which had been illegally obtained by a News of the World reporter.
In the aftermath of the hacking scandal James Murdoch has stepped down from the boardrooms of Sotheby's, GlaxoSmithKline and News International. His role at BSkyB is his last major position in corporate Britain.
At FairPensions we use shareholder power to hold companies to account. That's why we've urged shareholders to use their vote at BSkyB's AGM on November 1st to reject the re-election of James Murdoch. Unfortunately BSkyB is a company where ordinary shareholders, the people who manage our pensions for example, have less power than usual. This is because News Corporation, a company owned by Rupert Murdoch and where James Murdoch has a senior managerial role, owns a whopping 39% stake in BSkyB. You won't be surprised to hear that they'll be voting in support of James Murdoch.
We're building up the pressure on James Murdoch. If shareholders don't vote him out then hopefully he'll listen to public pressure. We think it's time he left his last British boardroom. Don't you?
Take action at www.fairpensions.org.uk/bskyb