Date: May 03 2012
The Australian media regulator is resisting being drawn into an investigation of News Corp's Australian interests, despite a committee of British MPs concluding that its chief, Rupert Murdoch, was ''not a fit person'' to run an international media company.
The Australian Communications and Media Authority, which regulates News's 25 per cent stake in pay TV company Foxtel, said it was ''aware of the report'' by the committee investigating phone hacking in Britain, but was not prepared to comment any further until it had ''digested the report''.
However it noted the British media regulator Ofcom is considering the report as part of its separate inquiry into whether News Corp was a ''fit and proper'' owner of a 39 per cent stake in pay TV company BSkyB.
Britain's culture, media and sport committee accused Mr Murdoch on Tuesday night of exhibiting ''wilful blindness'' to practices in his company, which it said was guilty of ''huge failings of corporate governance''.
Australian media laws allow for the media regulator to challenge the suitability of a licensee by assessing if they present a ''significant risk'' of a breach of the broadcasting act.
The regulator must take into account the track record in business of either the company or individual and whether they have displayed ''trust or candour'' in their dealings.
But legal experts say despite the findings in Britain, the media regulator is not obliged to initiate a challenge to News Corporation's interests in Australia, which extend to 70 per cent of newspaper sales, its stake in Foxtel and a 12 per cent stake in the 24-hour news service Sky News Australia.
ACMA has previously said the authority ''makes whatever inquiries [formal or informal] it judges appropriate''.
Australian politicians have shied away from calling for any investigation into the Foxtel licensee, which is ultimately held by News Corp's Australian arm, News Limited, along with two other shareholders, Telstra and Consolidated Media Holdings. Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said: ''This report relates to specific allegations confined to the United Kingdom. There is no evidence of any behaviour of this type in Australia.''
Opposition communications spokesman Malcolm Turnbull refused to comment on the issue. But Greens spokesman Scott Ludlam said the British inquiry reinforced the need to reform Australia's media ownership laws.
News Limited declined to comment.
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