Murdoch report was blunted by MPs

On top: BSkyB showed an underlying profit of £908 million in nine months
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The markets have had their say on Rupert Murdoch —and it’s a thumbs-up. The same day six members of the Commons culture, media and sport committee declared that he was not “a fit person” to run a big international business, shares in News Corporation rose. Moreover, results from BSkyB showed an underlying profit of £908 million in nine months, up a quarter over the same period a year before. This is not in itself proof that BSkyB is a “fit and proper” holder of a broadcasting licence — but it is a reminder of Mr Murdoch’s achievement in making the most of the company’s potential.

There are still serious questions about Mr Murdoch’s conduct in respect of phone hacking by the News of the World, and the disgraceful culture that his senior executives at least tolerated. Specifically, we still need to know whether he was culpably ignorant of those activities — and of associated misconduct in the title’s relationship with the police. But the Commons committee’s Labour and Liberal Democrat members went beyond the issue in suggesting that he was unfit to be proprietor of an international media company. The upshot was that the committee was split on the final report, with members divided on party lines. As a result, the report has looked partisan and its broader conclusions have been lost.

Had MPs opposed to Mr Murdoch, such as Labour’s Tom Watson, a victim of phone hacking, been prepared to couch their judgments more carefully, their report might have had greater effect. As it is, even vigorous opponents of News Corp’s bid to increase its holding in BSkyB — now dropped — have been obliged to defend Mr Murdoch.

The appearance of the Murdochs before the Commons committee generated enormous public interest and was a useful means of demonstrating that even the biggest media proprietors can be held to account for the activities of their companies. It is just a shame that the much-anticipated parliamentary report has failed to do justice to an issue which is of real public importance for public trust in the media.

Backing gay marriage

The Prime Minister, in his interview with this paper today, insists that he is “clear about my views” on gay marriage and feels that “the time has come for change”. He has faced criticism for his stance from within his own party and the issue may yet prove politically tricky. But his instincts are right and reflect a huge shift in public attitudes on the issue. Civil partnerships, once seen by opponents as a radical move, are now an unremarkable fact of British life, both in London and the provinces. We believe that making matrimony available to gay couples is a natural progression from civil partnerships.

Mr Cameron acknowledges that a public consultation is still under way on the issue but he is right to be open about his views. When he says that “if marriage is good for heterosexuals, it is good for gay couples too”, he makes an argument that will appeal to many conservatives. Indeed the challenge for marriage today is not that gay couples want it but that so many couples are not tying the knot at all. He should stick to his guns.

Vote tomorrow

The elections for London Mayor and the Assembly take place tomorrow. This newspaper believes that Boris Johnson is the best choice for Mayor; the most important thing, however, is that London votes and takes control of its future. Whatever your candidate preference, please vote tomorrow and give whoever wins a solid democratic mandate.

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