LONDON (Reuters) - News Corp owner Rupert Murdoch has agreed to appear before a group of British politicians on Tuesday over phone-hacking allegations that have caused public and political fury and shaken the media baron’s empire.
Australian-born Murdoch, 80, now a U.S. citizen, will be joined at the parliamentary hearing by his son James, 38, chairman of News Corp’s British newspaper arm, News International. Rebekah Brooks, 43, who quit on Friday as News International’s chief executive, will also attend.
The trio will be asked about allegations that their now defunct flagship newspaper, the News of the World tabloid, hacked into the phones of up to 4,000 people, including a missing schoolgirl who was later found murdered and families of dead soldiers.
The executives could face criminal charges if police accusations that News International hampered investigations into phone hacking prove to be true.
The following are the members of parliament’s Culture Media and Sport (CMS) committee who will conduct the hearing, with a short profile of each:
Whittingdale is a member of Prime Minister David Cameron’s centre-right Conservative Party. He worked for the Rothschild investment bank before going on to work as political secretary for former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, whom he has described as having a great influence on him. Whittingdale joined the CMS committee, a role he has said he had always wanted, while the Conservatives were in opposition.
Watson has been one of parliament’s most outspoken critics of media abuses, and assumed a prominent role as the phone-hacking scandal engulfed News Corp. He fought Rupert Murdoch’s bid for the 61 percent of pay-TV operator BSkyB he does not own, saying the media mogul had too tight a grip on Britain’s media and political life. Watson has accused politicians of all parties of “kowtowing” to Rupert Murdoch.
Sanders worked in a timber yard and then in the insurance industry after leaving school. He has been heavily involved in advising charities and the voluntary sector on gaining funding from Europe.
He was critical of the timing of the arrest on Sunday of Brooks, saying it risked hampering the committee inquiry.
“It is not in our interest to impede on any police investigation, but it shouldn’t have been in the police’s interest to impede on our inquiry,” he told BBC TV.
“We are probably some way from knowing the whole truth, but I hope that tomorrow (Tuesday) will move us a little bit closer towards knowing the whole truth,” he added.
Coffey was once finance director for Mars Drinks UK, before going to work for the BBC’s property finance department. She joined the Conservatives in 1988. Coffey has defended Brooks, warning of a developing “witch hunt” against the former News International chief.
Collins has worked in the advertising and communications industries, joining the M&C Saatchi agency in 1999 and later Lexington Communications in 2008. He left the firm to fight the 2010 parliamentary election. He called Rupert Murdoch’s reversal of his decision not to attend parliament’s committee hearing a “great day for parliament.”
Davies has been a member of the Conservative Party since 1988, and has long campaigned against political correctness on grounds of free speech.
Farrelly worked for the Barclays banking group after graduating from Oxford University. He then turned to journalism, working for the Reuters news agency, and later the left-leaning Independent on Sunday and Observer newspapers. A campaigner against anti-social behaviour, Farrelly was last year involved in a brawl at the Palace of Westminster with a newspaper vendor, in which the politician said he acted in self defence.
Keen joined the army at 22 and finished three years of military service before becoming a systems analyst and running his own fire safety business. He was first elected in 1992.
Before joining parliament Mensch worked as a press officer with EMI Music and later as a marketing official with Sony Music. Mensch has also written a string of novels aimed at young women under her maiden name Bagshawe.
Before entering politics, Sheridan worked for Thales Optronics, part of the Thales electronics and defence group. Sheridan told Reuters that politicians courting media moguls such as Rupert Murdoch “damages our democracy.”