An ethics watchdog called on Washington to revoke News Corp.'s 27 Fox TV licenses after British lawmakers said Rupert Murdoch was unfit to lead the media giant.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington said a report by the House of Commons' Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee -- which found the News Corp. chairman and chief executive officer "not a fit person to exercise the stewardship of a major international company" -- made him of improper character to hold Fox Broadcasting Co.'s 27 lucrative licenses in 15 states and the District of Columbia.
The parliamentary report said Murdoch "turned a blind eye and exhibited willful blindness to what was going on in his companies and publications" when faced with initial revelations of phone hacking at his now-closed News of the World tabloid and later revelations pointing to a much wider pattern of wrongdoing throughout Murdoch's British newspaper chain, including alleged police bribery.
A "don't ask, don't tell" culture "permeated from the top throughout the organization and speaks volumes about the lack of effective corporate governance at News Corp. and News International," its British newspaper subsidiary, the committee report said.
"We conclude, therefore, that Rupert Murdoch is not a fit person to exercise the stewardship of a major international company," the report said.
It also singled out Murdoch son James Murdoch, News Corp.'s deputy chief operating officer and until recently head of the family's media interests in Britain, for failing to act on the wrongdoing much earlier.
"Had James Murdoch been more attentive to the correspondence that he received at the time, he could have taken action on phone hacking in 2008, and this committee could have been told the truth" during a 2009 inquiry, the report said.
It said News Corp. later wrongly tried to blame lower-ranking executives for the scandal while "striving to protect more senior figures, notably James Murdoch."
"The whole affair demonstrates huge failings of corporate governance at the [British] company and its parent, News Corp.," said the report, which can be seen at http://tinyurl.com/bvx6yun.
CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan said: "The House of Commons report makes clear that both Rupert and James Murdoch were complicit in New Corp.'s illegal activities. If the Murdochs don't meet the British standards of character test, it is hard to see how they can meet the American standard."
The non-profit activist group sent a letter to U.S. Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski Tuesday asking the broadcast regulator to revoke News Corp.'s TV licenses, citing U.S. law that states broadcast frequencies may be used only by people of good "character" who serve "the public interest" and speak with "candor."
Significant character deficiencies may warrant disqualification from holding a license, CREW said.
The organization also sent letters to the House and Senate Commerce Committees asking for hearings into whether Rupert and James Murdoch meet the FCC's character standards.
The FCC declined to comment on the Parliament report or whether it would spark its own investigation into News Corp.'s fitness to hold U.S. broadcast licenses.
House Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., had no immediate comment.
His leadership committee has received $33,000 from Murdoch's Fox Political Action Committee, plus a $2,500 check from Murdoch himself, ABC News reported Friday.
Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., had no immediate comment about the CREW letter specifically.
But spokesman Vince Morris told the Talking Points Memo political journalism outlet Rockefeller was "just as concerned today as he was last year" about possible News Corp. hacking in the United States "and whether any U.S. laws were broken."
Rockefeller called for investigations last July "to ensure that" U.S. victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and other Americans were not victims of News Corp. phone hackings.
The FBI is reported to be investigating the matter.
News Corp. had no comment on the CREW letter.
In a statement it acknowledged "hard truths" emerged from the British committee's report -- "that there was serious wrongdoing at the News of the World; that our response to the wrongdoing was too slow and too defensive; and that some of our employees misled the Select Committee in 2009."
It called some of the report's commentary "unjustified and highly partisan."
Rupert Murdoch said in a personal e-mail to News Corp. employees: "We certainly should have acted more quickly and aggressively to uncover wrongdoing. We deeply regret what took place and have taken our share of responsibility for not rectifying the situation sooner."
"But we have done the most difficult part, which has been to take a long, hard and honest look at our past mistakes," his e-mail said. "There is no easy way around this, but I am proud to say that we have been working hard to put things right."