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Murdoch To Take Questions From Investors, Media

MELISSA BLOCK, host: You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

The News Corp. board of directors met yesterday for the first time since a phone hacking and corruption scandal erupted last month. The meeting comes amid growing scrutiny of Rupert Murdoch's leadership as chairman and CEO. There are also big questions looming about his son James Murdoch's involvement in the scandal as well as questions about the board's oversight. Well, this afternoon, Rupert Murdoch participated in a conference call with analysts and reporters, ostensibly about News Corp.'s quarterly earnings report. NPR's media correspondent David Folkenflik was listening in, and he joins us now.

And, David, there has been a lot of damage already done. What did Rupert Murdoch have to say today about leadership at News Corp.?

DAVID FOLKENFLIK: Well, first off, he started - and it was a very buoyant, ebullient performance, particularly at first when he was talking about those earnings. News Corp. has done very well in the last fiscal quarter, and he was happy to tell it. He then did sort of acknowledge it's been a tough summer, of course, that the News of the World tabloid now shuttered, where there were allegations, seemingly quite well-founded, of phone hacking, violations of privacy, police corruption, and those allegations are seeping outward. But he said, as he did a few weeks ago to Parliament, he said that he and the board had decided yesterday that he would be the right person to continue to lead the company as chairman and as CEO.

BLOCK: So that's for now. What about the next head of news? Rupert Murdoch has said before that his desire is that one of his adult children should succeed him.

FOLKENFLIK: That's right. In fact, James Murdoch had been seemingly the designated heir apparent. There was a stretch during which his brother Lachlan had seemed to be, and in fact, there was some talks that the reason that News Corp. purchased, Elisabeth Murdoch, his daughter's film production company was so that she could be a candidate for the job. They've been damaged, but - and yet, what Mr. Murdoch said today was that if anything were to happen to him in the near term, he would think that his partner, Chase Carey, the chief operating officer, would immediately step in to the job. And he instantly said, however, that both he and Mr. Carey had full confidence in James Murdoch, as though he were untouched, though, of course, he's been over to British operations of News Corp. for the last few years.

BLOCK: Now, the investigations have been spreading both in the U.K. and here in the U.S. into News Corp. What do we know about how involved executives were in either the phone hacking or in any cover-up that came after?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, they're both criminal investigations there and here, and parliamentary inquiry there in the U.K. as well as significant - internal investigation. Mr. Murdoch said that this time, we don't know whether there was a dozen or two dozen people who are guilty of criminal activity.

But the key question is this: James Murdoch testified before Parliament last month that he's been unaware the practices were widespread when he approved a settlement to a guy who had accused the newspaper of hacking into his phone and violating his privacy. Now, several former News of the World and News Corp. executives have come forward to contradict his testimony, to say that he didn't tell that committee the fact, and he's been demanded by the committee to tell them - to try to reconcile that contradiction. He has until tomorrow to do so. It'll be interesting to see what he comes up with.

BLOCK: OK. NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik. David, thank you very much.

FOLKENFLIK: You bet. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

As special correspondent and guest host of NPR's news programs, Melissa Block brings her signature combination of warmth and incisive reporting. Her work over the decades has earned her journalism's highest honors, and has made her one of NPR's most familiar and beloved voices.
David Folkenflik was described by Geraldo Rivera of Fox News as "a really weak-kneed, backstabbing, sweaty-palmed reporter." Others have been kinder. The Columbia Journalism Review, for example, once gave him a "laurel" for reporting that immediately led the U.S. military to institute safety measures for journalists in Baghdad.