James Murdoch Steps Down As Executive Chairman Of News International

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As the phone hacking scandal that roiled his father's international news company deepened, James Murdoch is stepping down as Executive Chairman of News International.

The AP reports that News Corp., owned by James' father Rupert Murdoch, said he was stepping down "to focus on the company's international TV business."

We'll have more on this story as it develops.

Update at 9:28 p.m. ET. Murdoch's Statement:

The AP says that in a statement, the 39-year-old thanked his colleagues for working "tirelessly to inform the public" and also praised the newly-launched British newspaper The Sun.

"With the successful launch of The Sun on Sunday and new business practices in place across all titles, News International is now in a strong position to build on its successes in the future," Murdoch said in a statement.

For a bit of background: News Corp. has been facing tough times lately because the British government has launched a full-scale investigation into the use of illegal phone hacking at some of the company's British tabloids.

Murdoch's resignation comes just as a British politician made claims that the cover-up of the operation "went as high as chairman and chief executive James Murdoch."

The Sydney Morning Herald reports on what MP Chris Bryant said:

"In a scathing attack, he said: 'There was a major cover-up at News International which stretched right up to the very highest levels of the company, as we know, even up to James Murdoch. And that, in the end, I suspect, will prove to have been the biggest crime.'

"Mr Bryant, a leading anti-hacking campaigner who received a £30,000 payout from News for the hacking of his own phone, also told a private member's debate on media regulation that his 'poor researcher' had counted 486 lies told to Parliament by News International."

For his part, Murdoch has testified that he was unaware of the phone hackings.

Update at 10:11 a.m. ET. James 'Made Lasting Contributions':

The Financial Times obtained this statement from Rupert Murdoch:

"We are all grateful for James' leadership at News International and across Europe and Asia, where he has made lasting contributions to the group's strategy in paid digital content and its efforts to improve and enhance governance programs."

Update at 11:19 a.m. ET. More From NPR's David Folkenflik:

NPR's David Folkenflik will have more on this story for tonight's All Things Considered.

But meanwhile he's providing some analysis through his Twitter feed. Among his observations:

-- "The announcement about the younger Murdoch represents a bitter blow to the presumed corporate heir to News Corp Chairman Rupert Murdoch"

-- "James Murdoch's resignation from News International comes amid expansion of scandal to heart of 2nd UK Murdoch tabloid, the Sun, for bribery"

-- "Worth noting: there had previously been plans for him to release these duties as he ascended at News Corp, where he is 3rd highest exec."

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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