* Murdoch quits UK publisher boards
* To remain chairman of News Intl UK newspaper group
* Murdoch faces re-election vote at BSkyB next week
By Kate Holton and Georgina Prodhan
LONDON, Nov 23 James Murdoch has resigned
from the boards of the publishing units within News Corp's
British newspaper arm, which used to include the
now-defunct News of the World tabloid at the centre of the phone
hacking scandal, regulatory filings show.
Murdoch, son of media mogul Rupert and deputy chief
operating officer of News Corp, remains chairman of News
International, the News Corp unit that houses its British
newspapers, and a member of the Times editorial board.
The News International unit has been damaged this year by
the revelation that people working for the popular Sunday
tabloid hacked into the phones of thousands to generate news.
Slow-burning investigations into the matter became
front-page national news when it was revealed in July that one
of the victims was missing schoolgirl Milly Dowler, who appeared
to have been picking up voicemails but was later found murdered.
Ex-News of the World editor Rebekah Brooks resigned as chief
executive of News International the following week, and was
replaced by Tom Mockridge, the former head of News Corp-owned
Sky Italia, on July 15.
"Following the appointment of Tom Mockridge as CEO of News
International, in September James Murdoch stepped down from the
boards of a number of News International subsidiary companies
including News Group Newspapers (NGN) and Times Newspapers Ltd
(TNL)," News International said in a statement.
Mockridge replaced Murdoch on the two company boards.
News Corp shares were down 1.6 percent at $16.14 at 1708
GMT, broadly in line with the S&P media index.
Harriet Harman, Britain's shadow minister for culture, media
and sports from the opposition Labour party, said Murdoch should
"James Murdoch should make clear why he has stepped down in
this way. This does not lessen in any way the need for him to
answer questions or take responsibility for what happened on his
watch," she said in a statement.
The filings show that Murdoch resigned on Sept. 13 from
Times Newspapers Ltd and on Sept. 19 from NGN. Sept. 13 was the
date on which he discovered he would be recalled by a British
parliamentary committee to answer more questions.
NGN is the company that has been sued by many of the
phone-hacking victims, including Hollywood star Jude Law and his
ex-girlfriend, actress Sienna Miller.
Media lawyer Mark Stephens said he did not believe the move
had any legal implications for the phone-hacking cases. "He's
either liable for what happened under his watch, or he's not,"
he told Reuters.
James Murdoch survived a vote to remain on the News Corp
board last month only thanks to support from his family and
another loyal shareholder.
Next week, he faces shareholders of British satellite
broadcaster BSkyB, who will have to decide whether he
should remain as non-executive chairman.
Harman said: "The concerns about whether he is a fit and
proper person to run BSkyB remain."
Some News Corp investors would like to see the company sell
its newspapers, in which media interest is disproportionate to
the small contribution they make in revenues and profits.
Ivor Gaber, professor of political journalism at London's
City University, said the move could indicate that Murdoch was
still worried over his own exposure to the phone hacking scandal
or that News Corp was preparing to sell its UK newspaper
"The Sun is now the only thing keeping the ship afloat, in
commercial terms," he told Reuters.