* UK lawmakers get second chance to question James Murdoch
* Focus on contradictory accounts of key 2008 meeting
* Seen as lose-lose situation for Murdoch
By Georgina Prodhan
LONDON, Nov 10 James Murdoch faces a second
grilling by UK parliamentarians on Thursday over his role in a
phone-hacking scandal at the News of the World tabloid that
could make or break his credibility as the next head of his
father Rupert's media empire.
A committee of MPs will have a second chance to
cross-examine the 38-year-old News Corp executive about
exactly when he found out about the illegal practice, and
whether he took proper steps to investigate and stop it.
James Murdoch's previous testimony, that he was unaware of
the extent of the hacking when he approved a huge pay-off to a
soccer boss later revealed to be one of many victims, was
quickly contradicted by two ex-senior executives.
Tom Crone and Colin Myler, the former legal chief and last
editor of the now defunct News of the World, contend that they
made Murdoch aware in 2008 that the soccer boss, Gordon Taylor,
had in his possession transcripts of hacked phone conversations
that appeared to implicate other journalists.
The questioning is likely to focus on the different accounts
of this key 2008 meeting, and the so-called "For Neville" email
containing the transcripts, which Taylor obtained from police
investigating the hacking.
This time, James -- who is still chairman of News Corp's
British newspaper arm, News International -- will face the full
glare of the world's largely hostile media alone, without his
father, News Corp Chief Executive Rupert Murdoch, at his side.
At their last appearance in July, Rupert stole the show with
an extraordinary statement of humility, an uncharacteristically
halting performance, and most bizarrely by becoming the victim
of a shaving-foam pie thrower.
James's performance was considered accomplished if at times
arrogant and brittle.
Supporters and critics agree that even in the best-case
scenario, there is no good outcome possible for James on
Thursday -- only bad or less bad.
Although he was only brought into News International after
the date of the last known phone-hacking, he is accused of
failing to ask the right questions at best, and possibly of
participating in a huge corporate cover-up.
An admission by News International this week that the News
of the World ordered the surveillance of lawyers representing
hacking victims as recently as this year have added to the
impression that the culture may not have changed significantly.
Paul Farrelly, one of the opposition Labour Party MPs on the
parliamentary committee, told Reuters that even if James Murdoch
persuaded the committee he had not known what was going on,
there would still be questions to answer.
"Given that this has led to the closure of the News of the
World and has cost News International handsomely, he'll be asked
if he didn't know the full extent, why didn't he?" Farrelly
Murdoch's appearance is due to begin at 1100 GMT and will be
streamed live at www.parliamentlive.tv.