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James Murdoch Steps Down As BSkyB Chairman

Satellite broadcaster British Sky Broadcasting Group Plc (BSYBY.PK, BSY.L) or BSkyB, announced Tuesday that Chairman James Murdoch has stepped down from the position. Murdoch is succeeded by Nicholas Ferguson, who is a director of the company since June 2004.

Murdoch, the son of 80-year old media mogul Rupert Murdoch, will continue to serve in his capacity as a non-executive director of the company.

"The Board's support for James and belief in his integrity remain strong. We understand his decision to step aside at this time and we both welcome and look forward to his continued contribution as a non-executive director," BSkyB said.

The move comes a month after Murdoch stepped down as executive chairman of News International Ltd., the British newspaper subsidiary of embattled media and entertainment giant News Corp. (NWS: Quote). He has since relocated to News Corp.'s New York headquarters and is now focusing on its expanding international pay-TV businesses.

Murdoch's decision to move out fully from U.K. positions would have gained momentum following the risks related to an impending hostile verdict from MPs inquiring into a phone hacking scandal. He had earlier stepped down from the boards of News Group Newspapers Ltd, Times Newspapers Ltd., and News International Holdings, which are the company's U.K. newspaper operations.

Murdoch became the central focus of numerous investigations, in the U.S. and abroad, examining the failures of judgment, oversight and accountability that allowed a five-year old hacking scandal in the U.K to escalate into a full-blown corporate crisis.

Murdoch also appeared twice before the U.K. Parliament's Culture, Media and Sport Committee to answer questions as part of its inquiry into the phone-hacking scandal.

The scandal involves allegations that 'News of the World' illegally accessed mobile-phone voice mails to gain information about celebrities, politicians and crime victims, and was charged of unethical reporting tactics, which triggered an outrage in Britain and led to the closure of the 168-year old tabloid.

"As attention continues to be paid to past events at News International, I am determined that the interests of BSkyB should not be undermined by matters outside the scope of this Company. I am aware that my role as Chairman could become a lightning rod for BSkyB and I believe that my resignation will help to ensure that there is no false conflation with events at a separate organisation," Murdoch said in a statement.

James Murdoch, aged 39, has been a non-executive chairman and non-executive director since December 2007 of BSkyB, in which embattled media and entertainment giant News Corp. has a 39.1 percent controlling minority stake.

He was appointed non-executive chairman of BSkyB in December 2007 after a tenure as its CEO since November 2003. His father, Rupert, was also formerly the non-executive chairman, and this will be the first time in years the no Murdoch occupies a top position at BSkyB.

BSkyB also noted that Ferguson will be succeeded by Andrew Higginson, a BSkyB Director since September 2004, as senior independent non-executive director. Tom Mockridge, a BSkyB director since February 2009, has also been appointed as deputy chairman.

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by Andrew Mariathasan

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