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Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Apple hits new stock price high. Hollywood Execs make record paychecks. Murdock out. Obermann out again. White House to fall to Military Coup (from the man who had Will Smith defencd us agains an Alien Invasion).

James Murdoch is stepping down as Chairman of BSkyB
 Photo: James Murdoch. Credit: Rafiq Maqbool/Associated Press

From the LA Times Company Town blog (click here for the latest industry news)

Couldn't hack it? James Murdoch is resigning as chairman of British Sky Broadcasting, the satellite broadcaster that is 40% owned by News Corp. Less than a year ago, News Corp. was on the verge of taking over BSkyB with Murdoch, son of mogul Rupert Murdoch, calling the shots. But the hacking scandal at News Corp.'s British tabloids scuttled that deal and now has forced the exit of James Murdoch as chairman. Murdoch, who will remain on the board, is being replaced by BSkyB Deputy Chairman Nicholas Ferguson. The latest from the Los Angeles Times, BBC, Telegraph and Sky News.

James Murdoch's resignation as chairman of satellite broadcaster British Sky Broadcasting comes ahead of what is expected to be a very critical government report on his handling of the ethics scandal at News Corp.'s British tabloids.

Murdoch, in announcing his decision, alluded to the ongoing investigations into accusations of phone hacking and payoffs to police, allegedly by the News Corp.'s News of the World and the Sun. News Corp. owns 39% of BSkyB and was on track to acquire the rest of the company last year until the problems at the tabloids derailed the deal. Murdoch resigned in February as executive chairman of News International, the media conglomerate's British publishing division.

"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," Murdoch said in a statement released Tuesday. "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 organization." Murdoch will remain on BSkyB's board of directors.

Murdoch, the youngest son of News Corp. Chairman and Chief Executive Rupert Murdoch, has been the focus of scrutiny over his handling of the crisis as head of News International. Last December he informed Parliament that he did not read an email from senior executives saying that the practice of phone hacking -- listening in on voice-mail messages left for celebrities, members of the royal family and even crime victims -- could be widespread.

More than a dozen journalists and executives with News International have been arrested and questioned by Scotland Yard in connection with its investigation into the allegations of phone hacking and bribery. Police are also probing whether News International was engaged in a cover-up of criminal activity at News of the World and its sister tabloid, the Sun.

James Murdoch, who served as chairman of News International until stepping down from that post in February, has consistently denied any knowledge of widespread phone hacking at the papers then under his command. He insists he was led to believe that phone hacking was confined to one "rogue reporter" at the News of the World who was convicted and jailed for his offense.

James and Rupert Murdoch are expected to appear before Parliament again as part of an ongoing inquiry into possibly illegal activities at the tabloids. The damaging scandal exploded last summer when the Guardian reported that News of the World operatives had eavesdropped on voice-mail messages left for a missing teen girl who was later found murdered.

Murdoch's resignation as chairman of BSkyB does not mean the powerful broadcaster won't suffer collateral damage from the probe into the newspapers. British regulators may investigate whether News Corp.'s tabloid troubles have made it unfit to be part of BSkyB. Nicholas Ferguson, currently the deputy chairman, will succeed Murdoch as chairman of BSkyB.

Once seen as the heir to his father's kingdom, James Murdoch has been severely tarnished by the controversy, although he still holds a senior position at News Corp. as its deputy chief operating officer and focuses on its international television business.

"The story continues to not go away, and the feeling that somehow James was involved to a greater extent than he's willing to let on continues to persist," said Doug Creutz, media analyst with Cowen and Co. "He keeps falling back further and further backwards along the line of defenses in terms of his involvement in the Murdoch empire. There ain't a lot left."

James Murdoch in happier times at BSkyB
Photo: James Murdoch. Credit: Tim Anderson / Getty Images. 

The Skinny: We've got a busy day today, so no light banter. Tuesday's headlines include the resignation of James Murdoch as chairman of BSkyB, the fight between DirecTV and Tribune going federal and a look at the big paychecks some top media executives got last year.

  Daily Dose: Keith Olbermann, who was fired from Current TV, is making the rounds this week. Not only is he still listed as appearing on David Letterman's "Late Show," he is also scheduled to be on a panel with his former ESPN co-anchor Dan Patrick at the Paley Center in New York on Thursday. If Patrick does pull out of the Paley event, it won't be the first time. Several years ago he was supposed to interview Jerry Seinfeld there as part of a tribute to humorist Jean Shepherd, only to bail three hours before it was to start. New York Times reporter Bill Carter was hustled in as a replacement.

Apple is worth far more than was reported in the past.  Three years ago it was $100 a share, two months ago $500, today $645 a the close, with two Wall Sreet Annalyist sayin the value will hit a thousand dollars each. or a company wroth over one trillion dollars. Apple has given birth to an etire ecosystem. More iPads were sold in 2011 than babies were born, world wide. They are creating a Ferari digital grid, compared to Microsoft or Google which are still scooters. There is a love, passion, emotional attachment to Apple, along with easier interfaces and greater reliablity. Go to Marketplace for addtiional information.

Connect the dots. When it comes to animation, the Internet is no longer just a stepping stone to the big leagues of film and television. Tom Hanks is producing and starring in "Electric City," a new cartoon being made for Yahoo. "It's a great way to get into your audience's bedroom, to be able to go wherever they are and to give them an experimental and compelling story," said Hanks' producing partner Gary Goetzman. The Los Angeles Times looks at how Yahoo, YouTube and other Web giants are stepping to the plate with animation.

Call the feds! DirecTV has filed a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission against Tribune Broadcasting. The two sides have been fighting over a new deal for the satellite broadcaster to continue carrying Tribune's TV stations. In its filing, DirecTV accuses Tribune — parent of the Los Angeles Times — of acting in bad faith and reneging on an agreement. Details from the Los Angeles Times and Wall Street Journal.

Morning wars. Katie Couric is back on morning TV, guest-hosting ABC's "Good Morning America" this week. Sarah Palin is guest-hosting at NBC's "Today." Always an intense battlefield, this week the morning shows are kicking the competition up a notch. The New York Times looks at how far they'll go for the upper hand.

Didn't I see this movie? Roland Emmerich is negotiating to direct "White House Down," a movie about a military takeover of the Oval Office, according to Deadline Hollywood. Emmerich must like attacking the White House, as his previous credits include "Independence Day."

Painting a new picture. Don Ohlmeyer, the former head of NBC Entertainment and producer of "Monday Night Football" known for his gruff personality and innovative producing style, has found a new life in retirement as an artist. Sports Business Daily catches up with the outspoken Ohlmeyer.

Largest number of fast food franchises per population. In order Maryland, Nevada and Utah. 

Inside the Los Angeles Times: Big paydays for the top executives at Time Warner, Viacom, Disney and Discovery. And can "Titanic" be a massive hit the second time around?

— Joe Flint and others

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