LONDON - James Murdoch blamed subordinates on Tuesday for keeping him in the dark about illegal behavior when he ran his father Rupert's UK newspaper empire, and said he didn't closely read its ill-fated tabloid the News of the World.

The 39-year-old, once seen as the clear heir apparent to his father's News Corp business, was grilled at a high-profile judicial inquiry into Britain's press culture, set up in the wake of revelations that the News of the World illegally hacked into phone messages on an industrial scale to get scoops.

The inquiry, ordered by British Prime Minister David Cameron, will also examine the relationship between the Murdochs and politicians to establish whether these close ties helped journalists feel above the law.

Australian-born Rupert Murdoch, 81, who has seen the scandal erode the formidable political influence he wielded in Britain for four decades, is scheduled to appear before the inquiry on Wednesday and Thursday.

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