British media executive James Murdoch is stepping down as chairman of British Sky Broadcasting.

Murdoch, son of media mogul Rupert Murdoch, has been under intense pressure over his role in Britain's tabloid phone hacking scandal. Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. media empire owns 39 percent of BSkyB.

James Murdoch, one of his father's chief lieutenants and presumed heir apparent, has faced severe criticism as a result of the phone hacking scandal that brought down the Murdoch-owned News of the World tabloid in Britain.

"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," he said, confirming the news previously reported by BSkyB's news channel.

Rupert Murdoch and News Corp. president Chase Carey said in a brief statement they were "grateful for James Murdoch's successful leadership of BSkyB."

"He has played a major role in propelling the company into the market-leading position it enjoys today and in the process has been instrumental in creating substantial value for News Corp. shareholders," they said.

James Murdoch quit as chairman of News International, the British newspaper division of News Corp., in February. He said at the time his goal was to focus on the television assets of News Corp.'s media empire.

He has repeatedly denied knowing about widespread phone hacking at the News of the World, though former associates have contradicted his account.

In a letter to British lawmakers last month, James Murdoch acknowledged that he could have done more to get to grips with wrongdoing at the newspaper, but insisted he had been misled and given "false assurances" by subordinates.

Rupert Murdoch shut down the News of the World in July amid a wave of bad publicity and plummeting advertising revenue due to the hacking revelations, and News Corp. has been struggling to shake off the damage from the hacking furor.

News Corp. chose to abandon an attempt to take charge of the remaining 61 percent of BSkyB in July as details of phone hacking emerged.

Shares falling

BSkyB shares were down more than 1 per cent in London trading in reaction to the news.

Richard Hunter, head of equities at Hargreaves Lansdown Stockbrokers, said BSkyB shares were falling because Murdoch's departure would "cause a bit more destabilization."

Hunter said Murdoch's resignation would not necessarily indicate a waning of News Corp. commitment to the broadcaster.

"I wouldn't read anything more into it strategically."

With files from The Associated Press