By Yinka Adegoke and Georgina Prodhan
NEW YORK/LONDON (Reuters) - News Corp <NWSA.O> has promoted James Murdoch to the role of deputy chief operating officer in a move that will be seen to mark him as eventual successor to his 80-year-old father, Rupert.
The move for the younger Murdoch will be taken as a sign News Corp Chief Executive Rupert Murdoch is starting to clarify a succession plan. But it does not guarantee that James Murdoch, his fourth child, will get the top job when Murdoch senior retires.
While it has always been expected Murdoch would position one of his children as successor CEO of the company, James Murdoch may still have to tussle for the top job with his older siblings Liz and Lachlan.
Last month Murdoch paid $673 million for daughter Liz's television production company Shine. She will rejoin as a News Corp executive also reporting to Carey and will join the board when the deal closes.
Murdoch's older son, Lachlan, previously held the same role of deputy chief operating officer until 2005 when he stepped back from executive responsibilities. He is also on the News Corp board.
James Murdoch, 38, has been an executive at News Corp for more than 15 years in various roles.
He pushed his father's business agenda aggressively in his international role particularly in the UK.
James Murdoch stirred up a storm in August 2009 when he used a keynote speech at a major TV festival to launch a blistering attack on state-owned BBC <BBC.UL>, echoing his father Rupert's speech from the same platform 20 years earlier.
The younger Murdoch called the BBC's expansion plans "chilling" and accused the corporation of distorting competition by dumping free, state-sponsored news on the market. His remarks sparked a public debate that still continues.
More recently, Murdoch has been battling to win approval for a proposed $14 billion buyout of BSkyB <BSY.L>, the British satellite broadcaster of which he is an ex-chief executive.
The proposed deal has been vigorously opposed by rival media groups who fear News Corp's financial clout and say the political influence of the Murdochs is already too great.
The debate has been complicated by a scandal at News Corp-owned Sunday tabloid the News of the World, which is being sued by celebrities including actress Sienna Miller for using private investigators to hack into celebrities' mobile phones.
Murdoch has been accused of mishandling the affair, which has repeatedly resurfaced and recently led to the resignation of UK Prime Minister David Cameron's spokesman, an ex-News of the World editor.
(Editing by Maureen Bavdek, Dave Zimmerman, Matthew Lewis, Phil Berlowitz)