August 7, 2022

Labour Party Vows to Fight Murdoch’s Bid to Take Over Satellite Company

The News Corporation effort to buy the 61 percent of the company it does not already own had been in peril because of the phone-hacking scandal that led to the shutdown this weekend of The News of the World, the tabloid that was one of Mr. Murdoch’s biggest newspapers. Many commentators in Britain saw the closing of the paper as a move to cauterize the phone-hacking crisis and save the bid for the much more profitable company, known as BSkyB.

The Labour Party’s new move against the takeover came as the 80-year-old Mr. Murdoch landed at an airport outside London to take direct control of the crisis that has enveloped his company from executives of News International, News Corporation’s London-based subsidiary.

Apparently keen to emphasize his support for his management team in Britain, officials of News International arranged later in the day for news photographs to be taken of a smiling Mr. Murdoch with his son James, News International’s chairman, and Rebekah Brooks, a former News of the World editor who is the subsidiary’s chief executive. The two have been the focus of much of the public outrage that has been directed at the Murdoch empire in Britain since the long-smoldering phone-hacking scandal re-erupted last week.

Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, announced his intention to force a Commons vote on the takeover on a BBC Sunday morning talk show, saying that he regretted having to take the step but believed that Prime Minister David Cameron had left no other option to bid opponents with his refusal to take steps to halt the takeover. Mr. Cameron has said that his governing coalition of Conservatives and Liberal Democrats is bound by law not to interfere in the regulatory review of the British Sky Broadcasting bid, which has already moved close to clearing the deal.

Under questioning by Andrew Marr, the BBC host, Mr. Miliband denied that he had “declared war on Rupert Murdoch” — who is already Britain’s most powerful media magnate, with a daunting political influence over decades that has led governments in Britain, Labour and Conservative, to seek his favor.

The reluctance of politicians to alienate powerful media barons was acknowledged with unusual candor on Friday by Mr. Cameron, who told a news conference that The News of the World scandal showed the importance of curbing what he called the “cozy” relationship in Britain between the media, politicians and the police. At a news conference, he announced plans for new regulatory controls to eliminate a pattern of unhealthy and potentially unlawful collaboration among them.

Mr. Miliband minced no words in demanding that Mr. Cameron reverse course on the British Sky Broadcasting takeover and instruct the cabinet minister responsible, Jeremy Hunt, the culture secretary, to refer the bid to Britain’s Competition Commission, which has the power to kill the bid by ruling that it would lead to excessive concentration of ownership in Britain’s media.

This spring, Mr. Hunt issued an initial ruling that would spare the bid from scrutiny by the commission, but delayed a final decision pending a mandatory delay to allow for public submissions. On Friday, Mr. Hunt announced that he had received 156,000 submissions and a collective protest with another 100,000 signatures.

Mr. Cameron, Mr. Miliband said, “has got to understand that when the public have seen the disgusting revelations that we have seen this week, the idea that this organization, which has engaged in these terrible practices, should be allowed to take over BSkyB, to get that 100 percent stake, without the criminal investigation having being completed and on the basis of assurances from that self-same organization — frankly, that just won’t wash with the public.”

The Cameron government, with a majority in the Commons and the power to set the chamber’s agenda, could seek to block the Miliband move for a vote on the proposed takeover. But with the phone-hacking scandal roiling the political landscape in Britain like no other event in years, blocking a vote would be a risky move. Signaling a keen sense of the public fury over the phone-hacking and the political price for failing to engage with it, Mr. Cameron has announced plans for two public inquiries into the scandal: one into the hacking itself, and what the prime minister has called the “abysmal failure” of Scotland Yard to investigate it effectively over a five-year period until this year, and another into the “culture, practices and ethics” of British newspapers.

The prime minister’s calculations may be influenced by his coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats, who have declared their own opposition to the takeover, at least until the criminal cases arising from the phone-hacking have been completed.

Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrats’ leader, who is deputy prime minister, and Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrat who is business secretary in the Cameron cabinet, are said to have made their opposition to the bid known to Mr. Cameron in strong terms, and allowing it to go ahead would most likely add to the severe strains between the coalition partners on other issues that have raised doubts as to how long the coalition can survive.

Ravi Somaiya contributed reporting.

Article source:

Speak Your Mind