August 16, 2022

Murdoch Reported to Drop British Satellite Bid

There was no immediate official confirmation of the news.

The development was the latest upheaval flowing from the phone hacking scandal within Mr. Murdoch’s British newspaper empire that has convulsed his company and ended what, for years, had been a close, cozy and influential relationship with the British establishment.

Only hour s before the news, Prime Minister David Cameron had sought to distance himself from Mr. Murdoch and had urged him to drop the bid for British Sky Broadcasting, also known as BSkyB. The announcement came just before Parliament was set to approve a cross-party call for Mr. Murdoch to abandon his ambitions toward the broadcaster.

On Wednesday, Mr. Cameron offered details for the first time of a broad inquiry into the relationships among the police, politicians and the press in the broadening scandal confronting the Murdoch newspaper holdings in Britain.

Speaking to Parliament, Mr. Cameron said that the inquiry would be led by a senior judge, Lord Justice Leveson, and that it would have the power to summon witnesses to testify under oath. The announcement came as Mr. Cameron fought to recover the initiative in a scandal that has turned into potentially the most damaging crisis of his time in office.

He said the inquiry would examine the ethics and culture of the British media as well as the accusations of phone hacking at The News of the World underlying the scandal. It would also investigate why an initial police inquiry failed to uncover the extent of the scandal and allegations that journalists paid corrupt police officers.

He said he wanted the inquiry to be “as robust as possible, one that can get to the truth fastest and get to work the quickest, and one that commands the full confidence of the public.”

Mr. Cameron said it should complete a report on the future regulation of the press within a year, but he acknowledged that inquiries into allegations of criminal wrongdoing — which the police are also investigating — would take longer.

Mr. Cameron’s Conservative Party took power in May 2010, supported by some of the newspapers in Mr. Murdoch’s British stable, and his critics said that he, like some of his predecessors in 10 Downing Street, sought to maintain that support even as the phone hacking scandal smoldered before erupting into a crisis

Only a week ago, Mr. Cameron said it was not for politicians to interfere in the workings of private companies. But on Wednesday, he urged Mr. Murdoch to abandon his $12 billion bid for more than 60 percent of the shares in British Sky Broadcasting which he does not already own, saying Murdoch executives should “stop the business of mergers and get on with cleaning the stables.”

Later Mr. Cameron met the parents of Milly Dowler, a 13-year-old girl abducted and murdered in 2002. The phone hacking scandal exploded last week with reports that The News of the World had tried to hack into her voice mail after she went missing. Up until then the phone hacking had seemed to be restricted to the voice mails of prominent people.

In a rancorous session at the weekly encounter in Parliament known as prime minister’s questions, Mr. Cameron also came under renewed pressure from opposition Labour leader Ed Miliband to explain his relationship with his former director of communications, Andy Coulson, a former editor of The News of the World — a top selling Sunday tabloid at the epicenter of the scandal which the Murdoch family ordered closed last weekend.

A lawmaker also asked if there was evidence that journalists at News International, a British subsidiary of Mr. Murdoch’s News Corporation, had tried to hack into the voice mail of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in the United States, as they are accused of doing in Britain after the July 7 London bombings in 2005.

The Daily Mirror newspaper had reported that journalists had sought to secure phone data concerning Sept. 11 victims from a private investigator in the United States. Mr. Cameron said he would investigate the issue.

In what seemed an indication of further uncertainty at News International, news reports said Tom Crone, the company’s legal manager, had left the firm but it was not clear why.

John F. Burns and Don Van Natta Jr. reported from London, and Alan Cowell from Paris. Reporting was contributed by Jo Becker, Ravi Somaiya and Graham Bowley from London, and J. David Goodman from New York.

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