THREE DAYS AFER THE MICHEL TO BROOKS EMAIL OF JUNE 27, HUNT DELIVERS ON HIS ANNOUNCEMENT OF A NEW POLICY. HE’S MOVING AHEAD WITH THE RECOMMENDATION THAT NEWS CORP BE ALLOWED TO ACQUIRE THE REMAINDER OF SHARES ON BSKYB.
Daily Hansard Debate
June 30, 2011 11:36 am
Mr Tom Watson (West Bromwich East) (Lab) (Urgent Question): To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport if he will make a statement on the News Corporation acquisition of BSkyB.
The Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport (Mr Jeremy Hunt): Earlier today, I placed a written statement before the House outlining the next steps in my consideration of the potential merger between News Corp and BSkyB. In it, I explained that I have published the results of the consultation on the undertakings in lieu offered by News Corp, together with the subsequent advice I have received from Ofcom and the Office of Fair Trading.
As I outlined, the consultation did not produce any information that caused Ofcom or the OFT to change their earlier advice to me. I could have decided to accept the original undertakings. However, a number of constructive changes were suggested and, as a result, I am today publishing a revised, more robust set of undertakings, and will be consulting on them until midday on Friday 8 July.
Significantly, those changes strengthen further the arrangements for editorial independence and business viability of the newly spun-off Sky News. In my view, they provide a further layer of very important safeguards. As amended, I believe that the undertakings will remedy, mitigate or prevent the threats to plurality that were identified at the start of this process. If after this next consultation process nothing arises that changes that view, I propose to accept the undertakings in lieu of a reference to the Competition Commission. Before coming to such a view, however, I will of course seek once again the advice of the independent external regulators.
Mr Watson: In the end, it comes down to believing a promise. The Secretary of State has chosen to accept the assurances of News Corp, when it has breached previous assurances on the takeover of The Times, The Sunday Times, The Sun and the News of the World.
The Secretary of State could have chosen to disregard those assurances to protect plurality, or asked whether the acquirer has shown evidence of bad practice in its other media companies. Section 58 of the Enterprise Act 2002 provides for specified considerations, including
“the need for persons carrying on media enterprises, and for those with control of such enterprises, to have a genuine commitment to the attainment in relation to broadcasting of the standards objectives set out in section 319 of the Communications Act 2003”, yet the chief executive of News International, Rebekah Brooks, openly and brazenly, and without any sense of irony, admitted to a parliamentary Committee that News International paid police officers for evidence.
The Secretary of State has granted the acquisition to an organisation that is currently the subject of three separate police inquiries, and an organisation that a parliamentary Select Committee found guilty of “collective amnesia” of criminality at one of its newspapers. There is emerging evidence that News International conspired with convicted criminals to pervert the course of justice by hacking the phones of serving police officers and detectives, their families and the families of the victims
LABOUR MP MR. LEWIS IS CRITICAL THAT HUNT IS NOT REFERRING THE NEWS CORP BID FOR BSKYB TO THE COMPETITION COMMISSION. THE OBJECTION SURROUNDS THE LIMITATIONS HUNT PUT ON THE REFERRAL. THE COMMISSION WILL NOT BE ALLOWED TO ADDRESS THE “FITTNESS” OF NEWS CORP TO OWN A MAJOR MEDIA PROPERTY, A KEY LIMITATION CONSIDERING THAT THE PHONE HACKING SCANDAL HAD JUST BLOWN UP.
Daily Hansard Debate
July 13, 2011 6:44 pm
Mr Lewis: Given the outstanding serious allegations of criminality, the hacking of Milly Dowler’s phone and of the phones of relatives of 7/7 victims and brave soldiers who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, the public would never have understood this deal being allowed to go ahead. From the beginning we have called for it to be referred to the Competition Commission for a full and independent inquiry, but I was told time and again by the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport that that was not necessary and, in recent days, not possible.
Mr Jeremy Hunt: On that basis, does the hon. Gentleman think that I was wrong to follow the procedures laid down in the Enterprise Act 2002 and—the Act does not require this—to ask for and publish independent advice at every stage?
Chris Bryant (Lab): I believe that this is proof that News Corporation is not a fit and proper body to hold its present holding in BSkyB, let alone any increased holding.
MP’s MCCABE AND STRAW PUSH HUNT ON TELLING THEM IF PM CAMERON HAD DISUSSIONS ON THE NEWS CORP BID AND THE NAURE OF THOSE DISCUSSIONS. HUNT IMPLIES HE WAS A WITNESS TO ALL OF THEM BY STATING THAT THERE WERE “NO INAPPROPRIATE ONVERSATIONS WITH REBEKAH BROOKS.”
Daily Hansard Debate
July 20, 2011: Column 1046
Steve McCabe: I do not believe that any discussion that the Prime Minister has is irrelevant. But is the right hon. Gentleman confirming that the Prime Minister did have discussions about BSkyB, and will he tell us who he had them with and what they were about?
Mr Hunt: I will confirm that the Prime Minister had no inappropriate conversations with Rebekah Brooks at any time
Mr Straw: I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his endorsement of what I was saying about press regulation. May I take him back to an important statement that he made a moment ago, when he said that none of the discussions that the Prime Minister had had about BSkyB were relevant because he himself—the Culture Secretary—was making the decision? Does the right hon. Gentleman recognise that this is the first occasion in the course of a six-hour debate when there has been any admission that the Prime Minister had had any discussions whatsoever about BskyB? Would it not be for the House to judge whether those were relevant or not?
HUNT COMPLETES THE PERFECTA OF PROMISES MICHEL OUTLINED IN THE EMAIL TO BROOKS. HIS MINISTRY ANNOUNCEMENT MOVES THE NEWS CORP BID ONTO THE COMPETITION COMMISSION IN A WAY STRUCTURED FOR APPROVAL.
IN THE BOLDED SECTION, HUNT SPLITS THE ISSUES HE DEFINES AS RELATED TO NEWS CORP’S BID. THE IMPACT OF THE BID ON COMPETITION IS THE MAIN ISSUE, THE ONLY ONE THE COMMISSION WILL CONSIDER. “MEDIA PLURALITY” (THE VARIETY OF MEDIA OUTLETS) AND PHONE PHONE HACKING ARE ANOTHER. IT REALLY MAKES NO SENSE AT ALL BUT PROVIDES SOME SEMBLANCE OF LOGIC, ALBEIT PERVERTED, TO THE PROCESS HE CHOSE.
Written Ministerial Statement: News Corp/BSkyB merger
Thursday 30 June 2011
Some respondents also argued that News Corp could not be relied upon to abide by the requirements set out in the undertakings, citing previous guarantees and assurances given by News in the past, and the current phone hacking allegations against The News of the World.
I have taken the view that News have offered serious undertakings and discussed them in good faith. In all the circumstances and given that the implementation of those undertakings will be overseen by the Monitoring Trustee and thereafter monitored and if necessary enforced by the OFT, I believe that there are sufficient safeguards to ensure compliance with the undertakings. Furthermore, the various agreements entered into pursuant to the undertakings will each be enforceable contracts. Therefore whilst the phone hacking allegations are very serious they were not material to my consideration.
BEFORE HUNT’S MINISTERIAL STATEMENT AND STATEMENTS IN PARLIAMENT, THE SPY REPORT NOTED THAT THE COMPETITION COMMISSION WILL NOT BE ABLE TO INCORPORATE NEWS CORP AS A MASSIVE PHONE HACKING OPERATION INTO THEIR DECISION ON THE BSKYB BID.
BSkyB takeover proposal referred to Competition Commission
By Cyril Washbrook.
July 12, 2012
The Competition Commission will be constrained to rule on issues of media plurality, meaning that phone-hacking allegations concerning the News of the World and News International’s other newspapers will not directly influence its decision.
Sir Menzies Campbell, a former Liberal Democrat leader, told the BBC that the development did not obviate the possibility that News Corp’s Sky deal might collapse due to the hacking scandal, which has now extended to the whole News International publishing stable. Ofcom has the power to determine whether individuals are “fit and proper” persons to own a broadcasting licence.
“Ofcom could still independently and in parallel exercise that duty,” he said
MAJOR REGIONAL PUBLICATION, THE HERALD, NOTES THAT ABSENT PHONE HACKING SCANDAL STARTING ON JULY 4, THE BSKYB BID WOULD HAVE BEEN APPROVED. THE EDITORIAL MAKES THE POINT THAT NEWS CORP PLEDGES AND PROMISES CANNOT BE TAKEN SERIOUSLY.
Media diversity must be protected
July 18, 2012
TWO years ago James Murdoch gave a speech at the Edinburgh Television Festival entitled “The Absence of Trust”, in which he described the power of the BBC as “chilling” and claimed that “the only reliable, durable and perpetual guarantor of [media] independence is profit”.
Now we know just how wrong he was.
Until the hacking scandal exploded like a bomb under News International two weeks ago, Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt was busy waving through the bid from its parent company News Corporation to purchase the remaining 61% of BSkyB. Once through, assurances about the continued independence of Sky News would have been worth as much as similar pledges made when the Murdoch empire snapped up the Times and Sunday Times three decades ago. That is to say, very little. And while Rupert Murdoch’s newspapers once subsidised his satellite broadcasting business, the reverse would soon apply. BSkyB’s huge share of that market, with ten million subscribers and almost twice as much revenue as the BBC, would soon be used to bundle online subscriptions to its newspapers, with television, telephone and broadband deals, undermining its rivals. Remember how News International used predatory pricing to attack competing national and regional newspapers in the 1990s? The company’s unelected opinion-formers already claim that their weight can swing General Elections. Remember “It’s The Sun wot won it” in 1992, after the Conservatives were re-elected?
The riotous diversity of the British press is one feature that makes life in this country better than Italy or Russia. Regardless of what James Murdoch says, the state does have a role in protecting that diversity. Of course, so does the public, by continuing to buy good newspapers.
WHILE HUNT WAS PUSHING FOR BID APPROVAL, HE WAS ALSO CRITICIZING NEWS CORP FOR PHONE HACKING AND THE POOR MANAGEMENT THAT ALLOWED THIS. IT IS FULLY CONSISTENT WITH THE EMAIL
Phone Hacking: Jeremy Hunt questions ‘malpractice’ at News International
News International faces tough questions over why the “malpractice” of phone hacking occurred at some of their flagship newspapers, a Cabinet minister has suggested.
By Andrew Hough
20 Jul 2011
He expressed surprised that the phone hacking at the News of the World had occurred without the knowledge of Rupert Murdoch, the News Corp founder.
His comments came after a scathing report by MPs concluded that News International was guilty of attempting to “deliberately thwart” the original hacking inquiry.
“The question that News International have to answer is why malpractice happened throughout a very important part of their organisation without people like Rupert Murdoch knowing,” Mr Hunt told BBC Breakfast.