Murdoch drops BSkyB bid as PM flounders in House By Roger Bagley

13 July 2011 — Morning Star

The phone-hacking maelstrom left Prime Minister David Cameron reeling today and forced media mogul Rupert Murdoch into a humiliating withdrawal of his bid for BSkyB

News Corporation announced abandonment of the bid just minutes after Mr Cameron’s sheepish Commons announcement of an inquiry into phone-hacking plus links between politicians, the media and the police.

The normally gung-ho Prime Minister was forced onto the ropes as MPs pressed him to tell exactly what he knew about his former director of communications, ex-News of the World editor Andy Coulson.

Amid mounting noise Labour leader Ed Miliband told Mr Cameron: ‘You should apologise for the catastrophic error of judgement you made in hiring Andy Coulson.’

The dramatic announcement from News Corporation came as angry MPs were preparing to debate a Labour-led cross-party motion calling for withdrawal of the bid – a demand which Mr Cameron had been forced to endorse.

It was an astonishing about-turn for a Prime Minister who has courted powerful media figures and seemed perfectly happy just days ago for tame regulators to usher through Murdoch’s money-spinning takeover scheme.

A statement from the giant multinational company said it had become clear that the bid would be ‘too difficult to progress in this climate.’

It added that News Corporation ‘remains a committed long-term shareholder in BSkyB.’

During tense Commons exchanges, left MP Dennis Skinner demanded that nobody should own more than one newspaper title and nobody should run more than one TV station.

Murdoch’s power did not arise from his personality, said Mr Skinner.

This ‘cancer on the body politic’ had politicians ‘of all parties’ in his pocket simply because of his media power.

In a deft change of tune, Mr Cameron told MPs that ‘if I was lied to, if the police were lied to, if the Commons select committee was lied to, it would be a matter of deep regret and a matter for criminal prosecution.’

He said the inquiry would be headed by senior judge Lord Justice Leveson and assisted by a panel of ‘senior independent figures.’

It would examine the culture, practices and ethics of the press, their relationship with the police, failure of press regulation, and contacts between national newspapers and politicians.

The second part of the inquiry would examine ‘the extent of unlawful or improper conduct at the News of the World and other newspapers.’

Allegations that corrupt police officers took payments from newspapers would be investigated by the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

rogerbagley@peoples-press.com

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