25 Apr 2012

British minister refusing to quit over BSkyB deal

10:15 pm on 25 April 2012

Britain's Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt on Tuesday refused to resign after an inquiry into media ethics heard that he had supported media tycoon Rupert Murdoch's bid for full control of satellite broadcaster BSkyB.

In June 2010, News Corporation had been bidding to take over the 61% of BSkyB it did not own. That November, Business Secretary Vince Cable asked media regulator Ofcom to look at the potential impact of the deal on media plurality, the BBC reports.

Jeremy Hunt took over responsibility for overseeing the BSkyB bid in December 2010. News Corp abandoned the bid in July last year after the phone-hacking scandal emerged.

During the testimony of Mr Murdoch's son, James, e-mails were produced, suggesting extensive contact between the Murdochs' News Corp and Mr Hunt's office.

During questioning of James Murdoch, the inquiry's lawyer Robert Jay read numerous emails from a lobbyist for the Murdochs, suggesting that Mr Hunt was very keen on a bid for BSkyB succeeding and that the minister's office was passing confidential information to them.

The BBC reports this is clearly an uncomfortable moment for a government that is already going through a very difficult period and which is seeing its poll ratings plummet.

There may be some more awkward moments when Rupert Murdoch appears before the inquiry on Wednesday for two days of questioning.

The 81-year-old will be asked about the phone-hacking scandal which eventually led to his News of the World tabloid newspaper being closed down.

Mr Murdoch will also be pressed on how much influence his newspapers have on public life in the United Kingdom.

News Corp owns the Sun, the Times and the Sunday Times, and has a 39% interest in satellite broadcaster BSkyB.