A British minister has refused to quit over claims his department was secretly helping Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation take control of the UK’s main satellite broadcaster.
Culture Minister Jeremy Hunt says the accusations are “laughable”.
The former chairman of BskyB James Murdoch was giving evidence to an inquiry into the conduct of Britain’s press following a hacking scandal. He said that Hunt had given News Corp special treatment during talks to decide whether the acquisition should go ahead.
Hunt, told parliament on Wednesday that he wanted to move his appearance to the inquiry forward: “I am totally confident that when I present my evidence, the public will see that I conducted this process with scrupulous fairness throughout.”
Britain’s opposition parties were quick to call for his sacking, claiming that the process to decide if the bid was anti-competitive was flawed.
“The reality is that he wasn’t judging this bid, he was backing this bid and so he should resign,” said Shadow Culture Secretary Harriet Harman.
Hunt has refused to quit, although a senior aide has.
The controversy surrounding the BskyB bid follows the News of the World hacking scandal. It’s led to allegations that the Murdochs had a “too cosy” relationship with the British government.
Commentators claim Rupert Murdoch is now on the warpath after being vilified by the British political establishment, which used to cow-tow to him.
Murdoch appeared before the Leveson media ethics inquiry on Wednesday telling officials that he wanted “to put certain myths to bed.”
Amid claims he curried favour with former leader Margaret Thatcher and used his media empire to sully Gordon Brown’s reputation, Murdoch said it was Brown’s government who declared war on him.