Britain has referred Rupert Murdoch’s bid for BSkyB to the Competition Commission, taking it out of the political arena as fallout grows from the phone hacking scandal.
It acted after News Corporation withdrew an offer to spin off Sky News into a separate firm as part of a deal many believe should now be abandoned.
“The first thing I would say to Mr Murdoch is drop the bid for BSkyB. That is the most important thing he should do,” said opposition Labour leader Ed Miliband. “He should recognise that the cloud of allegations swirling around News International make it completely untenable for this bid to go ahead.”
He has closed his scandal-hit News of the World paper, but Murdoch is standing by both his bid for satellite broadcaster BSkyB and Rebekah Brooks, the tabloid’s ex-editor, now at the helm of his UK newspaper empire.
But amid pressure over his own links to key figures involved, Britain’s prime minister fired this warning shot:
“If I was running this company right now, BSkyB and News Corporation, I would be focused on clearing up the mess that there is in News International, with all the problems that are still coming out,” said David Cameron. “Deal with that, before you move onto working out which merger and which takeover and how many shares and all the rest of it.”
New revelations include claims that journalists from other Murdoch newspapers tried to hack into the phone of ex-premier and finance minister Gordon Brown. And, as the scandal deepens, it is also alleged the News of the World bought contact details for senior members of Britain’s royal family from a policeman.