When Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation sought complete ownership of BSkyB five years ago the House of Commons united behind a motion calling for the bid to be withdrawn in the public interest. The concerns were not only about the serious wrongdoing being uncovered in the phone hacking scandal but about the concentration of media power and ownership in fewer hands.
As soon as possible after Sky announced it had received an approach from 21st Century Fox, the Labour Party asked an Urgent Question in the House of Commons, forcing the Government to make a statement. The Government was rightly pressed to refer the bid to Ofcom. The Government must be prepared to stand up to powerful interests and ensure that this proposed deal is properly and independently scrutinised.
The Government has stated that any transaction will be looked at on its merits, on a case-by-case basis. I understand the frustration caused by the lack of a decision to date. The Government promised on 12 December to keep the House of Commons updated and I hope it will express its view to Parliament before Christmas.
Moreover, the Government should not cancel the vital second part of the Leveson Inquiry, which would look at questions around unlawful or improper conduct within the Murdoch empire, at exactly the moment when Rupert Murdoch is attempting once again to strengthen his hold over the UK media.
I will continue to follow the proposed takeover closely.