Labour’s former culture secretary Ben Bradshaw has called on the media watchdog to review its “fit and proper person” assessment of News Corp chairman Rupert Murdoch.
During a session of the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, Bradshaw asked Ofcom chair Colette Bowe whether the recent emergence of a recording appearing to show that Murdoch knew about the practice of making illegal payments to police and other public officials would lead to a review of the judgment.
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Last September, the regulator ruled that Murdoch, as proprietor of BSkyB, was a “fit and proper person” to hold a UK broadcasting licence.
Responding to Bradshaw’s question, Bowe said: “We have got a continuing duty, all the time, to have regard to the fitness and properness of our licencees and we will always take into account any relevant evidence. I am not prepared at this stage to say any more than that."
Bradshaw pressed Bowe, asking whether the recording of Murdoch admitting that paying public officials for stories was part of “the culture of Fleet Street” should prompt a review.
He said that last September’s ruling “struck a lot of us as finely balanced”.
He continued: “You said on the evidence currently available you were ruling that way and if further evidence came to light you would review. Now surely this constitutes significant new evidence which you are bound to consider.”
But Bowe said it would not “be right for me in this forum to talk in detail about the fitness and properness of any of our licencees”. She would also not be drawn on a further question from Bradshaw over what might prompt a review.
The CMS committee has said it will recall Murdoch to give fresh evidence following the explosive revelations contained on the recording, during which he answered questions from Sun journalists who had been arrested on bribery charges. Murdoch is expected to appear before MPs in the autumn.
Also yesterday, detectives on Operation Elveden, the Met’s investigation into illegal payments, said they would assess the recordings, obtained by investigative website Exaro News.