News Corporation’s bid to gain full control of BSkyB could be derailed after Labour leader Ed Miliband announced plans to hold a Commons vote on whether the takeover decision should be delayed until the criminal investigation into the News of the World is completed.
News Corp, which also owns The Sun and The Times newspapers in the UK, wants to buy the remaining 61% of shares in the company it does not already own.
On 30 June Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt agreed to beefed-up proposals that would see the Sky News station hived off and run as an independent company, to allay fears the deal would give Murdoch’s Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp too much control of the media.
Since then the company has rocked by the phone-hacking crisis which has resulted in the closure of the NoW and the arrest of former editor Andy Coulson, raising questions over whether Murdoch can be considered a ‘fit and proper’owner.
Speaking on BBC 1’s Andrew Marr show today, Miliband said: ‘He [Cameron] has got to understand that when the public have seen the disgusting revelations that we have seen this week, the idea that this organisation, which engaged in these terrible practices, should be allowed to take over BSkyB, to get that 100% stake, without the criminal investigation having been completed and on the basis of assurances from that self-same organisation – frankly that just won’t wash with the public.”
A consultation on News Corp’s bid ended on 1 July, but after receiving more than 100,000 responses to the proposals Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt said it could be months before a decision is made.
“I say this to the Prime Minister candidly: I hope, over the next 72 hours, I hope he changes his position on this because I don’t want to have to force this to a vote,” said Miliband, who is calling for the decision to go before the Competition Commission.
Meanwhile, Miliband also denied claims that his strategy director Tom Baldwin – a former journalist at The Times – had been involved in any wrongdoing after Tory party donor Lord Ashcroft alleged he had asked a private investigator to obtain information about his bank account.
‘People are trying to make a comparison between Andy Coulson, who resigned from the News of the World over phone hacking of the Royal Family, and Tom Baldwin, who works for me,’said Miliband.
“I think this is ridiculous, let me just explain why. Tom Baldwin was engaged in The Times newspaper including an investigation of Michael Ashcroft, about whom there was massive public interest.”
Miliband said that Baldwin ‘absolutely’denied Ashcroft’s allegations.
He continued: “And I have to say that this is pretty desperate stuff because the Prime Minister must answer the real questions at the heart of this affair – about his error of judgment in hiring Andy Coulson and the mounting evidence there now is about the warnings that were given to him before he brought Andy Coulson into the heart of the Government machine.”
According the The Guardian, Miliband will lay the motion tomorrow and the debate and vote will be held on Wednesday.