Tag Archives: BskyB bid

Labour calls for amendments to media takeover rules

Labour is calling for an “emergency” amendment to the law in relation to media takeovers to give ministers greater power to intervene, following News Corporation’s bid for BSkyB.

According to an announcement by the party on Sunday (28 August) it hopes to “close legal loopholes” identified during News Corporation’s bid for BSkyB, before the conclusion of the Leveson inquiry. News Corporation eventually withdrew its bid as phone hacking allegations continued to be mounted against its now-closed News of the World title.

Under the proposed amendments to Section 58 of the Enterprise Act 2002, outlined by shadow culture secretary Ivan Lewis in a letter to culture secretary Jeremy Hunt and Liberal Democrat MP Don Foster, ministers would be given powers to ask regulators to apply “a wide ranging public interest test as well as a fit and proper person test”, from the start.

The changes also call for ministers to be able to intervene at any stage “if new information came to light”. Lewis will put these proposed measures before both the House of Commons and House of Lords when the summer recess ends in less than a week.

Prime Minister’s statement to House of Commons in full

David Cameron recalled MPs before the summer recess to discuss the developing issues relating to phone hacking.

Here is his full statement read to the House of Commons before the debate:

With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a statement.

Over the past two weeks, a torrent of revelations and allegations has engulfed some of this country’s most important institutions.

It has shaken people’s trust in the media and the legality of what they do, in the police and their ability to investigate media malpractice, and, yes, in politics and in politicians’ ability to get to grips with these issues.

People desperately want us to put a stop to the illegal practices, to ensure the independence and effectiveness of the police and to establish a more healthy relationship between politicians and media owners.

Above all, they want us to act on behalf of the victims: people who have suffered dreadfully – including through murder and terrorism – and who have had to re-live that agony all over again because of phone hacking.

The public want us to work together to sort this problem out, because until we do so it will not be possible to get back to the issues they care about even more, getting our economy moving, creating jobs, helping with the cost of living, protecting them from terrorism, restoring fairness to our welfare and immigration systems.

Let me set out the action that we have taken.

We now have a well-led police investigation which will examine criminal behaviour by the media and corruption in the police.

We’ve set up a wide-ranging and independent judicial inquiry under Lord Justice Leveson to establish what went wrong, why and what we need to do to ensure it never happens again.

I am the first prime minister to publish meetings with media editors, proprietors and senior executives to bring complete transparency to the relationship between government ministers and the media – stretching right back to the general election.

And the House of Commons, by speaking so clearly about its revulsion at the phone-hacking allegations, helped to cause the end of the News Corp bid for the rest of BSkyB.

Today, I would like to update the house on the action that we are taking.

First, on the make-up and remit of the public inquiry.

And second, on issues concerning the police service.

And third, I will answer – I am afraid Mr Speaker at some length – all of the key questions that have been raised about my role and that of my staff.

So first, the judicial inquiry and the panel of experts who will assist it.

Those experts will be:

The civil liberties campaigner and director of Liberty, Shami Chakrabarti;

The former chief constable of the West Midlands, Sir Paul Scott-Lee;

The former chairman of OfCOM, Lord David Currie;

The longserving former political editor of Channel 4 news, Elinor Goodman;

The former political editor of the Daily Telegraph, and fomer special correspondent of the press association, George Jones;

And the former chairman of the Financial Times, Sir David Bell.

These people have been chosen not only for their expertise in the media, broadcasting, regulation and policing, but for their complete independence from the interested parties.

Mr Speaker, I also said last week that the inquiry will proceed in two parts and I set out a draft terms of reference.

We have consulted with Lord Justice Leveson, with the opposition, the chairs of relevant select committees and the devolved administrations.

I also talked to the family of Milly Dowler and the Hacked Off campaign.

We have made some significant amendments to the remit of the inquiry.

With allegations that the problem of the relationship between the press and the police goes wider than just the Met, we have agreed that other relevant forces will now be within the scope of the inquiry.

We have agreed that the inquiry should consider not just the relationship between the press, police and politicians but their individual conduct too.

And we have also made clear that the inquiry should look at not just the press but other media organisations – including broadcasters and social media – if there is any evidence that they have been involved in criminal activities.

I am today placing in the library of the house the final terms of reference.

Lord Justice Leveson and the panel will get to work immediately.

He will aim to make a report on the first part of the inquiry within 12 months.

Mr Speaker, there should be no doubt:

This public inquiry is as robust as possible.

It is fully independent.

Lord Justice Leveson will be able to summon witnesses under oath.

Mr Speaker, let me now turn to the extraordinary events we have seen over the past few days at Britain’s largest police force – the Met.

On Sunday, Sir Paul Stephenson resigned as commissioner of the Metropolitan police.

I want to thank him for the work he has carried out in policing over many, many years in London and elsewhere.

On Monday, assistant commissioner John Yates also resigned and again I want to express my gratitude for the work he has done, especially in improving our response to terrorism.

Given the sudden departure of two such senior officers, the first concern must be to ensure the effective policing of our capital – and that confidence in that policing – is maintained.

I have asked the home secretary and mayor of London to ensure that the responsibilities of the Met will continue seamlessly.

The current deputy commissioner – Tim Godwin – who stood in for Paul Stephenson when he was ill, and did a good job, will shortly do so again.

The vital counter-terrorism job, carried out by John Yates, will be taken on by the highly experienced Cressida Dick.

The responsibilities of the deputy commissioner – which the house will remember include general oversight of the vital investigations both into hacking and into the police – Operations Weeting and Elveden will not be done by someone from inside the Met, but instead by Bernard Hogan-Howe who will join temporarily from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary.

We are also looking to speed up the process for selecting and appointing the next commissioner.

But Mr Speaker, we cannot hope that a change in personnel at the top of the Met is enough.

The simple fact is that this whole affair raises huge issues about the ethics and practices of our police.

Let me state plainly – the vast majority of our police officers are beyond reproach, and serve the public with distinction.

But police corruption must be rooted out.

Operation Elveden and Lord Justice Leveson’s inquiry are charged with doing just this.

But I believe we can, and must, do more.

Put simply there are two problems.

First, a perception that when problems arise it is still “the police investigating the police”.

And second a lack of transparency in terms of police contacts with the media

We are acting on both.

These were precisely the two points that my Rt Hon Friend the home secretary addressed in her statement to this house on Monday.

We believe this crisis calls for us to stand back and take another, broader look at the whole culture of policing in this country, including the way it is led.

At the moment, the police system is too closed.

There is only one point of entry into the force.

There are too few – and arguably too similar – candidates for the top jobs.

As everyone knows, Tom Winsor is looking into police careers, and I want to see radical proposals for how we can open up our police force and bring in fresh leadership.

The government is introducing elected police and crime commissioners, ensuring there is an individual holding their local force to account on behalf of local people.

And we need to see if we can extend that openness to the operational side too.

Why should all police officers have to start at the same level?

Why shouldn’t someone with a different skill-set be able to join the police force in a senior role?

Why shouldn’t someone, who has been a proven success overseas, be able to help turn around a force at home?

I think these are questions we must ask to achieve the greater transparency and stronger corporate governance that we need in Britain’s policing.

Finally let me turn to the specific questions I have been asked in recent days.

First, it has been suggested that my chief of staff was behaving wrongly when he didn’t take up then assistant commissioner Yates’s offer to be briefed on police investigations around phone hacking.

I have said repeatedly about the police investigation that they should purse the evidence wherever it leads and arrest exactly who they wish.

And that is exactly what they have done.

No 10 has now published the full email exchange between my chief of staff and John Yates and it shows my staff behaved entirely properly.

Ed Llewellyn’s reply to the police made clear that it would be not be appropriate to give me or my staff any privileged briefing.

The reply that he sent was cleared in advance by my permanent secretary, Jeremy Heywood.

Just imagine, Mr Speaker if they had done the opposite and asked for, or acquiesced in receiving privileged information – even if there was no intention to use it.

There would have been quite justified outrage.

To risk any perception that No 10 was seeking to influence a sensitive police investigation in any way would have been completely wrong.

Mr Yates and Sir Paul both backed this judgment in their evidence yesterday.

Indeed, as John Yates said: “The offer was properly and understandably rejected.”

The cabinet secretary and the chair of the home affairs select committee have both now backed that judgement too.

Next, there is the question as to whether the ministerial code was broken in relation to the BSkyB merger and meetings with News International executives.

The cabinet secretary has ruled very clearly that the code was not broken – not least because I had asked to be entirely excluded from the decision.

Next, I would like to set the record straight on another question that arose yesterday – whether the Conservative Party had also employed Neil Wallis.

The Conservative Party chairman has ensured that all the accounts have been gone through and has confirmed to me that neither Neil Wallis nor his company has ever been employed by or contracted by the Conservative Party – nor has the Conservative Party made payments to either of them.

It has been drawn to our attention that he may have provided Andy Coulson with some informal advice on a voluntary basis before the election.

To the best of my knowledge I didn’t know anything about this until Sunday night.

But as with revealing this information, we will be entirely transparent about this issue.

Finally Mr Speaker, there is the question whether everyone – the media, the police, politicians – is taking responsibility in an appropriate manner.

I want to address my own responsibilities very directly – and that brings me to my decision to employ Andy Coulson.

I have said very clearly that if it turns out Andy Coulson knew about the hacking at the News of the World he will not only have lied to me but he will have lied to the police, to a select committee, to the Press Complaints Commission and, of course, perjured himself in a court of law.

More to the point, if that comes to pass, he could also expect to face severe criminal charges.

I have an old fashioned view about “innocent until proven guilty”.

But if it turns out I have been lied to, that would be a moment for a profound apology.

And, in that event, I can tell you I will not fall short.

My responsibilities are for hiring him – and for the work he did in Downing Street.

On the work he did, I will repeat, perhaps not for the last time, that his work at Downing Street has not been the subject of any serious complaint.

And, of course, he left months ago.

On the decision to hire him, I believe I have answered every question about this.

It was my decision. I take responsibility.

People will, of course, make judgements about it.

Of course I regret and I am extremely sorry about the furore it has caused.

With 20:20 hindsight – and all that has followed – I would not have offered him the job and I expect that he wouldn’t have taken it.

But you don’t make decisions in hindsight; you make them in the present.

You live and you learn – and believe you me, I have learnt.

I look forward to answering any and all questions about these issues – and following the statement I will open the debate.

But the greatest responsibility I have is to clear up this mess – so let me finish by saying this.

There are accusations of criminal behaviour – by parts of the press and potentially by the police where the most rapid and decisive action is required.

There are the issues of excessive closeness to media groups and media owners where both Labour and Conservative have to make a fresh start.

There is the history of missed warnings – select committee reports, information commissioner reports – missed by the last government but yes also missed by the official opposition too.

What the public expects is not petty point scoring, but what they want, what they deserve, is concerted action to rise to the level of events and pledge to work together to sort this issue once and for all.

And it is in that spirit that I commend this statement to the house.

Jeremy Hunt considering impact of News of the World closure on BSkyB bid

In a statement today the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) announced that culture secretary Jeremy Hunt is currently considering whether the announcement regarding the News of the World’s closure has any impact on the question of media plurality in relation to News Corporation’s bid for BSkyB.

The latest consultation on the bid closed at noon today. At the end of last month Hunt said he plans to give the takeover bid the go ahead, subject to a minor new consultation.

In a statement the DCMS said Hunt had “always been clear that he will take as long as is needed to reach a decision”.

The secretary of state will consider carefully all the responses submitted and take advice from Ofcom and the Office of Fair Trading before reaching his decision. Given the volume of responses, we anticipate that this will take some time. He will consider all relevant factors including whether the announcement regarding the News of the World’s closure has any impact on the question of media plurality.

NUJ to protest against green light for News Corp’s BSkyB takeover

The National Union of Journalists is planning to protest at noon today outside the Department of Culture, Media and Sport headquarters in London, following culture secretary Jeremy Hunts’ announcement that he plans to give News Corp’s BSkyB takeover bid the go-ahead, subject to a minor new consultation.

The union has been readied for a demonstration since earlier indicators that Hunt was preparing to give the green light to the merger, and today confirmed the details.

NUJ members are urged to attend the event, which has been organised by the NUJ, the Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom and campaigning groups Avaaz and 38 Degrees.

In reference to the ongoing phone hacking investigation the NUJ’s general secretary Jeremy Dear said: “The NUJ stands opposed to News Corporation’s bid to extend its power. It is unacceptable that the BSkyB merger is even being considered whilst serious charges are outstanding. The NUJ wants the phone hacking scandal at the News of the World to be the subject of a full judicial inquiry, and the development of a media governed by public and not corporate interest.”

Financial Times: Clearance on BSkyB bid delayed by at least two weeks

Clearance on News Corporation‘s bid for the remainder of BSkyB will be delayed by at least two weeks, the Financial Times reported this week, “after a hitch in negotiations between Rupert Murdoch’s media group and UK regulators”.

People familiar with the talks between the two sides said on Monday, that the delay had been caused by the level of detail that Ofcom, the broadcasting regulator, and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport required in a merger remedy offered by News Corp.

The remedy was for Sky News to be spun off into a separate company called Newco to address concerns for media plurality.

See the full FT report here (FT.com does operate a registration model).

Guardian: Shadow culture secretary calls for end to politics in media takeovers

Culture secretary Jeremy Hunt has reportedly said he will consider the introduction of “new provisions in respect of media plurality” in a new Communications Bill, following calls for quasi-judicial roles to be removed from ministers in media ownership decisions.

The Guardian reports today that shadow culture minister Ivan Lewis wrote to culture secretary Jeremy Hunt earlier this year with a series of questions relating to News Corporation’s bid for BSkyB.

At the end of his letter Lewis asked the culture secretary if he would consider provisions in the new Communications Bill for the removal of politicians from having any quasi-judicial role “in relation to specific plurality and cross media ownership decisions”.

In a response, which appears to have been posted on Scribd by the Guardian, Hunt reportedly says he will be considering new provisions.

I will be publishing a green paper by the end of the year and seeking views this year in order to scope what it should include.

Following the green paper consultation we will look to make necessary changes as soon as practicable; not everything will necessarily require primary legislation and we are open to looking at what can be done more quickly where appropriate.

The correspondence comes as News Corp’s bid for full ownership of BSkyB is considered, following the acceptance by Hunt of proposals put forward by News Corp in response to concerns raised over media plurality.

This included the spinning-off of Sky News under a separate publicly limited company called Newco.

The Guardian says a decision on the deal is expected “possible as early as next week”.

Vince Cable on Telegraph recording: “I thought about resigning”

Business secretary Vince Cable had thought about resigning following the exposés by the Daily Telegraph on comments he made while being secretly recorded by undercover journalists, the BBC reported today.

Cable was stripped of the responsibility for making a decision over News Corp’s bid for BSkyB following the comments he made, which included him saying he had “declared war on Mr Murdoch”.

Cable was being recorded by the reporters, who posed as Lib Dem voters in his constituency. The Press Complaints Commission said in January it would be investigating the “use of subterfuge”.

Asked by BBC World At One, broadcast today, reporter Becky Milligan if he had thought at the time that he should resign Cable said he had “certainly thought about it”.

The people who I’m closest to and have the most respect for, including my own family of course, thought that wasn’t the right thing to do.

… That six weeks or so was quite dreadful. You’re under a lot of pressure, political and emotional, you discover you’re friends.

Later asked if David Cameron and Nick Clegg were supportive he said they wanted to keep him in the government, but “were not happy about what had happened”.

Guardian: Telegraph journalists ‘provisionally cleared’ by leak investigation

The Guardian has reported that journalists at the Telegraph have been ‘provisionally cleared’ by an internal investigation reportedly being carried out to look into how taped recordings of Vince Cable “declaring war” on Rupert Murdoch were picked up by the BBC.

Some of the comments made by the business secretary in relation to News Corporation’s bid for BSkyB, which were recorded by undercover reporters from the Telegraph and had not been published by the paper at the time were instead reported by BBC business editor Robert Peston on his blog.

According to the Guardian the inquiry, which it claims was being carried out by private investigation firm Kroll, has “initially concluded that none of the paper’s editorial staff were involved in the leak of the explosive recording”.

The Telegraph Media Group previously told Journalism.co.uk that it does not comment on internal security matters.

The Press Complaints Commission is currently investigating the ‘use of subterfuge’ in the Cable expose, under Clause 10 (Clandestine devices and subterfuge) of the Editors’ Code of Practice.

Telegraph: Sky News to be ‘hived off’ into independent trust

The Telegraph has reported that it understands that it is to be proposed that Sky News is ‘hived off’ into an independent trust as part of News Corporation’s efforts to assure Ofcom that its bid for full ownership of BSkyB will not reduce media plurality.

In January culture secretary Jeremy Hunt announced that he had delayed his decision over whether to refer News Corporation’s BSkyB bid to the Competition Commission, as advised by Ofcom, in order to hear further “undertakings” from the company.

According to the Telegraph’s report the soon-to-be proposed independent trust would be funded by News Corp  in the long-term.

Essentially, the arrangement will see Mr Murdoch’s News Corporation cede control of Sky News.

Government sources said yesterday that Jeremy Hunt, the culture secretary, has not yet made his decision, as he is waiting to receive the submissions from the OFT and Ofcom.

New Statesman: Lay off Murdoch, says leaked Labour memo

The New Statesman’s Dan Hodges claims to have obtained an email sent on behalf of Ed Miliband’s director of strategy Tom Baldwin to all shadow cabinet teams.

The email reportedly

warns Labour spokespeople to avoid linking hacking with the BSkyB bid, to accept ministerial assurances that meetings with Rupert Murdoch are not influencing that process and to ensure that complaints about tapping are made in a personal, not shadow ministerial, capacity.

Full story on the New Statesman at this link.