UK Business Secretary Vince Cable has been stripped of the power to decide the fate of the News Corp bid for the outstanding shares in Sky after he was secretly recorded saying he had “declared war on Mr Murdoch and I think we are going to win.”
Cable thought he was talking, or rather bragging, to constituents who were actually Daily Telegraph reporters. That newspaper ran with the story of him criticizing other government policy yesterday but did not use the section about Murdoch presumably because it agrees with Cable’s conclusion; that News should not be allowed to control Sky.
Ironically Cable’s tirade against Murdoch came out because a Telegraph insider fustrated at the newspaper’s manipulation of the story, leaked it to the BBC. The BBC and the Telegraph had both signed a letter last month to Cable urging him to reject the merger. The BBC Director General was later roundly criticized by the BBC Trust for getting involved in that campaign and was forced to apologize.
Prime Minister David Cameron said regarded Cable’s comments as “unacceptable and inappropriate,” his office said in a statement which reprimanded Cable and curtailed his influence.
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport, led by Conservative Jeremy Hunt, will take charge of media regulation including News Corp’s bid to take full control of BSkyB.
Now that Cable is no longer involved, the chances of the bid being blocked have been reduced. Hunt has in the past praised News Corp’s role in developing Britain’s television news market. Ofcom has been charged with providing advice to the minister concerned (now Hunt) on media plurality issues, but the minister has the final say.