Hacked Off has submitted a response to the Government’s consultation on the draft terms (“Undertakings”) for 21st Century Fox’s purchase of the 61% of Sky it doesn’t already own.
Following the merger scrutiny process, the Government had announced it is minded to grant approval to the deal provided these Undertakings are met.
Hacked Off’s response:
- Showed how the proposed Undertakings give too much discretion to the Secretary of State and not enough to the independent regulator the Competition and Markets Authority, and
- Would risk Sky News’ future independence by opening the door to backdoor influence from Sky through the Brand License Agreement.
The response went on to set out how, in addition to other expressions of bias in favour of the Murdochs, the Secretary of State had compromised his impartial role in scrutinizing the merger by cancelling Part Two of the Leveson Inquiry while the merger was being investigated.
The submission points out:
“The Executive Chairman of News International at the time of the voicemail interception (“phone hacking”) scandal was James Murdoch, who is also the Chief Executive Officer of 21st Century Fox and the Chairman of Sky. This makes him among the most prominent individuals in the proposed merger. His former role at News International means he also bore ultimate responsibility for many of the failures which the Leveson Inquiry Terms of Reference… were designed to address. Other members of the Murdoch family, as owners of News International and through their stake in 21CF through the Murdoch Family Trust, would be put under intense scrutiny in the second half of the Leveson Inquiry, while also having clear interests in the proposed merger proceeding.”
Highlighting the irrationality of the Secretary of State’s decision on Leveson Part Two, the submission adds,
The decision to cancel the Leveson Inquiry before it concluded was;
a. A rejection of the views of the public, as respondents to the Government’s own consultation were in favour of completing the Inquiry by 221,396 to 115,3227*;
b. A rejection of the views of working journalists (National Union of Journalists) & victims of newspaper abuse & intrusion (Hacked Off);
c. The breaking of commitments given to parliament and the victims of press abuse;
d. Rejection of the views of the Chair of the Inquiry who called for it to complete.
Therefore, on any reasonable consideration of the circumstances, it was not only inappropriate to reach a “decision” on the Inquiry, but the content of that decision demonstrates further bias in favour of James Murdoch and the Murdoch family in general.
The submission calls on various amendments to be made to the proposed Undertakings, as well as for the Secretary of State to reverse his decision on the Leveson Inquiry immediately.
* Approximate figures for total respondents, based on the Government’s consultation outcome paper.