Culture secretary to rule on BSkyB

THE OUTCOME of News Corp’s bid to buy a majority stake in BSkyB will be decided by Jeremy Hunt, in the wake of Vince Cable’s comments that he had “declared war” on Rupert Murdoch.

The business secretary, who has been stripped of his power to rule on the takeover, will no longer play a role in deciding whether the deal will impact on the plurality of the media.

Instead, culture secretary Jeremy Hunt will take on the responsibility, as well as a new role in charge of all broadcasting competition issues.

Hunt, a Conservative who has previously openly backed Rupert Murdoch, will pass judgment on an Ofcom report into the takeover.

In 2008 the then shadow culture secretary told Broadcast Magazine additional Murdoch owned news channels would not impact on media plurality.

He said: “Rather than worry about Rupert Murdoch owning another TV channel, what we should recognise is that he has probably done more to create variety and choice in British TV than any other single person because of his huge investment in setting up Sky TV which, at one point, was losing several million pounds a day.”

A political backlash could be sparked should Hunt decide not to intervene, though blocking the takeover could also raise concerns over the impartiality of the inquiry process from its inception.

Culture minister Ed Vaizey will now work solely for the Department of Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) on media policy, whilst more than 70 Whitehall officials will move from the business department to DCMS.