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George Osborne and Rupert Murdoch pre-BBC cuts meetings put under spotlight

A spotlight has been shone on meetings that George Osborne held with News Corp executives, including Rupert Murdoch, in the weeks between Conservatives winning the general election in early May and the controversial £650m cut to the BBC's budget announced on 6 July.

New data published by HM Treasury reveals Osborne and Murdoch met twice in June. However, the context of the meeting was not disclosed with the pair described simply as a having a “general discussion.”

The meeting with the News Corp mogul appears to have taken place before Osborne met BBC director general Tony Hall to discuss plans for it to pay the cost of funding TV licences for the over-75s.

The chancellor also held meetings with the then Sun editor, David Dinsmore, the same month and News Corp chief executive Robert Thomson in May. Details of the funding cuts were then revealed in News Corp's Sunday Times on 5 July.

On 6 July, the government formally announced that it had reached an agreement with the BBC to drop licence fee charges for over-75s, leaving the corporation with a £650m drop in licence fee income in 2017/18.

Following the settlement, shadow culture secretary Chris Bryant questioned Osbourne's relationship with Murdoch and said the potential benefits to News Corp from a weakened BBC meant it was in the public interest for him to detail his dealing with Murdoch.

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