Hacked Off - the campaign for a free and accountable press - has called on Ofcom to investigate the £18bn 21st Century Fox/Sky deal not only on competition grounds “but on whether Rupert and James Murdoch continue to pass the ‘fit and proper person’ test.”
Citing “recent revelations around email deletions” and “the conviction of the Murdoch ‘favourite’ Mazher Mahmood,” Hacked Off claimed only a Leveson Phase 2 Inquiry can “get to the truth” of whether or not the Murdoch media empire should be allowed to proceed with the Sky deal.
At present Fox holds a 39% stake in Sky and four years ago News Corp - the name for Murdoch’s empire before it split and 21st Century Fox formed - attempted an acquisition of Sky but was thwarted by political opposition amid the phone hacking scandal.
Hacked Off also called into question prime minister Theresa May’s “secret” meeting with Rupert Murdoch in its statement, commenting: “It is surely more than a coincidence that the prime minister’s secret meeting in New York with Rupert Murdoch was followed swiftly by her attempt to cancel the Leveson Phase 2 Inquiry into the News Corp hacking cover-up, and then this takeover bid.”
Speaking to The Drum yesterday, when news of the deal emerged, media analyst and former media editor, Paul Connew, said: “Before the phone hacking scandal scuppered the Murdoch’s bid in 2011, an alliance of most major newspaper companies launched a legal challenge to the plan.
“It will be interesting to see whether they decide to revive their previous challenges to the deal on competition and concentration of media ownership grounds.”
The bid had been rumoured since January when James Murdoch returned as Sky chairman, following yesterday’s announcement Sky shares jumped nearly 30% on the Stock Exchange to £10.26.