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Ivan Lewis's letter to Jeremy Hunt on BSkyB

Ivan Lewis's letter to Jeremy Hunt on BSkyB

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Published by labourlist

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Published by: labourlist on Jul 12, 2011
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07/12/2011

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 Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MPSecretary of State for Culture, Media and SportDepartment of Culture, Media and Sport2-4 Cockspur StreetLondonSW1Y 5DH12
th
July 2011Dear Jeremy
News Corp/BSkyB merger and your referral to the Competition Commission
You will be aware of the deeply held, widespread public concern regarding the proposal by NewsCorp to acquire 100% shares in BSkyB. In the House of Commons yesterday you announced that you
intend to refer News Corp’s bid to the Competition Commission.
We welcome that decision; we have been calling for the matter to be referred to the CompetitionCommission for some time. Nonetheless, we have some grave concerns about the referral being
made, in your words ‘with immediate effect’, and without taking time to fully consider the issues in
light of yet more shocking allegations that have unfolded in recent days regarding not only thebehaviour of reporters at News of the World but also now, The Sun and The Sunday Times.Given the widespread and legitimate concerns that potential criminality and highly unethicalpractices were prevalent across News International and potentially wider still, we believe it would bea dereliction of your duty as Secretary of State with responsibility for this matter to allow this legalprocess to continue without ensuring that the public interest in relation to these fundamental issuesare taken into account.We appreciate the legal technicalities around this issue, and that the Government may feelconstrained by the terms of the reference set out in the Notice issued at the start of the mergerprocess, on 4 November 2010, by the then Secretary of State. At that stage it is understandable(although regrettable) that the public interest considerations put forward related solely to mediaplurality. We are confident that had the Secretary of State at the time been aware of what we nowknow he would have included broadcasting standards as a public interest consideration.The failure of News Corp to disclose such critically important information, about the scale andnature of the wrongdoing, prior to the Secretary of State making the decision about the terms of thereference, particularly as it now appears to have been in the possession of News International since2007, must fundamentally alter the legal path of this merger.However, unless you change the parameters of the original reference to reflect the dramatic changein circumstances, about which we now know, the Competition Commission will be constrained tolook solely at the issue of plurality. This cannot be right.

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