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LONDON – British prime minister David Cameron told the BBC on Sunday that there was “no grand deal” with Rupert Murdoch‘s News Corp. over the conglomerate’s failed bid to acquire full control of U.K. pay TV operator BSkyB.
The Leveson Inquiry, which has probed the U.K. media’s relationship with politics and the public, has looked into whether Murdoch’s company promised support for Cameron’s conservative party during the 2010 elections in exchange for regulatory support of the deal.
“The idea [that] there was some grand bargain between me and Rupert Murdoch – that is just not true,” Cameron said on BBC1 on Sunday.
“The thing that people are asking is was there some big deal, some big agreement between me and Rupert Murdoch or James Murdoch that in return for support for the Conservative party I would somehow help their business interests or allow this merger to go through,” he said, shrugging off the suggestion that he tailored his policies to the liking of “this [media] proprietor or that proprietor.” He added that and said he was ready to also say this “under oath” in front of the Leveson Inquiry.
The fact that Cameron’s party and other politicians worked to win the support of media ahead of the 2010 election was “no great mystery,” but common practice, the prime minister emphasized, signaling none of his behavior was inappropriate.
That also was true for a holiday party at the home of Rebekah Brooks, the former CEO of News International, the U.K. newspaper arm of News Corp., he said. While Cameron confirmed that he discussed certain topics with News Corp. deputy COO and Murdoch son James Murdoch, who back then was chairman of News International, he said there were not “any inappropriate conversations.”
Meanwhile, the Sunday Times, part of Murdoch’s company, reported that Brooks was willing to disclose text messages and emails that she exchanged with Cameron. The two are believed to have been in regular contact.
Observers here are keeping a close eye on the potential political fallout of the Leveson Inquiry for Cameron and other politicians. Following appearances by Rupert and James Murdoch in front of the inquiry earlier this week, U.K. Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt has come under pressure to resign as the opposition has argued he had inappropriately close contact with News Corp. during the review of the BSkyB transaction. His adviser Adam Smith resigned earlier in the week, while Hunt is expected to tell his side of the story in front of the Leveson inquiry in the near future.
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