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LONDON – Britain’s business secretary Vince Cable has told undercover reporters that he has “declared war” on Rupert Murdoch, and that he expects to block News Corp.’s bid to take over British satcaster BSkyB.
Cable is the British government minister who will decide whether Murdoch will be allowed to take control of the 61% of BSkyB News Corp doesn’t already own, and his comments come before the media regulator has formally submitted evidence on the deal. They are therefore likely to be highly embarrassing to the government, which is supposed to be impartial when it comes to overseeing the deal.
Cable was recorded telling two undercover reporters from the Daily Telegraph newspaper that the deal would not go through.
“You may wonder what is happening with the Murdoch press,” Cable said. “I have declared war on Mr. Murdoch and I think we’re going to win,” he told two reporters posing as party supporters in constituency.
Later in the same conversation he said that he would use his influence to block the deal.
“I have blocked it, using the powers that I have got. And they are legal powers that I have got. I can’t politicize it, but for the people who know what is happening, this is a big thing. His whole empire is now under attack. So there are things like that, that being in Government …,” the Telegraph reported.
The comments, which suggest that Cable has already made up his mind on a deal that is currently being reviewed by regulators, could yet cost the British minister his job, coming as they as the highly sensitive deal is being reviewed.
Already, opposition Members of Parliament have called on him to step aside and let someone else make this decision.
“I really don’t see how he can make this decision now. The whole point about ministers making these decisions is that they are supposed to be impartial,” said Philip Davies, a Conservative MP, speaking on the BBC News. It would be extraordinary if he did not step aside.”
A spokeswoman for News Corporation said the company was astonished at the comments.
“News Corp. is shocked and dismayed by reports of Mr. Cable’s comments.They raise serious question’s about fairness and due process.”
The deal was given unconditional approval by European Commission earlier on Tuesday.
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