Jeremy Hunt to oversee NewCorp’s BSkyB bid after Cable gaffe

Business secretary Vince Cable has been stripped of his powers to oversee NewsCorp’s takeover of BSkyB after claiming to undercover journalists he had “declared war” on Rupert Murdoch’s “empire”.

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The Liberal Democrat minister will still keep his post as business secretary but will have no responsibility for media policy and competition, with the task now falling to culture secretary Jeremy Hunt.

In a leak to BBC business editor Robert Peston, it emerged that Cable told undercover Daily Telegraph reporters posing as constituents he was looking to block Rupert Murdoch’s attempt to take a majority stake of BSkyB for political reasons – an apparent breach of impartiality laws.

Cable unwittingly told the reporters: “I have declared war or Mr Murdoch, I think I’ll win. I didn’t politicise it because it was a legal situation. His whole empire is now under attack.”

Yesterday (21 December) NewsCorp won EU approval for its bid to takeover the 61% of BSkyB it does not already own.

Earlier in the year Cable had asked Ofcom, the UK’s broadcasting regulator, to assess whether the deal will adversely affect media plurality. Ofcom is due to report back in the new year.

Hunt has previously expressed his approval for BSkyB, in August saying: “BSkyB revolutionised the way we watch TV”.

Soon after NewsCorp’s bid to take full control of BSkyB became public Hunt also said: “It does seem to me that NewsCorp do control Sky already, so it isn’t clear to me that in terms of media plurality there is a substantive change, but I don’t want to second-guess what regulators might decide.”

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg says: “[Vince] recognises, he can’t carry on taking responsibility for that particular decision and that particular policy area. And that’s why the prime minister and I decided to move it elsewhere in government. I think now Vince and the government as a whole can move on.”

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