NewsCorp has issued a statement saying that they will now withdraw undertakings made to the UK Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport. The undertakings were originally made to Jeremy Hunt in order to allay concerns over the effect of Rupert Murdoch’s organisation acquiring the BSkyB.
Now that the undertakings have been withdrawn, the Mr Hunt has referred the case to the Competition Commission to decide whether the acquisition will reduce “plurality in news provision in the UK”.
The UK media have leapt on revelations that a number of NewsCorp titles used underhand tactics to obtain exclusives. Even the prestigious Sunday Times has not been immune to allegations made by rival media outlets such as the BBC. The British Prime Minister threw his weight into the furore, ordering an investigation into phone hacking and “blagging” incidents.
Speaking to the UK Parliament following the statement from NewsCorp, Mr Hunt said:
“Protecting our tradition of a strong, free and independent media is the most sacred responsibility I have as Culture Secretary. Irresponsible, illegal and callous behaviour damages that freedom by weakening public support for the self-regulation upon which it has thrived.
“By dealing decisively with the abuses of power we have seen, hopefully on a cross-party basis, this government intends to strengthen and not diminish press freedom, making this country once again proud and not ashamed of the journalism that so shapes our democracy.”
News Corporation has said that it is ready to face the Competition Commission, a challenge that presents less room for the personal discretion of the Culture Minister. The media company has assets of $60 billion and annual revenues of $33 billion.