NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear has said the proposed deal by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation to take full control of BSkyB should not be considered while the phone-hacking allegations at the News of the World remain unresolved.
Speaking at a public meeting in the House of Commons about media diversity and the proposed BSkyB deal last night, Dear said it was wrong to give Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt the final say because of his past favourable comments about Murdoch and Sky.
Dear, repeating a phrase from Henry Porter's article in the Observer on Sunday, said the "stench of corruption" was growing day by day over News International's alleged "collusion" with police over the investigation into phone-hacking by the News of the World and the close links between the Murdoch empire and the Conservative leadership.
Dear asked: "How can a decision to hand Murdoch Sky be left to Jeremy Hunt when he has praised Sky and Murdoch and criticised the BBC?"
He said it was"unacceptable that this merger is still being considered" when the phone-hacking allegations were still under investigation. Dear claimed if the BBC had been embroiled in a similar scandal the Murdoch press would be demanding "that heads roll".
The NUJ leader also argued: "Sky News has an independent voice because it has independent directors and shareholders. Rupert Murdoch has said Sky is not yet like Fox News because 'nobody at Sky listens to me'."
Dear argued that with Rupert Murdoch economic control was followed by editorial control via his appointment of executives and editors that supported his views. "Every single one of his 175 newspapers had the same pro-war line on the Iraq war," he said. "We call on the Government to stop this merger."
PA reports that Hunt told a debate on the future of the media at the London School of Economics last night that he expects his decision on whether to allow the proposed takeover of BSkyB by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation to be "judicially challenged" whatever decision he comes to. He said: "I can't get drawn on this, sorry. This is a decision that is likely to be judicially challenged by the side that is disappointed."
PA also reports the LSE debate was interrupted after 20 minutes when student demonstrators walked into the hall and began to barrack Hunt, chanting "Minister of Culture, Tory Vulture" and "Tory scum" and questioning whether he could be a neutral judge of the proposed takeover. ( See it on YouTube)
- Hunt tweeted: "On tube going home after LSE interview which was considerably livened up by chanting student demonstrators. Happy New Political Year...."