The prospect of the complete takeover of Sky by Rupert Murdoch is even too much to stomach for the Government, who today referred the proposed buyout to the competition and media regulators.
But one Tory MP broke with the party line to speak out enthusiastically in favour of the buyout by Fox. Former Culture Secretary John Whittingdale described the £11.7 billion bid as a “vote of confidence” in post-Brexit Britain. He said:
“While it is clearly sensible to ask the regulator to examine this bid, will you recognise that this transaction represents an £11.7 billion investment by an international company into a British broadcaster, and as such is a fantastic vote of confidence that the UK will remain an international centre of broadcasting long after we leave the European Union?”
This is not though a new found enthusiasm for the Murdoch empire. Asked by the Independent in 2006, who he most admires in the media and why, he responded:
“Rupert Murdoch has transformed the media in Britain not once but twice. If it wasn’t for him we would still have grubby newspapers run by trade unions that strike at the drop of a hat. And he launched satellite TV. Also Kelvin MacKenzie – because he is courageous, funny and very often right.”
Far from being just an admirer of Rupert Murdoch, he is also quite literally “friends” with the mogul’s daughter, Elisabeth, on Facebook and has met her several times.
He supported Murdoch’s bid to buyout Sky before the phone hacking scandal broke and is apparently unperturbed by the evidence he heard over the scandal as chairman of the Culture, Media and Sport committee.
It led one Whitehall source described him as “the culture secretary Rupert Murdoch dreamt of” when he was elevated to cabinet by David Cameron.
I’m afraid we’ve got no confidence in the views of a man who named the owner of the newspaper at the centre of the phone hacking scandal and the editor behind the Sun’s infamous Hillsborough front page as his media heroes…