LONDON (Reuters) - Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown urged Britain to delay Rupert Murdoch’s proposed deal to buy European pay-TV group Sky until the government completes an inquiry into a phone hacking scandal, the Guardian said on Wednesday.
Murdoch’s Twenty-First Century Fox announced a preliminary deal to buy the rest of Sky it does not already own for $14 billion last Friday, five years after a hacking scandal at one of his tabloid newspapers derailed a previous attempt.
The scandal triggered a year-long public inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the press, led by senior judge Brian Leveson, that interviewed former prime ministers, celebrities and public figures.
A second part of the inquiry into specific claims around hacking has not started and the government is consulting the industry on whether it is still in the public interest.
Brown said in a statement sent to Reuters that he was calling for the second part of the inquiry to take place but did not mention the bid.
“It is clear that, given these questions (about wrongdoing), the Leveson 2 inquiry should take place in advance of any final decision related to the future of Sky TV,” the Guardian newspaper quoted Brown as saying in a letter to the government department responsible for media.
Murdoch’s bid for Sky was pulled in 2011 following public outrage at his now defunct tabloid the News of the World, some of whose staff hacked into phones to break news.
People familiar with the matter have told Reuters that Fox and Sky are working to hammer out the final details and could announce an agreement by the end of this week, possibly as soon as Thursday.
Any bid will be examined by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to see whether it damages media plurality in Britain. The department declined to comment.
Reporting by Kate Holton and Paul Sandle; Editing by Adrian Croft