A statement by Ofcom that it has “a duty to be satisfied on an ongoing basis that the holder of a broadcasting licence is ‘fit and proper’” has been interpreted in some media circles that the regulator may intervene in the proposed sale of BSkyB to News Corp.
Ofcom was responding to the increasing furore surrounding the News of the World phone hacking scandal. The crisis has engulfed the News International title this week after it emerged that the families of those involved in high profile tragedies including the London bombings and the murder of schoolgirl Milly Dowler may also have had their phone messages listened to.
The events come over four years after the jailing of the newspaper’s former royal editor Clive Goodman, who pleaded guilty to intercepting phone messages.
It should be noted that Ofcom applies the test to every broadcaster – and not just those that make the daily news agenda. The odds on BSkyB losing its broadcast licence(s) are long to say the least. The most high profile revocation was Bang Media’s four adult channels last autumn for broadcasting content equivalent to BBFC R18 rated material.
At the same time the BBC’s Robert Peston reported that News Corp might be preparing to take a cooling off period in its bid to purchase the 61% of shares in BSkyB it does not already own.
In a statement News Corp chairman Rupert Murdoch said he found the allegations “deplorable and unacceptable”.
Late last month Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport, Jeremy Hunt, has tentatively approved proposals put forward by News Corporation as part of its full acquisition of BSkyB that included the spin-off of Sky News as a separate company.