London, Jul 11: Rupert Murdoch's attempt to takeover TV channel ‘BSkyB' was today in doubt amid pressure on him to shelve his bid, as everyone tried to distance itself from the media baron who, until a week ago, wielded much influence over British politics.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, whose party, the Liberal Democrats, have consistently criticised the power and influence of Murdoch's media empire, today met the family of murdered teenager Milly Dowler, whose phone was hacked at the behest of the News of the World.
Clegg said: “Rupert Murdoch is now in town in London seeking to sort things out. I would simply say to him, ‘look how people feel about this, look how the country has reacted with revulsion to the revelations'. Do the decent and sensible thing, and reconsider, think again, about your bid for BSkyB.”
There have been other signs that the Murdoch aura may be over in British politics. Murdoch's mass circulation tabloid openly supported Labour before elections until the 2010 election, when he switched sides in favour of the Conservative party.
Prime Minister David Cameron admitted the relationship between politicians and newspaper owners, including Murdoch, had been “too cosy” in the past, and promised that this will now stop.
Labour leader Ed Mliband, whose party prime ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown were second to none in courting Murdoch, often travelling to Australia to meet him, also indicated a break from the past by promising to oppose illegal and unethical news-gathering practices of newspapers.
The chairman of the House of Commons media select committee, Conservative MP John Whittingdale, said the BSkyB bid should be put on hold in the present “poisonous atmosphere”.
Jeremy Hunt, the culture secretary responsible to decide on the BSkyB takeover bid, set in motion a process that has the potential of delaying a decision on the bid for months.
Hunt today referred the BSkyB bid to regulators Ofcom and the Office of Fair Trading.
Meanwhile, the lawyer for Milly Dowler, the British girl, whose phone messages were illegally intercepted by News of the World newspaper, said its editor at that time Rebekah Brooks should resign.
“She should do the honorable thing,” Mark Lewis said. “She was editor at the time Milly was taken. She should take editorial responsibility” for the actions of her journalists, the lawyer said.
Copies of the last edition of News of the World were sold out across the UK as millions of people bought more than one copy of the collector's item, some have already been put up for sale at a higher price online.
Copies flew off the shelves in corner shops and supermarkets even though News International increased the print-run to nearly 5 million copies. PTI