Since the Murdochs returned to the front pages, Labour has taken every opportunity to focus attention on Ofcom’s investigation into whether News Corporation is a “fit and proper” owner of the broadcasting licence held by BSkyB. In her numerous interviews on Jeremy Hunt last week, Harriet Harman persistently returned to this subject. Today, on The World At One, Ed Miliband urged Ofcom to “add urgency” to its investigation (the regulator replied that it would not be “rushed into a knee-jerk reaction”). The resultant impression is that Labour is determined for News Corp to lose its lucrative 39.1 per cent stake in BSKyB, a £6.6bn company.
Yesterday’s MPs’ report, which leads today’s editions of the New York Times and the Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal, means that News Corp’s US broadcasting interests have also come under scrutiny for the first time since the scandal broke. A political watchdog, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, has written to federal regulators calling on them to revoke the company’s 27 Fox broadcast licences. The letter states:
The House of Commons report makes clear that both Rupert and James Murdoch were complicit in New Corp.’s illegal activities. If the Murdochs don’t meet the British standards of character test, it is hard to see how they can meet the American standard.
Under Federal Communications Commission regulations, only people with “good character who serve the public interest” can run broadcast frequencies.
Some will dismiss the letter as a fringe protest by an anti-Murdoch group but it’s worth remembering that most on the right said much the same about the Guardian’s investigation into phone-hacking. If Ofcom concludes that News Corp is not a “fit and proper” shareholder of BSkyB it is no longer unthinkable that the company’s US interests could come under threat.