UK Prime Minister Says No Deal Made With Murdoch, News Corp
First Published Sunday, 29th April 2012 12:06 pm - © 2012 Dow Jones
LONDON -(Dow Jones)- U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron said Sunday there was no agreement between him and Rupert Murdoch, or his son James Murdoch, to support News Corp.'s (NWS, NWS.AU, NWSA) business interests in return for the media company's support of his Conservative party.
"The idea there was some grand bargain between me and Rupert Murdoch - that is not true," he said in a interview with BBC television.
The government's links with media groups, in particular News Corp., have come under renewed scrutiny this week after the special adviser to the culture minister resigned over his close contacts with the Murdoch-owned company during its efforts to take control of pay-television operator British Sky Broadcasting Group PLC (BSY.LN) last year.
Opposition lawmakers have called for Jeremy Hunt, the minister for culture media and sport, to also resign over the allegations he was too close to New Corp while he handled the regulatory process over the BSkyB bid.
Hunt has said he acted with "scrupulous fairness throughout" the process and pledged to give evidence on the matter before Brian Leveson, a government-appointed judge who is conducting a public inquiry into British media practices.
Cameron again backed his culture secretary, saying he had done an excellent job. As for his own conduct, he admitted that he had wanted the support of as many newspapers and media commentators as possible, but he did not govern or change his policies to suit media proprietors.
"People watching this need to know, the positions I reach are because I believe them, I think they are right for our country; that's the platform I stand on," he said.
Cameron said he would abide by what the Leveson inquiry requests. There was too much "closeness" in the relationship between politics and the media and the problem had been going on for a long time, he said.
"We've got the opportunity as a coalition government with a judge-led inquiry whose terms are agreed by all three party leaders, we have got the opportunity to get it to a much, much better place," the prime minister said.
Cameron reiterated that he would not set up a parallel investigation into whether Jeremy Hunt broke ministerial rules, saying the Leveson inquiry must be allowed to take its course. However, he said he would act before the Leveson inquiry ended if evidence arose that indicated Hunt has acted improperly.
"If information arises that paints a different picture from the one that we have heard then obviously I know my responsibilities towards the ministerial code, towards how ministers behave, and I would act," he said. "As things stand I don't believe Jeremy Hunt breached the ministerial code."
News Corp.'s bid to take full control of BSkyB collapsed last July after revelations of phone hacking at News Corp.'s U.K. tabloid, News of the World. News Corp. owns a 39.1% stake in BSkyB.
News Corp. also owns Dow Jones Newswires and the Wall Street Journal.
-By Nicholas Winning, Dow Jones Newswires, +44 207 842 9498; firstname.lastname@example.org