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Tom Watson urges government to stand up to 'Murdoch aggression' over Sky takeover

3 min read

Tom Watson has urged Karen Bradley to stand up to the "aggression" of Rupert Murdoch after the Culture Secretary delayed a final decision on Fox’s planned takeover of Sky.

The minister said she had received more than ten thousand responses since announcing her intention to send the £11.7bn deal to the Competition and Markets Authority over concerns about what the deal could mean for media plurality.

Both Sky and 21st Century Fox were among the respondents but neither party offered amendments or concessions about the terms of the deal, she said.

Shadow Culture Secretary Mr Watson - who was a leading campaigner during the News of the World phone hacking scandal - urged Ms Bradley to stand up to the “intimidating” tone of Mr Murdoch’s company, and said the decision should be deferred until after Parliament’s summer recess.

He said: "We know that aggression is the Murdoch’s modus operandi... We urge the Secretary of State to keep standing firm. In particular, there is absolutely no need for the Secretary of State to make a decision during recess.

"It is not her job to operate to 21st Century Fox’s timetable."

But the minister, who has a quasi-judicial role in adjudicating on the takeover, said she reserved the right to make a “sufficiently speedy” before MPs returned.

She said: “Given the consultation only closed on Friday, there has not been time to consider all the representations, and I am not in a position today to make my final decision on referral.

“What I can do, however, is confirm to the House that having carefully reviewed the parties’ representations, and in the absence of further proposed undertakings, I am currently still minded-to refer on the media plurality ground and still minded-not-to accept the undertakings in lieu of a referral.”

Ms Bradley said one of the reasons she was unable to make a final decision yet was the mass email campaigns which bombarded her office.

She said one morning she had logged on to find more than 10,000 emails in her inbox, which “get in the way of being able to be a constituency MP”.

“It’s a shame for people who, in good faith, want to have their voice heard, that they get drowned out,” she added. 

Tory backbencher Jacob Rees-Mogg accused Labour of pursuing a “socialist vendetta against the Murdoch family” – and turned his fire on the BBC instead.

“The real opponent of media plurality is the bloated BBC, taxpayer-funded which likes to give millions of pounds to presenters some of us have never heard of,” he said.

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