Just got this:-
Many thanks for contacting Nick Clegg MP. I’m replying to letters and emails on his behalf.
Please rest assured that the Liberal Democrats were concerned about the proposal by News Corporation to take over the remaining approximately 60% of the shares in BSkyB that it did not already own, and the greater influence and control over news and current affairs they would have.
Ofcom’s initial report, released on 31st December, recommended that there were enough concerns for this deal to be sent to the Competition Commission. The Secretary of State, on the regulator’s advice (and as the law permits) then gave News Corps the opportunity to offer concessions that would remove the regulator’s concerns.
The subsequent concessions negotiated with Ofcom and the Office of Fair Trading were very substantial.
Crucially, the deal – if implemented – will mean that Sky News is separated from the rest of BSkyB, that News Corp is not allowed to increase its shareholding in Sky News and that there will be legally binding agreements that mean, in effect, News Corporation will have no control over the editorial content of Sky News nor will it be able to hire and fire senior staff. The board of the newly independent Sky News will have a majority of independent directors and the chairman of the board will also be independent.
Additionally, and unlike at present, a Corporate Governance and Editorial Committee will be created to ensure compliance with the principles of editorial independence and integrity in news reporting, and for the first time the requirement for the company to adhere to Ofcom’s Broadcasting Code would be enshrined in the new company’s articles of association. This means that Sky News would be better protected in terms of editorial independence than it is now – and far better protected than what would have happened if News Corp had made a full take-over.
Both the Office of Fair Trading and Ofcom have clearly stated that with these, and related, measures in place, the initial concerns they had would be resolved. They stated that there was no justification for a referral to the Competition Commission.
Given these details and the legally binding nature of the proposed deal, if it goes ahead it means that Rupert Murdoch and News Corp will have less influence and control over news and current affairs than they do at present. This is something that Nick and the Liberal Democrats very much welcome.
Clearly there will still be many concerns about the proposals. That’s why there will be a further period of public consultation and all the paperwork – including copies of all letters, minutes of all meetings and full details of the concessions that were negotiated – has been made available on the DCMS website for everyone to see. Please feel free to engage with this consultation process by emailing or writing to either address below by 21st March 2011:
BSkyB-News Corporation Consultation Media Team,
Department for Culture, Media and Sport,
2-4 Cockspur Street,
Thank you again for contacting Nick on this important issue.
Office of Nick Clegg MP