Former Labour Leader Ed Miliband and Vince Cable have voiced serious concerns over the proposed takeover of the UK-based TV and internet provider Sky by 21st Century Fox. The two senior leaders said the deal – worth $15bn (£12bn) – should be blocked and referred to competition regulator Ofcom once again.
They claimed that billionaire Rupert Murdoch's younger son James' involvement in the media company was reason enough for the deal to be blocked. Adding that a 2012 Ofcom report was "withering about the conduct of James Murdoch", they said Culture Secretary Karen Bradley should refer the issue to the watchdog.
James had stepped down as chairman of BSkyB in 2012 as Ofcom investigated whether he was a "fit and proper person" to be in charge of the satellite TV company following the infamous News Of The Week phone hacking scandal.
In an article published in the Observer, Cable wrote: "The question as to whether 100% ownership is right now when it was not four years ago can be answered emphatically: no. James Murdoch, despite what the 2012 report said, is now back as chairman of Sky and is chief executive of 21st Century Fox as it seeks to take over Sky. There are crucial – unanswered – issues around the culture and competence of what went on at Murdoch-owned newspapers which have not been satisfactorily resolved or answered."
The joint article continued: "The Murdochs may claim that editorial independence could be guaranteed by ringfencing Sky news, and impartiality protected by Ofcom, the regulator. But the answer to this and the deeper questions at the heart of this bid depend on trust and the conduct of the Murdoch organisation and family does not inspire trust.
"If it was inappropriate for the Murdochs to take 100% control of Sky even before the multiple convictions of their former employees, it must be inappropriate now.
"Promises that might be made to the regulators that there will be a specified proportion of independent non-executive directors cannot overcome the reality of total ownership and control."