In order to stave off an emergency vote that may have scuppered a television-merger deal that Rupert Murdoch is desperately hoping to pull off, News Corp. changed its bid for British Sky Broadcasting. The original plan was to spin off News Corp.’s Sky News in exchange for the ability to buy the 61 percent of BskyB that the media conglomerate didn’t already own. The spinoff would have meant that News Corp.’s television holdings in Britain would remain small enough so that the deal didn’t have to go before the country’s independent Competition Commission and instead would merely need to be approved by Parliament. That approval looked like a done deal a few weeks ago, before the News of the World hacking scandal ballooned to include the eavesdropping on phones of murder victims, 9/11 victims, former prime minister Gordon Brown, and also a series of illegal payments to Scotland Yard. In response to the publicity disaster, the minority Labour party called an emergency vote on the BskyB merger for tomorrow. Fearing the deal would be struck down, News Corp. changed its bid: It will no longer spin off Sky News and will take its chances before the nonpartisan Competition Commission rather than play politics with Parliament.
Although he is avoiding having to deal with Parliament on the BskyB deal, Rupert Murdoch has been called to appear before the House of Commons to answer questions about the scandal. Rebekah Brooks has been asked to testify, too — she’s the embattled boss of News International, the News Corp. subdivision that oversees Murdoch’s British papers. She was the editor of both the News of the World and the Sun when portions of the hacking scandals took place. James Murdoch, Rupert’s son, has also been asked to appear.
If bribes are shown to have been made, there could be legal repercussions for News Corp. in the United States as well, Reuters reported.
Meanwhile, Gordon Brown has lashed back at News Corp., accusing its most highbrow London paper — the Sunday Times — of hiring “known criminals” to delve into his private life. It’s been reported that the queen herself was also targeted.