Ofcom urged to revoke News Corp's BSkyB stake

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The Independent Online

The media regulator Ofcom is under mounting political pressure to rule that News Corporation is not a "fit and proper" organisation to retain its 39 per cent stake in BSkyB.

Senior Liberal Democrats are pressing for a swift decision by Ofcom, saying enough evidence has already emerged during the phone-hacking scandal for the watchdog to force Rupert Murdoch's empire to be judged unfit to hold a broadcasting licence.

Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, said last night: "It's very easy to see that there has been a lot of malpractice, but the British law operates on the principle of innocence until proved guilty."

Mr Cable, who was stripped of responsibility for broadcasting regulation last December after "declaring war" on Mr Murdoch over News Corporation's bid for full ownership of BSkyB, feels vindicated by its withdrawal. He added: "I reflect on it philosophically. It is a little bit like the end of a dictatorship when everybody suddenly discovers they were against the dictator."

Lord Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay, a close ally of Mr Cable, said: "Ofcom should get a move on. There is no justification for a delay. How much more evidence does Ofcom need? There is enough there from phone hacking, payments to police and management negligence at News International."

Tim Farron, the Lib Dem president, said: "Ofcom needs to come to a conclusion. My personal opinion is that News Corp is not fit and proper. I am sure that is the view of everyone in the party."

Ofcom said it is continuing to assess the "fit and proper" test even though the takeover bid has been abandoned. It is talking to the police and Commons select committees which have investigated hacking but refused to put a timescale on its decision.

Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister, said yesterday that the "fit and proper" rule may have to be revised for future cases because it was unclear.