Ian Burrell: These texts raise real doubts about Jeremy Hunt's even-handedness
Ian Burrell is Assistant Editor and Media Editor at The Independent, i paper and Independent on Sunday. He covers news from the whole media sector from television, press, radio and advertising to technology. His weekly column on the media appears every Monday in The Independent and i paper. He also writes on media, music and culture, including long-form pieces for The Independent’s Saturday magazine and the Independent on Sunday’s magazine, New Review. He is a regular presenter of BBC Radio 4’s What The Papers Say and a specialist commentator to Monocle 24 radio. He has contributed to most major broadcast outlets including BBC television and radio, CNN, Sky News, Al Jazeera and LBC. He has also written on media for GQ magazine. Ian has been reporting on the media industry for The Independent for more than a decade. Previously he was the newspaper’s Home Affairs Editor. He worked at The Sunday Times for five years, including as a member of the investigative Insight team, covering stories on political funding, industrial espionage and the arms industry. Previously he worked in ITV for London Weekend Television, on a weekly current affairs programme presented by Danny Baker. Ian trained at the Birmingham Post & Mail and was Regional Reporter of the Year in Press Gazette’s national awards.
Thursday 31 May 2012
For those who had already made up their mind that Jeremy Hunt had to go, the newly-released texts from the Culture Secretary were mere confirmation of his role as a cheerleader for Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.
"Just Ofcom to go", he messaged James Murdoch as News Corp’s BSkyB bid cleared the European regulatory hurdle. "Seriously worried we are going to screw this up", he warned the Chancellor George Osborne when Business Secretary Vince Cable was revealed to be hostile to the deal.
Equally, Hunt’s supporters took the view that his Leveson evidence had offered nothing to contradict his assertion that he had done nothing wrong.
David Elstein, former chief executive of Channel 5 and to the right-of-centre politically, argued that News Corp’s public affairs strategy had been “wrong from start to finish” and that Hunt’s department had given it nothing of value.
“They thought they could apply their usual pressure and get some result and they were completely wrong.”
But was the Culture Secretary’s excruciating “daddy” communication with News Corp lobbyist Fred Michel really a fobbing off of an annoyingly persistent public affairs man?
Hunt admitted today he was aware that his adviser Adam Smith was in constant contact with News Corp. So why didn’t he rein in the relationship? That only happened in April when the level of intimacy was revealed and Hunt promptly told his junior “Everyone here thinks you need to go.”
Hunt may say he followed due process but there are real doubts about his even-handedness. While News Corp had almost constant access to his office, opponents of the Sky deal had the door shut in their faces.
Three times their lawyers Slaughter & May wrote to Hunt asking to discuss the weaknesses of the undertakings given by News Corp to ensure its bid was approved.
Each time the Culture Secretary ruled such contact inappropriate. And when a meeting finally took place on 24 March last year, he had already accepted News Corp’s proposal to spin off Sky News.
As someone close to the bid said last night: “There was an enormous level of direct contact between a group of people who seemed to think they were all on the same side.”
- 1 Windows 10: man updates PC, wakes up to find porn slideshow on repeat
- 2 The 'world's most beautiful vagina' has been debunked by science
- 3 John Green schools morning show hosts after awkward interview with Cara Delevingne
- 4 Bulletproof armadillo puts Texas man in hospital after shot bounces off hard shell
- 5 Doctors declare war on Jeremy Hunt over weekend working 'myths' amid plan for seven day NHS
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn – or a return to a Labour government
Is Britain really full up? Are migrants taking our jobs? Leading academic answers the most common anti-immigration claims
Calais Migrant Crisis: Deputy Mayor of Calais labels Cameron's use of 'swarm' as 'racist' and 'ignorant'
Labour leadership: New poll shows party is now even 'less electable' than under Ed Miliband
While we fixate on Calais, the Home Office is quietly deporting dozens of migrants on 'ghost flights'
Calais crisis: The seven claims made about the migrants - and the reality
£17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are a leading company in the field ...
£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...
£26041 - £34876 per annum: Recruitment Genius: There has never been a more exc...
£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing travel comp...