Hughes, Farron and Foster write to Rupert Murdoch – full text of letter

Simon Hughes, Tim Farron and Don Foster have written to Rupert Murdoch about the proposed take-over of BSkyB by News International.

They ask Murdoch to respond to public opinion by changing his commercial strategy in the UK: withdrawing his News Corporation bid for BSkyB and concentrating all his efforts on cleaning up News International.

The letter in full:

Proposed take-over of BSkyB by News International

Ever since the report of our Information Commissioner ‘What Price Freedom?’ and the conviction and imprisonment of Goodman and Mulcaire in 2006, there has been growing concern about the policy and practices of UK newspaper titles owned by News International.

Recent weeks have seen the publication of a flurry of further allegations against your company’s publications in the UK which have shocked and sickened the British public, and rightfully so.

It now appears that:

– an investigator working for your newspaper the ‘News of the World’ hacked into the phone of a kidnapped young girl and deleted her messages, giving her family false hope that she may still be alive.

– journalists and editors are implicated with police officers in illegal arrangements to obtain contact details of members of the royal family, which has put the royal family at risk through a completely irresponsible breach of security.

– people working for a News International title have hacked into phones and invaded the privacy of victims of terrorist attacks and the parents of dead soldiers.

We have no doubt that these events led directly or indirectly to the decision of your organisation to close the ‘News of the World’ this week, seeking to draw a line under this terrible affair.

However recent events have made clearer that illegal activities were not limited to the ‘News of the World’. There is now evidence that your papers the ’Sun’ and the ‘Sunday Times’ improperly obtained the medical records of the then Chancellor Gordon Brown so they could run a story about the health of one of his children – as a result of activity which could not possibly have any public interest defence.

People who were in charge of these newspapers are still employed by you at News International in the UK. Your son James, current chairman of News International, and a senior executive at News International’s parent company News Corporation, has admitted that he authorised cash payments to victims of phone hacking, payments which he himself has now admitted were wrong.

People working for your company have sought to cover up the many wrongs which it has committed. Your company has been accused of lying to the Press Complaints Commission, by the chair of the Press Complaints Commission. Only yesterday the police accused News International of trying to undermine the ongoing police investigation into the affair.

News International is simply no longer respected in this country. Given the history of the last six or more years, it should be of little surprise to you that many people in this country have no desire to have any more of our media fall into your hands, tainted as News International is by a history of completely unacceptable journalistic practices. News Corporation, as the owner of News International must take some responsibility for this.

Two days ago the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said you should do the decent thing and withdraw your bid to take full control of BSkyB. Many others have said similar things.

We hope you will respect the widespread expressions of public opinion and change News Corporation’s commercial strategy in this country.

We therefore ask, both on behalf of our party but also on behalf of a very large number of people in this country, that you now withdraw your News Corp bid for BSkyB and concentrate all of your efforts on cleaning up News International. We are clear that this would be the right thing for Britain, and for the reputation of broadcasting and journalism in the UK. We hope you are willing to give a positive response.

Rt Hon Simon Hughes MP
Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Commons

Tim Farron MP
Liberal Democrat Party President

Rt Hon Don Foster MP
Liberal Democrat Spokesman for the Department for Culture Media and Sport

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This entry was posted in News.


  • John Roffey 13th Jul '11 - 8:12am

    There seemed to be something of a belief last night that Murdoch, like Gaddafi, will fight to the ‘death’ – having had so much power for so long seems to remove the capacity of ‘reasonableness’ from leaders.

    However, one of the problems with such a fast moving story is that whatever is said, now, is likely to be out of date within a few hours. We are told this morning that the party leaders have agree on a judicial review which is to be started straight away.

    Another problem is that, because of the sheer numbers who NI have investigated, how are we to know whether the judge appointed, or those deciding which judge should be appointed, do not have a predilection for dressing up in women’s clothes in their spare time [or something similar] and NI investigators know this to be the case – and have pictures!

    I think the battle has just began and there is no knowing, at present, what the outcome will be.

  • Well done the writers of this letter – of course, worries about the Murdoch Empire go back well before 2006, at least 2002/3 on this story alone, and much further on all sorts of other problems of “cosying up to politicians” (as this process has been called).

    One of the main problems of coalition is that it reduces our scope for manoeuvre. Had we been at arms length from the Tories, we could and should, at all levels of the Party, have been shouting of the evils going on (as poor vindicated Vince did, in the “privacy” of his Constituency surgery). Now, to a large extent, it looks merely as if we are going along with the Tories, being dragged, kicking and screaming, to vote against Murdoch.

    Off thread, and boringly, the only way this will end positively both for the Lib Dems and the country, is to issue a mea culpa on the cuts and the coalition approach to the economy. The news of Italy’s position highlights the issue yet again, that international finance is much more powerful than national democracy. This emerging “austerity crisis”, combined with the increasing environmental and resource shortage threats worldwide, may lead eventually to a new international order, but this generation of LDs will get absolutely no credit for that if it does occur, because we have been working too closely with those opposing change and supporting existing interests. For those on other threads who argue the Lib Dems should be a centrist party, and those who keep their eyes on the parish pump of “localism”, there is a message, and that is, the existing order is broken, and if a victory is won with Murdoch, we need to move on in order to build a real international democracy, miles from the current plutocracy, and this requires broad rethinking, on existing Lib Dem Principles (move over, Orange Book) enabling us to look widely, in order to benefit local people and communities. The alternative approach of more beggar my neighbour, scapegoating of others in this country and overseas inevitably means more conflict (cf the 1930s).

  • John Roffey 13th Jul '11 - 9:44am

    Well said Tim. It has been the ‘Court of Public Opinion’ that has, eventually, required NI to account for its grotesque behaviour.

    Can a lesson be learned from this that, if corrupt practices, sanctioned behind closed doors, are to be held in check – some form of direct democracy is required?

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