UK prime minister David Cameron has called suggestions he traded backing for News Corp’s bid for satcaster BSkyB in return for political support “complete nonsense.”
At the Leveson inquiry into media ethics today, Cameron was questioned on a theory he made a deal with News Corp executives to gain support from News International newspapers in return for the greenlight on the media giant’s ultimately failed £7.8bn (US$12.1bn) bid to acquire the 61% of Sky it didn’t already own.
News Corp’s UK publishing arm News International switched political allegiances from Labour to Cameron’s Conservative party in 2010, a move considered to have helped it win the last British general election.
Cameron said today there was no evidence there had been a “nod and a wink” deal and claimed he had been unaware of the bid, which was announced in June 2010, one month after the election.
“This idea that somehow the Conservative party and News International got together and said, ‘you give us you support and we’ll wave through the merger’… is nonsense,” he told the enquiry.
The UK PM admitted to having courted numerous media proprietors, journalists and broadcasters to win the election but claimed: “I didn’t do it on the basis of saying either overtly or covertly ‘your policy support will mean I’ll give you a better time on this policy or that policy.’”
Furthermore, his political position was “not the same” as News Corp’s deputy chief operating officer James Murdoch on numerous issues surrounding the UK media.
He claimed he did not agree with “some” of Murdoch’s McTaggart lecture at the Edinburgh International Television Festival in August 2009 in which Murdoch had called for the BBC’s licence fee to be slashed. Fourteen months later, the government froze the BBC’s public licence fee until 2017. “I support the BBC and the licence fee,” said Cameron.