U.K. gov’t to oppose BSkyB takeover

Main parties to call on Murdoch to drop bid

The U.K. has made clear its opposition to News Corp.’s $12 billion takeover of paybox BSkyB.

The government pledged Tuesday to back an opposition party motion to be put before Parliament today that will urge News Corp. to abandon its attempt to buy the 61% of BSkyB stock that it does not already own.

Labour Party motion will read: “This house believes that it is in the public interest for Rupert Murdoch and News Corp. to withdraw their bid for BSkyB.”

Although the move will not force Murdoch to withdraw the bid, it will ratchet up the pressure on the mogul, who has been summoned along with son James and exec Rebekah Brooks to appear before a parliamentary committee next week.

Prime Minister David Cameron’s spokesman said: “Ultimately, that is a decision for News Corp., but we would always expect people to take seriously what Parliament has said.”

Labour leader Ed Miliband called on Murdoch to recognize the “will of all the parties.”

The U.K. government could refuse to give a greenlight to the bid until all criminal investigations into alleged illegal activity at the News of the World newspaper, which was published by News Corp.’s U.K. subsid News Intl. until it was shuttered Sunday, have been concluded. That could take several years.

Earlier Tuesday, a parliamentary committee investigating the phone hacking and police bribery scandal at the News of the World invited Murdoch to appear before it. the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee invited the Murdochs and Brooks to attend its session next Tuesday. The panel has no power to force people to attend, although the House of Commons could vote to compel Brooks to attend, as she is a British citizen. Both Murdochs are American citizens.

The move comes as more allegations have been made about the activities of News Intl. staff.

Meanwhile, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) is calling for “appropriate agencies” in the U.S. to investigate allegations that the phones of 9/11 victims also were hacked. Rockefeller, chairman of the Commerce, Science and transportation Committee, said the investigation would “ensure that Americans have not had their privacy violated.”

Glenn Mulcaire, a private investigator working for the News of the World, is suspected of hacking the phones of five senior police officers.

Earlier on Tuesday, former prime minister Gordon Brown alleged that another News Intl. title, the Sunday Times, had employed “known criminals” to gather personal information on his bank account, legal files and tax affairs.

“I think that what happened pretty early on in government is that the Sunday Times appears to have got access to my building society account, they got access to my legal files, there is some question mark about what happened to other files — documentation, tax and everything else,” Brown told the BBC.

(Ted Johnson contributed to this report.)

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