British finance minister's ties with Murdoch revealed

26th July 2011, Comments 0 comments

British finance minister George Osborne has met with executives and editors from Rupert Murdoch's media empire on 16 occasions since the government took office last year, his office said Tuesday.

The newly-released list of meetings is likely to add to pressure on Prime Minister David Cameron's coalition over its extensive ties to Murdoch, whose businesses have come under intense scrutiny after a phone hacking scandal.

Murdoch's News Corporation was forced to abandon its offer for pay-TV giant BSkyB following the hacking row at the now defunct News of the World, which is part of News International, his British newspaper unit.

The list of meetings show that Osborne, the chancellor of the exchequer, met with Murdoch, his son James and Rebekah Brooks, the then head of News International, just days after the government took office in May 2010.

These talks were classed as "general discussion", while later separate meetings with Brooks and James Murdoch in September 2010 were said to be "social".

Osborne met Rupert Murdoch again in December, while he also had meetings with one of Murdoch's daughters, Elisabeth, and the editors of The Times, the Sunday Times and the News of the World, all Murdoch papers.

Culture minister Jeremy Hunt, who was in charge of deciding whether to approve the BSkyB bid before he referred it to competition regulators earlier this month, also met frequently with Murdoch executives, his office revealed.

Hunt met with Rupert Murdoch immediately after the election, and then with James Murdoch, who is chairman of BSkyB, in June, although at that time he had not yet been given responsibility for News Corp.'s bid.

After taking responsibility for the takeover in December, Hunt met with James Murdoch in January this year to discuss it.

Business minister Vince Cable was removed from the bid process after being caught boasting that he had "declared war" on Rupert Murdoch, and his files reveal he had far fewer meetings with senior media figures than his colleagues.

Cameron ordered earlier this month that the meetings be published, after his office revealed he had 26 meetings in 15 months with Murdoch chiefs.

Murdoch has long had close ties to the British establishment but these have come under scrutiny during the hacking scandal, prompting Cameron to ask an inquiry to examine the links between the press, police and politicians.

© 2011 AFP

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