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British Parties Ready to Issue Rare Unified Rebuke to Murdoch

July 12, 2011 at 12:00 AM EDT
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GWEN IFILL: Media baron Rupert Murdoch came under new pressure in Britain today over allegations of hacking into phones and bribing police. The government joined calls for Murdoch to give up his bid for British Sky Broadcasting, BSkyB.

We begin with a report from Gary Gibbon of Independent Television News.

GARY GIBBON: It will be the sort of united message you usually only see in conflict. All three main political parties will tomorrow vote for one message: Rupert Murdoch, your bid for BSkyB is not welcome. Drop it.

Rupert Murdoch whizzed out of his London home this morning. Yesterday, he switched tactics fast to try to outwit the government, effectively saying that the Competition Commission, not ministers, should judge his bid for the 61 percent of BSkyB he doesn’t own.

Today, the government tried to show it could be light on its feet, too. The prime minister’s acutely aware that he’s looked behind public opinion. He didn’t want to oppose a Labor motion to be debated in the Commons tomorrow which says that the Murdoch takeover plans are against the public interests and should be dropped.

So, after days of claiming that the government had to remain above the politics of the bid, he’s decided it doesn’t need to. He will support the motion, leading every Tory behind him, Nick Clegg leading the Lib Dems too.

A reminder of days past when politicians tried to cozy up to the Murdoch empire. Gordon Brown today gave an interview on the back of his allegations yesterday that The Sunday Times conspired with known criminals to gain access to his private accounts.

GORDON BROWN, former British prime minister: I think what happened pretty early on in government is that The Sunday Times appear to have got access to my Building Society account. They got access to my legal files. There’s some question mark about what happened to other files, documentation, tax and everything else. But I’m shocked, I’m genuinely shocked to find that this happened because of their links with criminals.

GARY GIBBON: The Sunday Times said no laws were broken in their reports into Gordon Brown’s flat purchase. Gordon Brown didn’t repeat the Guardian’s claim that the Sun newspaper hacked into his son’s medical records. The Sun denied the allegation. Gordon Brown said it was the wrong thing to publish anyway.

MAN: The Sun say they got it legitimately. They say they got that information legitimately.

GORDON BROWN: Well, they will have to explain themselves. I can’t think of any way that the medical condition of a child can be put into the public arena legitimately. They told me they had this story about Fraser’s medical condition and that they were going to run this story.

MAN: How did that affect you, as a father?

GORDON BROWN: In tears.

GARY GIBBON: Tomorrow, Rupert Murdoch and his team will be hearing a message they haven’t heard from senior British politicians much in the past. Your expanding media empire, the Commons will say, shouldn’t expand here anymore.