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BSkyB/News Corp merger: Wait for the cops, says Ofcom

UK.gov watching police NotW hack probe 'closely'

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The UK's communications watchdog cannot intervene on the proposed merger of BSkyB with Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. until a police investigation into phone-tapping allegations at the News of the World has concluded.

Ofcom boss Ed Richards told The Register and other reporters this morning that any recommendation to block Murdoch's bid to buy BSkyB could not be put forward until facts in the case are established.

That's despite the emergence of more damaging allegations involving voicemail interception claims made against the News Corp-owned newspaper.

"We will consider our position only once the police investigation is complete … then we’ll look at it, if we need to,” Richards said today.

"We, like many others, will wait to see what emerges."

Richards said he was unwilling to speculate about individual cases, but added that a so-called "fit-and-proper" test was ongoing, as is the case with all broadcast licence holders.

Ofcom previously presented the Secretary of State with advice on plurality, he noted.

"It’s a quite separate matter if people are asking us about the fit-and-proper test," said Richards.

"Firstly, we will not look at that anyway until we have facts that were pertinent to that which we felt were necessary to consider. We don’t feel that that’s the case yet.

"Secondly ... we then have an ongoing duty in relation to the fit-and-proper test that is not linked to any particular event, merger or transaction. It’s a generalised duty." ®

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