What Vince Cable said about Rupert Murdoch and BSkyB
The Telegraph this morning chose not to publish the most explosive part of the remarks made by Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, to undercover reporters.
Vince Cable and Rupert Murdoch
A whistleblower has passed me the full interview. Here are the excised comments by Mr Cable.
"I am picking my fights, some of which you may have seen, some of which you may haven't seen.
"And I don't know if you have been following what has been happening with the Murdoch press, where I have declared war on Mr Murdoch and I think we are going to win".
The conversation then turns to other matters for a few minutes. And then Mr Cable talks again about Rupert Murdoch and the £7.5bn takeover bid by his media conglomerate, News Corporation, for the 61% of British Sky Broadcasting which it doesn't already own.
What is important to know is that in respect of whether the takeover bid will be allowed, Mr Cable has a quasi-judicial role. It is he who will make the final decision on whether the takeover should be blocked or subject to strict conditions, because of its effect on so-called "plurality" or choice for consumers.
"Well I did not politicise it, because it is a legal question," Mr Cable says. "But he [Mr Murdoch] is trying to take over BSkyB - you probably know that."
The reporter says: "I know vaguely."
Cable: "With considerably enhanced..."
Reporter: "I always thought that he had BSkyB with Sky anyway?"
Cable: "No, he has minority shares and he wants a majority - and a majority control would give them a massive stake."
"I have blocked it using the powers that I have got and they are legal powers that I have got. I can't politicise it but from the people that know what is happening this is a big, big thing.
"His whole empire is now under attack... So there are things like that we do in government, that we can't do... all we can do in opposition is protest."
I have been passed a full copy of the interview by a whistleblower who is upset that the Telegraph chose to omit these remarks.
They are not included in a transcript that was published on the Telegraph's site this morning under the heading "the full transcript".
The Telegraph has been a leading opponent of News Corporation's attempt to acquire the whole of BSkyB. In October, the Telegraph's chief executive, Murdoch MacLennan, signed a letter - along with senior executives of the BBC, Channel 4, the Daily Mail and Trinity Mirror - asking Mr Cable to consider blocking the takeover.
The disclosure of Mr Cable's private views on Mr Murdoch and the proposed takeover of BSkyB makes it extremely difficult for him to fulfil his role as the ultimate arbiter of whether the deal should proceed under the 2002 Enterprise Act.
News Corporation is bound to challenge his impartiality.
He is due to receive a report from Ofcom, the media regulator, on the impact on plurality of the bid by the end of the year. After that he has to decide whether to refer the deal to the Competition Commission.
If Mr Cable does ask for an investigation by the Competition Commission, it would ultimately be his decision whether the deal should be permitted, once he has received the advice of the Competition Commission.
Update 1606: Here is the Telegraph’s official statement:
“The Daily Telegraph published some of the comments Vince Cable made to our undercover reporters today. We have made clear both in the paper today and in interviews that we will be publishing further comments in the forthcoming days.”
Now that statement is at odds with how the Telegraph described the transcript of Mr Cable’s remarks this morning, which it described as the “full transcript”.
What is more, the cuts from this morning’s transcript published online by the Telegraph does not indicate any passages have been removed. The normal convention of inserting dots to show an excision is not used.
The piece reads as though it is a seamless, unedited whole.
Now the whistleblower passed me the full recording of the interview having been told that Mr Cable’s remarks about Mr Murdoch’s attempt to acquire BSkyB were not going to run, at all.
You have to draw your own conclusions about why the Telegraph would choose not to publish those remarks (although following my publication of them, the Telegraph has now published them).
Some will notice that when it comes to opposition to Mr Murdoch’s proposed takeover of Sky, there is a convergence of the Telegraph’s views and Mr Cable’s views.