The transcripts of the official inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the press. More…

No, that was not my understanding, and I perhaps give the expression that the Secretary of State understood. In fact, the Secretary of State took the initiative of seeking independent advice. I mean, his approach, I recall him discussing this, was, as we've discussed before, this was an extremely hot potato to handle. He was conscious that, with the best will in the world and however he approached it, whatever decision he took, that there would be huge and intense criticism from one side or the other.

What he was most concerned about was how to buttress and reinforce the fairness of the process as a whole and, therefore, its wider public and political support, and that is what led him to take the initiative beyond what was required in statute of seeking to act always on the advice of independent regulators to such an extent that actually the fairly regular discourse in meetings was whether he was so emphasising that he would act on their advice that he was in danger of fettering his discretion, and, indeed, in practice he created a process in which the opportunity left to him, had he wanted it, and he didn't want it, to manipulate it, you know, for political or other end, was in practice vanishingly small.

In practice, also, I mean I think it's also perhaps not helpful to characterise this as sort of for or against the bid. His approach was to consider it on the merits under the powers available to him, which were concerned with plurality, and what he -- and he was concerned to reach a proper decision on the basis of plurality, and of course the decision and the outcome and the various decisions along the way that he was taking was actually that, in respect of plurality, understood to be news and current affairs, the bringing together of the Times, Sun, News of the World newspapers with Sky News, it was clear that that was, and the position he took up on the advice of independent regulators, was that he was not going to allow that to happen, but the bid, the wider bid could only proceed on the basis that that bid, in respect of news and current affairs, did not proceed and that News Corporation voluntarily, in effect, divested themselves of Sky News.

So, in that sense, the decisions he took were all about actually blocking and frustrating that aspect of the bid.

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