UPDATE: News Corp has withdrawn its bid for BSkyB, according to multiple reports.
Rupert Murdoch is considering selling off his British newspaper division as a way to extract himself from the hacking scandal and save his company. Meanwhile, the British government fully turned against him and announced an inquiry into the crisis.
A Wednesday report in Murdoch's own Wall Street Journal said that the option of selling News International is one of several that parent company News Corporation is exploring. The Financial Times also reported Tuesday night that the idea is being "discussed." (The idea has been floated in the press for some time.)
According to the Journal, News Corp has discreetly tested the corporate waters to see if any buyers are interested. So far, nobody has seemed willing to buy the Sun, the Times and the Sunday Times. This is not hugely surprising; the newspaper market is on a long-term downslide, and two of the three papers are themselves mired in the hacking scandal.
Even if Murdoch rids himself of the papers, it might not be enough to save what is surely his biggest desire: the full takeover of BSkyB. All three main parties are expected to vote for a resolution calling on News Corp to drop the bid entirely--a stunning reversal of fortune for the man who has wielded such power in British politics.
During his weekly appearance before Parliament on Wednesday, British Prime Minister David Cameron called News International's behavior "disgraceful" and said the company should not be thinking about mergers while the hacking scandal continues. Murdoch himself is set to appear before Parliament on Tuesday to answer questions about the scandal.
Cameron also announced the formation of a judge-led inquiry into phone hacking, press regulation, News International itself and police corruption. He said the inquiry will have the power to summon politicians, media figures and police and have them testify under oath. Cameron pointedly emphasized that nobody who is found to have been involved in the scandal should lead a media organization, and said he wanted to bring the "ugly chapter" of the scandal to a close.
The crisis facing News Corp also threatened to cross the Atlantic, as Senator Jay Rockefeller called for an investigation into the company's practices in the U.S. Rockefeller made a statement about the scandal on Tuesday.
"I am concerned that the admitted phone hacking in London by the News Corp. may have extended to 9/11 victims or other Americans," he said. "If they did, the consequences will be severe."
|@ garethmiller : Gordon Brown may end up getting more public admiration now than during any of the time he was in office, astonishing speech #hacking #NOTW|
|@ psbook : Tory MP @nadhimzahawi claims Rebekah Wade and Elisabeth Murdoch stayed overnight at Chequers|
|@ SkyNewsBreak : Press Complaints Commission issues statement welcoming terms of inquiry into media ethics|
|@ ShippersUnbound : Bercow now introduces 4 minute limit on speeches -- after Brown's 25 minute opus. Biased? Never!|
Gordon Brown said that Cameron had to explain why his media policy was "so similar" to News International's.
A Tory MP, Charlie Elphicke, asked by Brown's government opposed a full criminal investigation of News International. Brown replied that it was opposed by the police and the civil service.
He concluded by calling for a new relationship between the media and the public.
Parliament is in a severely rowdy mood. Brown is being constantly heckled with shouts of "sit down" and can barely be heard. Bercow screams "order" so hard it looks like his head might pop.
Maisie McCabe says on Twitter: "Just spoken to Ofcom - they are not about to announce anything to do with a fit and proper test. Couldn't explain why Gordon Brown said that."
|@ davidfolkenflik : EX PM G Brown says UK regulator OfCom will review whether News Corp is "fit and proper" owner of 39% share of BSkyB it currently has.|
Former-PM Gordon Brown says it is "like the old days" for him. "The government on the run, the opposition in pursuit, a headline in the papers saying 'Brown Wrong', another example of the close relationship I have with News International," he says.
Brown says that he has always defended the press and its right "to speak truth to power". But he says "the systematic use of base and unlawful methods" and the hacking of computers as well as phones "on an industrial scale", and some investigators' "links to the criminal underworld", have been rejected by the British public.
He adds there is a "criminal-media nexus" and that News International has descended "from the gutter to the sewers".
Brown has said he is happy to appear in front of the inquiry.
Tom Watson has raised a point of order to claim that the prime minister 'misled the house' over Andy Coulson.
Miliband adds: "This is a victory for parliament... Today parliament has shown an ability to speak without fear or favour. To speak to our great traditions. To show that we can hold power to account and that nobody is above the law.
"Today Parliament has shown an ability to speak without fear or favour. To speak to our great traditions. To show that we can hold power to account, and that nobody is above the law."
Ed Miliband says that it is "unusual to put it mildly for a motion to succeed before it has been debated". But this is a victory for "ordinary people". We need strong businesses in the UK, Miliband says. "But we need them to show responsibility."
The prime minister's account of why he failed to act on the information we passed his office in February 2010 is highly misleading. Any ordinary person hearing of the unpublishable facts about a convicted News of the World private investigator facing conspiracy to murder charges would have recognised the need to investigate the claims. "
|@ paulwaugh : No.10, asked if PM had any prior knowledge of today's BSkyB U-turn: "No"|
"We're pleased, we're pleased that all three party leaders have taken the time to listen to us and specifically to be explicit about the fact that this had to be a full inquiry about the press and politicians and it has to start now."
|@ timfarron : good news about BSKYB but are News International even fit to own what they already do?|
|@ ChiOnwurah : Great Bskyb have withdrawn their bid - but a) how long before they make it again & b) are they 39% fit & proper?|
"This is the decent and sensible thing to do. Now that the bid has been called off and a proper inquiry set up, we have a once in a generation chance to clean up the murky underworld of the corrupted relationship between the police, politics and the press."
|@ paulwaugh : Just told a Cabinet minister of the news re BSkyB: "Bloody hell" was his reaction.|
|@ IvanLewis_MP : The will of the people and parliament has triumphed. Ed Milibands brave and bold leadership has helped to bring about the change we need.|
The decision shows the "power of the public", says Milly Dowler's family's solicitor in a press conference outside No 10.
Says their solicitor Mark Harris.
|@ DonFosterMP : Right thing to do http://bit.ly/o37ngq - we still need OFCOM investigation to determine if News Corp are fit and proper to own other 39%|
In a statement Simon Hughes said:
“My colleagues and I have been warning for 17 years of the dangers of the growing influence of the Murdochs in Britain.
“Three days ago the most popular Murdoch title disappeared - ruined by the excesses of some of its staff. Today the News International bid for BSkyB has been withdrawn.
“At last the sun is setting on Rupert Murdoch’s British empire.
“Journalism in the UK used to have the reputation as the best in the world. It is in the interests of all the public that this reputation is now restored.”
But there will be no vote. They said: "Wording of motion cannot be changed - it's on the order paper. There will be no vote... [it's a] chance for parliament to have its say on events."