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Jeremy Hunt Will Hand Over All BSkyB Emails As Scandal Rages

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LONDON (AP) — Britain's culture secretary said Friday he will disclose all the texts and emails he sent to a special adviser who resigned after it was revealed that he had contacts with Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., which was seeking the minister's permission to take over a rival broadcaster.

Jeremy Hunt said he would give the material to the media ethics inquiry led by Lord Justice Brian Leveson.

Hunt has been under pressure since that inquiry disclosed 163 emails sent by News Corp. lobbyist Frederic Michel about his contacts with Hunt's office, mainly with special adviser Adam Smith. Smith resigned on Wednesday.

Hunt was responsible for deciding whether News Corp. would be allowed to take full control of British Sky Broadcasting, in which it holds a 39 percent stake.

Hunt was supposed to be acting as an impartial judge, but Michel's e-mails portrayed the minister, or his office, as leaking sensitive information to Murdoch's representatives and supporting the News Corp. case. Hunt approved the takeover proposal in March 2011 after News Corp. offered to spin off Sky News to alleviate concerns about concentration of news media ownership.

"I will be handing over all my private texts and emails to my special adviser to the Leveson Inquiry and I am confident that they will vindicate the position that I handled the BSkyB merger process with total integrity," Hunt told reporters.

In one email to James Murdoch — then the chairman of BSkyB — Michel reported that Hunt had asked for help to "find as many legal errors as we can" in a regulator's report that raised issues about the proposed takeover.

On Jan. 24, 2011, a day before Hunt announced his decision to Parliament, Michel sent an email to Rupert Murdoch. "Managed to get some infos on the plans for tomorrow (although absolutely illegal!) Press statement at 7.30am ... . Lots of legal issues around the statement so he has tried to get a version which helps us by qualifying the threats" identified by the regulator.

The takeover bid collapsed in July after The Guardian newspaper reported that the Sunday tabloid News of the World had hacked into the phone of a murdered teenager at the time when police were searching for the girl.

Within a week, Cameron announced he was setting up the Leveson inquiry, Murdoch closed the News of the World and laid off most of its staff, and News Corp. dropped its bid for BSkyB.

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