By ROBERT BARR, Associated Press
LONDON (AP) — Prime Minister David Cameron said Friday he had no regrets about his decision to put Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt in charge of deciding whether Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. could proceed with a bid to take over British Sky Broadcasting.
Cameron's endorsement of Hunt's performance followed the disclosure that Hunt had written to the prime minister in glowing terms about the possible takeover about a month before he was put in charge of the process.
"I don't regret giving the job to Jeremy Hunt, it was the right thing to do in the circumstances, which were not of my making," Cameron said in an interview with ITV.
The circumstances were that the authority for the bid was taken away from Business Secretary Vince Cable after he was caught telling undercover newspaper reporters that he had "declared war" on Murdoch, the powerful News Corp. chairman and CEO.
"The crucial point, the really crucial point, is did Jeremy Hunt carry out his role properly with respect to BSkyB? And I believe that he did," Cameron said.
The embattled Hunt will make his own case next Thursday when he testifies at the Leveson Inquiry which is investigating phone hacking at News Corp. newspapers and broader media issues. Former Prime Minister Tony Blair will testify on Monday and Cable on Wednesday, officials said.
On Thursday, the inquiry published a memo dated Nov. 19, 2010, from Hunt to Cameron reporting that Murdoch's son James was "pretty furious" about the obstacles to the company's bid for the lucrative broadcaster.
James Murdoch, who was then chairman of BSkyB, hoped the takeover would shake up Britain's media industry the same way his father had done in the 1980s by revolutionizing newspaper production, Hunt wrote.
"He wants to create the first multiplatform media operator," Hunt wrote. "If we block it our media sector will suffer for years."
The memo, written about a month before Hunt he was given responsibility for ruling on whether to refer Murdoch's bid to competition regulators, showed the degree to which Hunt sympathized with the New York-based News Corp.
The company, which owns 39 percent of BSkyB, dropped its bid to take full control after the hacking scandal blew up last year.
Critics say News Corp.'s influence over U.K. politicians was one of the reasons the company was able to get away with wrongdoing in Britain for so long.
Cameron has faced questions about why he appointed Andy Coulson, former editor of News of the World, the Sunday tabloid at the heart of the hacking scandal, as his director of communications.
Questions have also been raised about Cameron's friendly relations with Rebekah Brooks, former CEO of News Corp. subsidiary News International, who has been charged with conspiring to obstruct justice.
London's Metropolitan Police announced Friday they had arrested a 37-year-old female journalist in their bribery investigation, based on information supplied by News Corp. It was the 30th arrest on suspicion of making or accepting bribes.
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