By Ray Fleming

DAVID Cameron said yesterday that the News of the World phone--hacking scandal is “appalling”. Rubert Murdoch, the owner of the newspaper, said it was “deplorable and unacceptable”. Everyone will agree but many will also ask why, given that Mr Murdoch has admitted his newspaper's failures, he is apparently about to be given the government's go-ahead for his bid to buy the part of BSkyB that he does not already own. This approval has been strongly contested by four leading newspapers and other media organisations on the grounds of its restriction on media independence, and has been under prolonged review by Jeremy Hunt, the media minister, since last October.

During this period Mr Hunt has more than once delayed a decision for consultations and in the light of the revelations of the past few days it is difficult to see why he cannot consult further as to whether Mr Murdoch's News International should extend its influence in British media at a time that its integrity is being questioned.

Throughout the consideration of Mr Murdoch's application the prime minister has said that he would take no part in the decision on it yet yesterday in the House of Commons he said it should be approved. Apparently, therefore, Mr Hunt no longer has the sole responsibility for this matter. When did this change take place, and why?


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