Outgoing Ofcom head surprised at how close politicians were to News Corp

The outgoing head of Ofcom has accused government representatives of showing favouritism to Rupert Murdoch's companies.

Ed Richards said he was "surprised" by the informality of contact between executives and ministers during the failed bid by Mr Murdoch's News Corp for BSkyB in 2011.

News Corp abandoned the controversial deal when it emerged journalists at the News of the World ordered the phone of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler to be hacked.

The scandal led to the closure of the newspaper and raised questions over whether News Corp would be a "fit and proper" owner for BSkyB.

Richards told The Independent that communications between politicians' offices and News Corp lobbyists during the process had not been balanced.

He said: "What surprised everyone about it – not just me – was quite how close it was and the informality of it and the extent to which it featured certain companies a lot more than others.

"There was a widespread concern about the balance."

Richards also revealed Ofcom had to resist "intense pressure from the participants in that bid, particularly from the acquirer".

Ofcom recommended the proposed deal be referred to the Competition Commission amid fears it concentrated too much media power in the hands of a single company.

Richards, a former adviser to Tony Blair, is standing down at the end of this month after eight years at the helm of the broadcasting regulator. 

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