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UK parties unite to demand Murdoch drops BSkyB bid

/ Source: news services

Britain’s coalition government will vote in favor of a Labour Party opposition parliamentary motion calling on News Corp. to withdraw its bid for pay TV operator BSkyB, a spokesman for Prime Minister David Cameron said on Tuesday.

“The prime minister will support it and the government will support it,” the spokesman told reporters.

The Liberal Democrats, the junior partners in the Conservative-led coalition government, will also vote in favor of the motion, according to a party source.

Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who is overseeing the decision on the takeover bid in a quasi-judicial role, will abstain from the vote on Wednesday.

The vote is non-binding but cross-party support for the motion would send a strong signal to News Corp boss Rupert Murdoch that he would be acting against the will of parliament if the bid was not withdrawn.

Shares in BSkyB fell on the news.

A final decision on Rupert Murdoch's biggest takeover battle was delayed for several months Monday after the British government referred the bid to competition authorities.

The announcement followed News Corp.'s withdrawal of a promise to spin off Sky News, which had been a condition for buying the 61 percent of the satellite broadcaster that it doesn't already own.

As a result, Britain's Competition Commission is required to hold a full-scale inquiry into whether the takeover would break anti-monopoly laws. Such an inquiry usually takes several months.

A rising tide of public outrage began a week ago when it emerged that reporters at the Murdoch-owned best-selling tabloid News of the World had broken into the phone messages of a murdered girl, crime victims and the bereaved families of soldiers.

On Tuesday, Murdoch and two senior executives were called to appear before an influential British parliamentary committee next week to answer questions about the growing scandal.