LONDON — Rupert Murdoch’s dream of controlling a British broadcasting behemoth turned to ashes Wednesday as he withdrew his bid for BSkyB — the latest, biggest casualty of what Prime Minister David Cameron called the hacking “firestorm” sweeping through British politics, media and police.
Cameron appointed a senior judge to lead an inquiry into the phone hacking and police bribery scandal engulfing Murdoch’s British newspapers, and promised it would investigate whether Murdoch’s reporters also sought the phone numbers of 9/11 victims in their quest for sensational scoops.
“There is a firestorm, if you like, that is engulfing parts of the media, parts of the police, and indeed our political system’s ability to respond,” Cameron said Wednesday in the House of Commons.
“What we must do in the coming days and weeks is think above all of the victims … to make doubly sure that we get to the bottom of this and that we prosecute those who are responsible,” he said.
As lawmakers from all the country’s main parties united to demand that Murdoch’s News Corp. withdraw its bid for British Sky Broadcasting, the media magnate bowed to the inevitable, accepting that he could not win government approval for the multibillion dollar takeover.
“It has become clear that it is too difficult to progress in this climate,” News Corp. deputy chairman and president Chase Carey said in a brief statement to the London Stock Exchange.
Shares in BSkyB fell 4 percent after the announcement, but rebounded as uncertainty about the company’s immediate future was lifted and closed 2 percent higher.
Murdoch had hoped to gain control of the 61 percent of BSkyB shares that he doesn’t already own. The takeover — potentially his biggest, most lucrative acquisition — appeared certain to succeed just over a week ago, despite concerns about the size of Murdoch’s hefty share of the British media market.
But the deal unraveled with stunning speed after a rival newspaper reported that Murdoch’s News of the World tabloid had hacked into the phone of teenage murder victim Milly Dowler in 2002 and may have impeded a police investigation into the 13-year-old’s disappearance.