The silence on the case of Rupert Murdoch and his plans to own all of satellite broadcaster BSkyB has been very profound in recent weeks.
Processes have to be gone through, protocols observed in this potentially most litigious situation.
There is no indication that the current silence is any evidence that Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt is having second thoughts.
After all the future of the NHS is not at stake.
And Hunt has already wagered too much of his reputation on the “courageous” choice that he is minded to approve the multi-billion deal rather than refer it to the Competition Commission to change his mind now.
Hunt has said he hopes to make his controversial announcement soon AFTER Parliament returns from the Easter recess on April 26.
But a lot of thought must already have been given to the presentation of the announcement and the howls of anguish that will inevitably follow.
The temptation must have been growing in recent weeks to reach for rule number one in the government PR rule book – just before a recess, or during it if you think you can get away with it – is an absolutely brilliant time for releasing unpalatable news.
The attraction must be compounded by the intensifying parallel News Corporation drama that continues to unfold by the day: the criminal interception of private phone messages of the famous by people acting on behalf of the News of the World.
Presumably we can now drop words such as “allegedly” and “apparently” given that News International, a wholly owned News Corp subsidiary, has formally decided to approach “some civil litigants with an unreserved apology and an admission of liability in cases meeting specific criteria.”
Tell that to former deputy Prime Minister Lord Prescott who recently called for News Corp’s take-over of BSkyB to be delayed until the current police inquiry into phone-hacking at the News of the World is complete.
In the Lords, Prescott who believes he is a victim of NoW phone hacking, could not have been more blunt.
“Is the Government aware, in giving this decision on BSkyB, that it would be totally unacceptable for a company like this that is actively involved at all levels in criminal acts to be given control of BSkyB?” he asked.
At a superficial level there is no connection between the two issues.
There is no evidence, or even suggestion, that anyone at BSkyB has ever been involved in such activities, or even knew what was going on in the very different, arcane world of tabloid newspapers.
The only common link that could become really damaging was if someone with the surname Murdoch were to become embroiled in the scandal. There is absolutely no sign of such involvement and it is highly implausible that such a thing did happen. Indeed there are obvious signs that Rupert Murdoch has even been leading, perhaps belatedly, the current crackdown on the miscreants.
There is however a more tenuous link. Hunt’s test has been a public interest one, though primarily in the setting of plurality of news provision.
But what would happen if News Corp were to face a criminal prosecution as a corporation as some have suggested it should?
Under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act a corporate body can be charged with the unlawful interception of voicemail messages.
It would essentially have to be demonstrated that the company itself “connived” or “consented” with committing the offence or its staff were negligent in allowing it to happen.
It would be a difficult one to prove and it is equally difficult to imagine Jeremy Hunt waiting around to see whether such a longwinded legal path is even theoretically possible.
So we can assume its all systems go for the BSkyB deal – subject to prolonged haggling over price.
But what happens next in the great phone-hacking scandal?
James Murdoch, who was recently promoted to deputy chief operating officer of News Corp and chairman and chief executive of the company’s international operations, told a media conference in New York earlier this month that the case had been isolated.
“What we were able to do is really put this problem into a box. If you get everyone sucked into something like that, then the whole business will splutter, which you don’t want,” the young Murdoch said.
That sounds like wishful thinking.
There is no guarantee that anyone will accept the compensation sums now on offer, which will presumably come with confidentiality clauses.
It will take only a few influential people to press on for full disclosure, and who knows how any names are in the vast electronic archives handed over by News International to the police.
There have been suggestions that more than 3000 may have been targeted.
The criminal law will now, at last, take its course but there are still politicians determined that the next stage should involve a public inquiry.
There are certainly important questions still hanging in the air now that the single “rogue” reporter defence has been abandoned – such as who exactly knew what, when.
We also still have to hear who authorised large payments to the private detective involved.
Could an accountant have done that off his own bat?
Perhaps, but it much more likely that authorisation must have involved more senior editorial or managerial figures.
What is certain is that Rupert Murdoch will own all of BSkyB long before the News of the World phone-hacking scandal really has been isolated and finally put in its box.