We’ll never know what Sumner whispered into Tony’s ear when the chairman and chief executive officer of Viacom called on the UK prime minister last week [WAMN: 08-Nov-02] – nor whether his sweet nothings precipitated the sudden propulsion of Britain's Communications Bill into top priority slot in Parliament’s lawmaking agenda.

When the House of Commons reconvened Wednesday after its three-month summer recess, the Queen’s speech [in which she outlines the forward legislative programme] included reference to the surprise fast-tracking of the bill.

“Legislation will be brought forward to reform the broadcasting and telecommunications industry by promoting competition and investment and giving powers to the Office of Communications,” said Her Majesty, dutifully reciting the script prepared by New Labour’s spin machine.

Parliamentary insiders say the bill could be introduced as early as next week and become law within months. The minister for culture media and sport Tessa Jowell is expected to outline the bill’s timescale and confirm its contents today (Thursday) when she addresses the Westminster Media Forum.

The bill’s most controversial element – the removal of barrier’s to non-EU ownership of Britain's TV and radio industry – is expected to remain firmly in place despite a torrent of opposition including that of the Puttnam committee appointed by the government to examine the provisions of the bill.

No prizes for guessing what Sumner said to Tony!

Data sourced from: MediaGuardian.co.uk; additional content by WARC staff