Media forces ally against encroaching Murdoch empire

Mr Murdoch's attempt to take over BSkyB has prompted an unlikely alliance of British media forces
Mr Murdoch's attempt to take over BSkyB has prompted an unlikely alliance of British media forces

By Peter Wozniak

Much of Britain's print and broadcast media joined forces today to attempt to stymie the expansion of Rupert Murdoch's grasp on the market.

The heads of the BBC and Channel 4 were joined by an unusual alliance of newspaper groups from left and right - including the Telegraph, the Guardian and the Daily Mirror - in writing a letter to Vince Cable.

The signatories urged the business secretary to forestall the full takeover by Mr Murdoch's NewsCorp of the broadcaster BSkyB.

Ostensibly, the move by the media groups is designed to protect the plurality of the British media, which they say is under threat by the takeover.

This would see Mr Murdoch's companies own Sky in addition to the Times, Sunday Times, the Sun and the News of the World.

The signatories are also worried that the takeover, should it go through, would give Mr Murdoch's media empire an annual turnover of £7.5 billion.

This would allow his combined holdings to comfortably outspend his nearest competitor, the BBC, and effectively price other media groups out of the market.

News Corp, one of Mr Murdoch's companies, holds a large minority stake in BSkyB and is currently negotiating a full takeover bid.

Dr Cable is considering his next course of action.

The business secretary can consult with the regulator Ofcom and prevent the takeover if he deems it in the public interest.

NewsCorp is expected to apply to the European Commission for approval based on the EU's competition policies.

Dr Cable, with prime ministerial approval, would then have 25 days in which to intervene before any deal could be finalised - but has to be convinced that the takeover would force closures and compromise democratic debate in the media.

Mr Murdoch has endured relentless criticism over his vast and growing media holdings - and his alleged political influence.

The prime minister faces a quandary over whether to oppose the move, given that all four of Mr Murdoch's UK newspapers supported him in the election campaign.


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