When the phone-hacking scandal blew wide open in the UK last July, Rupert Murdoch abandoned a plan to acquire the 61% of BSkyB that his News Corp did not already own. Now, the scandal could have an even further impact on News Corp, BSkyB and the satellite broadcaster’s chairman, James Murdoch. On Thursday, it emerged that UK communications regulator Ofcom had ramped up a probe into whether James Murdoch and News Corp itself are “fit and proper” persons to own a broadcast license. If they are deemed unfit, speculation is News Corp could be forced to reduce its BSkyB stake to a non-controlling level while James Murdoch could be forced to step down. He left his post as chief of News Corp’s UK press arm, News International, last month, but has remained as chairman of BSkyB.
Based on documents it acquired under a Freedom of Information Act request, The Financial Times reported late Thursday that Ofcom had created “Project Apple” to handle the fit and proper probe. The team is scrutinizing material coming out of the Leveson Inquiry into UK media ethics as well as Scotland Yard’s investigations into phone hacking and alleged payments made to public officials by journalists at newspapers controlled by News International. The documents show that the fit and proper question was discussed in late 2011, but escalated to project level in January. The consideration of whether a licensee is fit and proper takes into account any relevant misconduct of those who manage and control it. An Ofcom spokesperson tells Deadline: “New evidence is still emerging from the various enquiries in relation to the hacking and corruption allegations. Ofcom is continuing to assess the evidence that may assist it in discharging its duties.” A decision is expected once the Leveson Inquiry and the police investigations are at a more advanced stage.
City and media analysts agree that it’s almost certain News Corp will now get approval to buy the 61% of BSkyB it doesn’t own. The deal would cement Rupert Murdoch’s position as the most powerful media magnate in the world. … Read More »
News Corp has balked at selling off Sky News to satisfy Brussels. Despite that nose-thumbing, the European Commission has extended from December 8 to December 22 the deadline for the first phase of its competition investigation of Rupert Murdoch’s £12 billion ($19 billion) takeover of BSkyB. What Brussels is worried … Read More »
James Murdoch has warned the UK government that News Corp could move overseas if the regulator blocks its £7.8 billion ($12.5 billion) bid for BSkyB. News Corp’s European and Asian boss made the veiled threat talking to investment bank analysts in Barcelona. The government must decide whether it wants to risk “jeopardising an £8 billion investment in the UK” with a prolonged investigation, Murdoch said, noting that News Corp could relocate some of its most innovative projects to more “welcoming” countries if the UK blocks its bid for BSkyB. “From India to Italy and to Germany, countries are becoming more welcoming of investment and more welcoming of what we can bring,” Murdoch said. Read More »
Speaking in the House of Lords, the UK equivalent of the Senate, David Puttnam said that News Corp’s bid to take control of BSkyB posed a threat to democracy. Here are excerpts from the speech given by the one-time Columbia Pictures boss:
My Lords… I had the honour of entering your Lordships House thirteen years ago tomorrow. Since that time there have been three or four really big issues with which I’ve consistently tried to engage – in part because they relate to experiences gained in my former life, but also because I believe they represent the type of issues upon which rests the future of the type of society most of us would wish to live in… My Lords, the purpose of this afternoon’s debate is to draw attention to the possibility that we are on the edge of a very slippery slope – one that could find us falling further and further under the influence of a single, US-based owner, with a highly questionable interest in the benefits of a diverse and flourishing plural media here in the United Kingdom. So why this debate, and why now?
The primary reason My Lords is that News Corporation yesterday notified the European Commission of its intention to purchase the 61% of BSkyB that it does not presently own. As I’ve already mentioned, this morning we heard the welcome news that this proposal had been referred by the Secretary of State, to Ofcom. It’s my most sincere hope that the Coalition’s proposed ‘trimming’ of Ofcom’s powers will not result in any diminution of its capacity to exercise those powers in respect of important matters such as this.
There, are of course, a number of aspects to media plurality – notably the Government’s proposals to repeal the local “cross-media” ownership laws, but this afternoon I only have time to focus on the really big issue resulting from News Corporation’s power, reach and influence. It’s my contention that if regulators and legislators in Europe and the UK remain supine, and simply wave this proposed acquisition through, the consequences for the citizens, as well as the political class in this country could become deeply troubling. The purchase of these shares would give News Corporation an unprecedented level of control over the UK media, one that to my mind has the potential to be extremely damaging, not just in respect of media plurality, but to informed democratic debate as a whole.
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Vince Cable, the British business secretary, has ordered media regulator Ofcom (the UK’s equivalent of America’s FCC) to investigate Rupert Murdoch’s plan to take full control of the … Read More »
Rupert Murdoch took a swipe at rival media groups striving to block News Corp’s takeover of BSkyB and accused them of petty thinking. In what was billed as his first major speech in the UK since 1989, Murdoch tonight … Read More »
Mark Thompson has called on the British government to intervene in News Corp’s bid to take full control of BSkyB. Speaking on PBS’s Charlie Rose Show in New York, he agreed there was potential for an abuse of power by the Murdoch media group if BSkyB, the UK’s biggest broadcaster in terms of its £5.4 billion revenue, comes under the same ownership as News International, the UK’s largest newspaper group. Combining BSkyB with News International, owner of The Sun, The Times and The Sunday Times, raised issues of “how you ensure plurality in the system”, Thompson warned. He said that the UK government should look at those issues – although he stopped short of calling for the deal to be blocked. Read More »
Channel 4’s deputy chairman has gone on the attack again, bashing Rupert Murdoch and News Corporation for the amount of power they wield in British media. On Sunday Puttnam, former CEO of Columbia Pictures, gave an interview to the Observer newspaper, calling for UK business secretary Vince Cable to block News Corp from owning BSkyB outright. Puttnam warned the BBC this afternoon that a unified Murdoch empire would have a single voice penetrating newspapers, TV and e-readers. Read More »
Nobody expects UK Business Secretary Vince Cable to block Rupert Murdoch from buying the 61% of Sky he doesn’t already own. But Cable, a popular politician here in Britain, is unhappy about Murdoch’s tightening grip on UK media. The official cannot … Read More »
News Corp’s deputy chairman has set his face against increasing its £7.8 billion ($12.4 billion) for the 60% it doesn’t own of BSkyB. Carey has warned the Brit pay-TV giant that Rupert Murdoch’s company has “other options for its cash”. In yesterday’s … Read More »