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News Corp/BSkyB Deal Almost Certain To Be Approved, Say Analysts

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. Investec Securities, the investment bank, says it’s now 90% certain the deal will go ahead. Credit Suisse puts the likelihood even higher at 95%. BSkyB’s share price rose by 2% today in the wake of UK business secretary Vince Cable, the man who was supposed to have final veto over the deal, being stripped of his media powers. Brit TV and radio news bulletins have been about little else. Investment bank Nomura says Cable’s removal represents a “big step forward” for News Corp. Cable told 2 undercover reporters from the Daily Telegraph newspaper that he had “declared war” on Murdoch. Cable was supposed to be impartial when weighing evidence from media regulator Ofcom as to whether to refer the deal. News Corp’s bid will now be vetted by culture secretary Jeremy Hunt, a man known to be sympathetic to BSkyB. “It does seem to me that News Corp do control Sky already, so it isn’t clear to me that in terms of media plurality there is a substantive change,” Hunt said in June. Now that he’s got the quasi-judicial role, Hunt will want to be seen as impartial, media analyst Claire Enders tells me. “Jeremy will be at pains to … Read More »

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Murdoch BSkyB Probe Thrown Into Chaos

Jeremy Hunt, the UK culture secretary – and a man known to be sympathetic to the Murdoch media empire – will now decide whether News Corp’s £7.8 billion ($12.5 billion) takeover of BSkyB gets referred to the Competition Commission. Business secretary Vince Cable disqualified himself from the role this afternoon after telling 2 undercover newspaper reporters that he had “declared war on Mr Murdoch and I think we are going to win”. Prime minister David Cameron called Cable’s views on Rupert Murdoch “completely unacceptable”. The BBC has been leaked the full transcript of Cable’s secret taped conversation with the Daily Telegraph reporters. Ofcom is investigating the bid on the grounds of protecting a diversity of voices. It’s not meant to be political. Cable went on: “His whole empire is now under attack… So there are things like that we do in government, that we can’t do… all we can do in opposition is protest.” Robert Peston, the Beeb’s business editor, has been leaked the transcript by a whistleblower unhappy that the Daily Telegraph omitted this part of Cable’s interview in today’s front page splash. News Corp says: “News Corporation is shocked and dismayed by reports of Mr Cable’s comments. They raise serious questions about fairness and due process.” Claire Enders of Enders Analysis, the media analyst who wrote to Cable outlining how the deal would harm media diversity, tells me: “This was a huge mistake on his part. It … Read More »

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James Murdoch Bares Teeth Over Sky Bid

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 »

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UK Government Probes Murdoch BSkyB Bid

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 pay-TV operator BSkyB. He’s intervened now that News Corp has formally notified the European authorities of its plans for a 100% takeover of BSkyB. Rival media groups keep complaining that would concentrate too many news outlets under one person’s control. Murdoch already owns 3 of the Britain’s biggest newspapers. Ofcom now has until the end of this year to decide whether the takeover would harm UK media plurality.

News Corp says it looks forward to discussing the takeover with the authorities now that it has delivered a 1,000-page document to Brussels-based competition regulators who will decide whether there are grounds for a deeper anti-trust investigation by December 8. Claire Enders, the media analyst who wrote to Cable back in September warning him about the impact of the Sky takeover, tells me: “We expected that this step would be taken. The law is reasonably straightforward, and the transaction always seemed to us to meet the conditions for a decision in favor of an intervention.”

Murdoch’s plans will come under concerted attack in the House of Lords today. David Puttnam will tell his fellow Lords that the buy-out would make Murdoch the most dominant … Read More »

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Rupert Murdoch Blasts Anti-News Corp Alliance Opposed To BSkyB Bid

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 was the inaugural speaker of the Margaret Thatcher Lecture series at the UK’s conservative Center For Policy Studies in London. He said: “When the upstart is too successful, somehow the old interests surface, and restrictions on growth are proposed or imposed. That’s an issue for my company … These are small thinkers who believe their job is to cut the cake up rather than make it bigger.” Murdoch was referring to bosses of some of Britain’s biggest media groups — including the BBC, the Daily Mail, the Telegraph and Channel 4 – who have written a joint letter to British business secretary Vince Cable calling for him to intervene. The government minister has the power to refer News Corp’s proposal to UK media regulator Ofcom (equivalent of America’s FCC), potentially derailing the £8 billion takeover. BSkyB is likely to notify Brussels officially of News Corp’s takeover intentions by the end of October. That starts the clock for the business secretary, who has to make a decision on whether to intervene within 2 weeks after that. 

In what at times was a self-effacing speech – at one point he referred to himself as a “parvenu” – Murdoch paid tribute to the former British prime minister and her legacy. Murdoch also … Read More »

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Fears Grow If Rupert Murdoch Buys BSkyB

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 even start an examination until News Corp has filed its takeover bid with the European Commission in Brussels. I’m told that News Corp is still in pre-notification discussions with the IC and conversations are going back and forth between Brussels and News Corp headquarters in Isleworth, west London. Formal notification should happen within weeks.

Enders Analysis — the TV consultancy which has already written to Cable appealing for him to block News Corp’s Sky takeover on media plurality grounds — estimates that, sometime between 2015-2020, News International and Sky will control 50% of the UK newspaper and television markets respectively. Sky is already bigger than the BBC is terms of broadcasting revenue, earning £5.4 billion compared with the BBC’s £3.6 billion licence fee. “I think the chances of an intervention are very slim indeed,” Enders tells me.

This morning’s Financial Times has called on Cable to investigate the deal. Yet Cable, who’s a Liberal Democrat minister in the government coalition, is experiencing what any British politician – Conservative or Labour – fearful of upsetting the Murdoch press feels right now. Because Murdoch’s power, according to Labour PR adviser Lance Price, is rooted in fear of what he might do as much as in fear of what … Read More »

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