Sun, Jan 02, 2011 - Page 11 News List

News Corp-BSkyB report sent to UK government

Reuters, LONDON

A report examining whether News Corp’s proposed US$12 billion buyout of BSkyB would give too much media power to Rupert Murdoch was sent to the British government on Friday, without being made public.

News Corp, led by Murdoch, wants to buy the 61 percent of the British satellite broadcaster it does not already own for £7.8 billion (US$12.18 billion) to consolidate a business it helped build.

However, rivals have raised concerns that the merger would give Murdoch too much influence over public opinion.

The government asked Britain’s communications regulator Ofcom to examine the deal and to make a recommendation as to whether it should be referred for further inspection by Britain’s Competition Commission.

“Ofcom can confirm that it has submitted its report into the public interest considerations to the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport,” an Ofcom spokesman said.

Ofcom declined to comment on the contents of the report, which remains confidential until it is published by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

News Corp said in a statement it “remains confident that its proposed investment in BSkyB will not adversely affect media plurality in the Britain and is committed to continuing to engage with the regulatory process.”

News Corp owns about a third of the newspaper market including the Times and the Sun, the country’s best-selling tabloid, which supported British Prime Minister David Cameron during May’s national parliamentary elections.

Analysts and lawyers expect Ofcom to request a further investigation and it will then be up to British Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt to agree.

A DCMS spokesman said the department was not disclosing the contents of Ofcom’s report for now. He said it was likely to publish the report at the same time that Hunt announces his decision, which is expected by the end of January.

Analysts ultimately expect News Corp to complete the deal although a delay could push the price up.

The case has drawn widespread attention in Britain, where competing media groups including the BBC and national newspapers have joined forces to protest against the deal.

It has also caused problems for Business Secretary Vince Cable, who was stripped of power over the media sector after being taped saying he had declared war on Murdoch — resulting in the case being handed to Hunt.

Ofcom examined the case on media plurality grounds. The deal has already won unconditional approval from the European Commission which looked at it in terms of the impact on competition.

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