Chris Patten 'Preferred Candidate' for BBC Trust Chairman Position
LONDON -- There will be no love lost between Rupert Murdoch and the next chairman of the BBC Trust, Chris Patten, the former governor of Hong Kong.
And there might be some old scores to settle.
Patten -- who successfully sued Murdoch's publishing group Harper Collins when it pulled out of publishing his anti-China memoirs in 1998 -- was confirmed Friday as Prime Minister David Cameron's "preferred candidate" for chairman of the BBC Trust. Assuming he clears the formality of an all-party committee of Parliamentarians, the job will be his at the end of next month.
Patten will head the $7.7 billion-a year-broadcaster's oversight committee, with the task of evaluating the BBC's management strategy and deciding whether it meets its public service obligations.
Patten's other big job will be to shield the pubcaster from an army of its critics, the most powerful of which is BSkyB, the $12 billion satellite broadcaster that Murdoch soon hopes to own outright. Indeed the bad blood between the BBC and BSkyB has now become generational, with James Murdoch, currently BSkyB's chairman, also issuing a scathing critique of the pubcaster's size, scale and purpose.
Patten first locked horns with Rupert Murdoch in the late '90s. After stepping down as governor of Hong Kong when the British colony was handed back to China, he penned a memoir detailing his battles over democratic rights for Hong Kong citizens that was widely seen as critical of the Chinese regime.
East and West was quietly dropped by Harper Collins after the publisher intimated it was not up to professional standards and had proved "too boring."
However, a series of highly embarrassing memos subsequently came to light suggesting that the book had been canned because it jeopardized Murdoch's Asian business interests.
Patten received an "unreserved apology" from Harper Collins and was paid an undisclosed sum to resolve the dispute. At the same time Murdoch faced critical headlines as an exodus of high-profile writers quit his publishing imprint.
Almost 15 years on, however, Murdoch's Star TV has become of the biggest satellite networks in Asia with operations in 20 countries, while BSkyB is the most cash-generative pay-TV broadcaster in Europe.
With Murdoch's old adversary Patten about to take a hugely influential post at his least favorite broadcaster, the BBC, the clock is ticking on how long the two old stags can resist entering the ring for a second round.