Media unite against Murdoch BskyB takeover


LONDON -- Pressure is mounting on business secretary Vince Cable to intervene in News Corp.'s bid to acquire the 61% of BSkyB it does not already own.

In letter delivered to the minister, a rainbow coalition of British media powers from all parts of the political spectrum have urged Cable to consider blocking the deal, protesting that the "proposed takeover could have serious and far-reaching consequences for media plurality".

The petition has been signed by the head of the right-leaning Daily Telegraph and Daily Mail newspapers as well as the left-leaning Guardian and Daily Mirror, and also by BBC director general Mark Thompson and Channel 4 chief executive David Abraham.

It comes just a week after the BBC's Thompson told PBS's Charlie Rose that the merger could constitute a possible "abuse of power."

The intervention of not only an unprecedented alliance of newspaper groups but also Britain's two publicly owned broadcasters will heap pressure on the embattled business secretary, who is currently overseeing a whole range of unpopular spending cuts.

News Corp. made the bid earlier this year, and though BSkyB rejected the £8 billion ($12.6 billion) offer as "too low," the two companies have agreed to scope out the potential regulatory implications of a deal, before thrashing it out on price.

If Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. were to wholly own BSkyB -- which now has almost 10 million subscribers -- it would be able to buttress its cashflow with Sky's £626 million ($989 million) annual contribution as of last year's annual report, on revenues of almost £6 billion ($9.5 billion).

The resilience of Sky's subscription business would help balance out News Corp's higher risk portfolio, which is impacted by how the advertising downturn affects the Fox Network, and by box office performance for the studio.

It would mean that the Wall Street Journal, The New York Post, The Times, The Sunday Times, the Sun the News of the World all came under the same ownership, and that Fox News and Fox Business News would be sister channels to Sky News and Sky's suite of premium and basic movie, sports, entertainment and arts channels.
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