British media scrambles to prevent Murdoch takeover of Sky Broadcasting
UK’s largest newspaper publisher, television network may soon be under one roof
An unprecedented coalition of British media outlets have banded together in recent weeks, insisting the government intervene in a planned buyout of British Sky Broadcasting by Australian-American media tycoon Rupert Murdoch.
Murdoch, owner of Fox News Channel parent company News Corporation, already has a 39 percent stake in Sky, but he’s looking to up that to 100. The broadcaster’s total value is estimated at around 12.3 billion euros, according to The Financial Times.
Raising objections to the takeover were the heads of the BBC; Associated Newspapers, which owns The Daily Telegraph and The Daily Mail; The Guardian Media Group; The Telegraph Media Group and Trinity Mirror, which owns The Daily Mirror: they and other all signed a petition directed toward UK Business Secretary Vince Cable, asking that he consider halting the proposed 8 billion euro buyout.
“The business secretary is expected to make his ruling within 10 days of the European commission being notified, and his decision will have to be rubber-stamped by [Prime Minister David] Cameron,” The Guardian explained, in one of several stories on the subject Monday. “The media plurality test – which would be carried out first by the communications regulator Ofcom and then by ministers – is a loosely-defined concept by which Cable would have to be convinced that rival newspapers and broadcasters were at risk of closure or cuts that would damage democratic debate.”
That may be a hard charge to prove, considering Murdoch’s son, James, once sat on British Sky Broadcasting’s board of directors as chairman. He’s currently the executive chairman of News International, the UK’s largest newspaper publishing house and owner of The Times, The Sunday Times, The Sun and News of the World.
“We’re not saying there’s been a crime committed here,” BBC chief Mark Thompson recently told PBS interviewer Charlie Rose. “What we’re saying is there is – given the scale of the potential ownership in UK media – there’s a strong case for looking at it systemically and deciding whether or not anything needs to be done to address the issue. If the two [News Corp and Sky] were combined, there might be a significant loss of plurality in our media market.”
It would seem his argument was substantial enough to earn the support of Lord Fowler, former chairman of the British House of Lords select committee on communications.
“Any proposal to allow a company of [Sky’s] size to come under the same ownership as the country’s largest national newspaper group must be a matter of legitimate public concern,” Fowler wrote in The Guardian on Tuesday. “So Cable should certainly call in any bid by News Corp for full control of Sky – but that should not be the end of it. The government should go one step further and examine what impact the increasing concentration of ownership is having on the news we all receive.”
The British business secretary has the power to put News Corporation’s takeover of Sky on hold. No announcement has been made as to his expected decision.
News Corporation is one of the world’s largest media conglomerations, with mainstream assets in the worlds of book publishing, newspapers, magazines, entertainment television, movies, televised national and local news, online social media and professional sports.
Critics of the media giant say owner Rupert Murdoch has tried to influence US politics by supporting conservatives in government and heavily promoting efforts to launch a war of aggression against Iraq. Likewise, Murdoch’s Fox News Channel employs almost every mainstream Republican viewed as a potential candidate for the presidency in 2012, and the company has given over $2 million to Republican campaigns and their conservative allies with the US Chamber of Commerce.