UK media groups in bid to block News Corp BSkyB takeover

UK newspaper proprietors have banded together with the BBC, Channel 4 and BT to petition business secretary Vince Cable to block News Corp’s proposed acquisition of the shares in pay-TV provider BSkyB that it does not already own.

All News Corp’s main UK competitors in the newspaper business – the Telegraph Group, Daily Mail and General Trust, Trinity Mirror and Guardian Media Group – together with public broadcasters the BBC and Channel 4 and telco BT, have asked Cable to refer the takeover to regulator Ofcom for review on the grounds that it would significantly diminish media plurality in the UK. A letter signed by Murdoch MacLennan, chief executive of Telegraph Media Group, Sly Bailey, chief executive of Trinity Mirror, owner of the Daily Mirror, and Andrew Miller, chief executive of Guardian Media Group, and sent to Cable, warned of the dangers of allowing the creation of a combined News Crop-owned media group spanning TV, online and print. Cable has also received a memo prepared by law firm Slaughter & May setting out the legal case for the minister to intervene.

News Corp’s newspaper publishing rivals in particular fear that a News Corp that owned BSkyB outright would be able to dominate news provision by combining TV, online and print in a single entity, and by using cash generated by BSkyB to invest in digital delivery channels.

News Corp is expected to file for regulatory approval of the takeover on competition grounds with the European Commission in he next 10 days. Cable would then have a further 25 days to decide whether to refer the deal on public interest grounds based on whether it could affect media plurality.

News Corp has yet to win approval of any deal by BSkyB’s independent board members. 

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