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Murdoch bid hits rough patch

Hasan Suroor

LONDON: A bid by Rupert Murdoch — who already controls a significant share of Britain's media market through his ownership of The Times group of newspapers — to further increase his influence by trying to buy out BSkyB, the satellite broadcaster which runs the Sky TV network, appears to have hit a rough patch.

The media regulator, Ofcom, was on Thursday reportedly set to recommend greater scrutiny of the controversial £8-billion deal that, it is widely feared, would give Mr. Murdoch disproportionate influence over the British media. His company News Corporation already owns 39 per cent of BSkyB and its bid to acquire the remaining 61 per cent has become one of the most hotly debated issues uniting the normally fractious Fleet Street behind calls for the deal to be stopped in the interest of “media plurality”.

Last week, the European Commission cleared the move but ruled that its decision did not affect a separate investigation by British regulators. According to The Guardian, Ofcom has completed a “public interest” inquiry into whether the buyout would damage media plurality. It said that while the conclusions of the inquiry would remain confidential “most expect the regulator to demand a further investigation by the Competition Commission”.

In a rare show of unity, rival media groups including The Guardian, The Telegraph, The Daily Mail and the Daily Mirror have come together to oppose the move arguing that it would breach the principle of media plurality. .

Liberal Democrat Business Secretary Vince Cable was stripped of his quasi-judicial role over the issue after being secretly recorded saying he had declared “war” on Mr. Murdoch and would block the buyout. The Tory Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who will now take a decision, is more favourably disposed.

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