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Rupert Murdoch pushes his way into British satellite TV

Activists dressed as Prime Minister David Cameron (L), News Corporation owner Rupert Murdoch share a bed in a stunt outside a media and broadcasting conference on March 3, 2011 in London, England.

Steve Chiotakis: In Britain, media giant News Corp is about to get even bigger. The company that owns Fox News and the Times of London, is working out a deal to take control of one of the U.K.'s biggest satellite television broadcasters.

But as Christopher Werth reports not everyone's on board with the deal.


Christopher Werth: Rupert Murdoch has his eye on British Sky Broadcasting, or BSkyB. The network airs everything from England's biggest soccer games to American TV shows like "Mad Men." And it has its own news channel.

Roy Greenslade teaches media at City University London. He says the deal stands to make News Corp. a lot of money.

Roy Greenslade: The revenue from BSkyB is mammoth.

As in $9.5 billion last year. News Corp. already owns 39 percent of the company. Now it's waiting for a green light from the British government to buy the rest, which raises concerns about the growing size of Murdoch's media empire. He's the biggest newspaper owner in the U.K., with the Times of London and the Sun.

Greenslade: It is therefore felt that we will lose pluralism in our media if we allow him to gain full control of BSkyB.

In response to those concerns, Murdoch agreed to spin off Sky's news channel from the rest of the company. But Greenslade says Britain's newspapers have their own worries.

Greenslade: The greatest possibility is that what he would do is bundle his newspapers and BSkyB into an online offering that would be so great in its breadth, no one else could compete.

Claire Enders researches media markets. She says that "bundling" means a subscription to News Corp.'s satellite channels might include a subscription to its newspapers, and free access to its paid online content.

Claire Enders: Which would cause the person who gets that free subscription to stop going to the newsagent to pick up a newspaper, ordering one for home delivery, or indeed consuming any other newspapers.

Those other newspapers have formed an alliance opposing the deal.

News Corp. declined to comment for this story. Reports suggest the takeover will cost Murdoch over $16 billion. Roy Greenslade says the profits from the deal could allow News Corp. to expand in the U.S. media market as well.

In London, I'm Christopher Werth for Marketplace.

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