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Media tycoon’s bid for U.K. broadcaster delayed

Stephen Beard Jul 11, 2011
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Kai Ryssdal: The twists and turns continue in the saga of Rupert Murdoch and his British media empire. Today, former Prime Minister Gordon Brown said he, too, had been hacked by the now-closed News of the World. Murdoch has gone to London to try to clean up the mess and in the process try to salvage one of the biggest business deals of his career.

From London, Marketplace’s Stephen Beard reports.


Stephen Beard: The speed of this crisis is breathtaking. A week ago, Britain’s political leaders fell over themselves trying to win Murdoch’s support. Now they’re lining up to damn him and his plan to buy out Britain’s biggest TV company, the hugely profitable BSkyB.

Ed Miliband is leader of the opposition Labour Party.

Ed Miliband: As these allegations and new evidence emerges hour by hour, it makes more and more untenable, the bid for BSkyB.

Murdoch wants to buy the 61 percent of BSkyB that he does not already own, but his plan has been badly damaged by the phone hacking revelations and the claim today that his staff may have compromised the security of the Royal Family by buying their private contact details from a corrupt police officer. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg today had this message for Murdoch:

Nick Clegg: Look how the country has reacted with revulsion to the revelations. So do the decent and sensible thing and think again about your bid for BSkyB.

Murdoch responded with some clever footwork. He withdrew certain concessions he’d made to allay monopoly concerns. Legally, the government would then have to turn the matter over to the independent competition regulator. In Parliament this afternoon, Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt did just that.

Jeremy Hunt: I’m now going to refer this to the Competition Commission with immediate effect.

That removes the deal from the hostile political arena. Murdoch has bought himself time, but his troubles are far from over. A major police inquiry into the bribery claims is underway. And News Corp’s share price is sinking.

In London, I’m Stephen Beard for Marketplace.

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