News prepares to take BSkyB takeover to EC

By Julian Clover
Published: November 1, 2010 10.46 Europe/London

News Corp is expected to formally notify the European Commission of its intention to purchase the remainder of BSkyB within the next few days. Industry concern centres around the potential buying power of News Corpís European television operations and UK media plurality.
BSkyB directors have previously rejected the 700 pence (842 euro cents) per share offer for the 61% of the company that News Corp does not already own. The June bid valued the satcaster at £12.6 billion.
A potential UK challenge may come from the business secretary Vince Cable amid concerns from rival media organisations, the BBC, Channel 4, BT, The Guardian, Trinity Mirror, the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph that a News Corp takeover might impact on the plurality of British Media.
Cable could refer the matter to the UK media regulator Ofcom, which so far has made no formal announcement.
In addition to Sky News, News Corp would also have four national newspapers under its control, The Times, The Sunday Times, The Sun and the News of the World.
Around Europe, News Corp has full control of Sky Italia, but holds 49.9% of Sky Deutschland following its September rights issue. News Corp has largely withdrawn from Central & East Europe, having previously sold operations in Poland, Serbia and Latvia.
The question of a bulk rights purchase is a vexed issue, particularly given that most programmes are bought and sold on a national basis. Arguably it could work to an advantage were News Corp to structure its programming arms to allow some international co-production.