Murdoch rails at UK injustice

NewsCorp chairman Rupert Murdoch has complained over what he describes asthe "huge injustice" of BSkyB being forced to sell its 17.9%holding in commercial broadcaster ITV. Murdoch was speaking at NewsCorp's AGM in New York.

"Thepurchase of those shares at ITV was totally within the law,"Murdoch told investors in reference to BSkyB's £940m acquisition($2.35 billion) in ITV almost two years ago. "There was aspecial law passed to make sure Sky didn't buy more than 20% and itdid not. It bought 17.9%. It's a huge injustice that Sky hassuffered."

Murdochsaid the issue had been "parked up with various quangos andcommittees" and was not yet final. Once it was, it would stillbe reviewable by the courts. UK regulators last year ruled the sizeof the BSkyB holding in ITV was against the public interest, adecision recently upheld by an appeals tribunal. BSkyB now has todecide whether to further challenge those decisions.

Murdochis right in pointing out that the (UK) Communications Act contains aspecific clause preventing major newspaper owners from buying morethan 20% of ITV, but regulators also have permission to investigatethe public interest implications of any large media takeover. BSkyBhas already written down £660m of losses connected with the purchaseof ITV.