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January 10, 2011

Lords, academics and union leader fear News Corp’s BSkyB takeover

By Alex Sharp

Lords, journalism academics and trade unionists united today to raise their fears about the proposed takeover of BSkyB by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation.

In a letter to the Financial Times, Lord Fowler, Lord Puttnam and Professor Roy Greenslade joined others – including NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear – in urging Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt to refer the bid to the Competition Commission for further proper examination.

Should the merger go ahead, the letter stated, News Corp would reach 52 per cent of the adult population.

The signatories said a referral to the Competition Commission was needed “for the sake of media plurality” as a merger would have “profound consequences not just for the media plurality but for our democracy”.

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“Of the 175 News Corp newspapers worldwide, every one supported the Iraq war because of the strong editorial control exercised over them,” the letter said.

“Sky News risks going the same way, with profoundly distorting consequences for the UK’s news agenda.”

Sky’s huge subscription base could then “bundle together television and newspaper services, placing huge pressures on the rest of the media market,” the letter added.

The BSkyB bid has already been wrapped up in controversy following Vince Cable telling undercover reporters he had ‘declared war on Rupert Murdoch” and consequently the decision was handed to Cabinet colleague Hunt.

Broadcast regulator Ofcom presented its report on the proposed merger to Hunt on News Year’s Eve – he is expected later this month to announce whether he thinks the deal can go ahead or to instead refer it to the Competition Commission for further evaluation.

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