News Corp seeks government meetings

It has emerged that senior executives of News Corp are seeking meetings with either ministers or civil servants responsible for clearing or blocking its attempt to take full control of BSkyB, which is seen as a likely indication that regulator Ofcom’s report to Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt recommended a six-month investigation of the proposed bid.

News Corp executives had been scheduled to appear before MPs from the House of Commons select committee on culture, media and sport, but have withdrawn, telling the committee they could not attend because they be fully working on the Ofcom report in the coming weeks. MPs on the select committee were advised: “News Corporation have informed us that they are now unable to brief the committee on Wednesday because they expect to be fully engaged with the Ofcom report and with confidential discussions with DCMS. There will, therefore, be no committee meeting on Wednesday.”

According to the Financial Times, people close to Rupert Murdoch’s media group confirmed that senior executives had received the report and were now seeking meetings with Hunt, or with officials of his department, before he decided whether to refer the bid to the Competition Commission. If he does so, the completion of the bid, if allowed, would be delayed by about six months.

The commission’s role would be to consider whether combining the strong market position of BSkyB, with its 10m subscribers, and the News International newspaper group, which has 37 per cent of the national UK market, could lead to a reduction in media plurality.

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