Rupert Murdoch celebrates his 80th birthday a week from now on March 11 (he was born on March 11, 1931). It just could be that his birthday will see confirmation that his News Corp is given permission to acquire the 61 per cent of BSkyB it does not already own.
The prospects come about because of an apparent decision by Murdoch to spin off BSkyB-owned Sky News, and thus minimise the allegations of news domination in the UK by News Corp-owned news titles.
The proposal to cede control of Sky News has been made to UK media regulator OFCOM and the UK’s Office of Fair Trading (OFT). UK Culture & Media Secretary Jeremy Hunt is reportedly in favour and has asked Ofcom and the OFT for their formal comments, which are again said to be favourable.
If these assorted approvals are given, then the argument will begin as to how much News Corp has to pay for the BSkyB shares it doesn’t already own. News Corp has offered700p a share, but existing shareholders are expecting much more with the market anticipating anything up to 850/900p a share. BSkyB shares were up 2.5p to 795p on March 2, having risen from 700p in October.
However, while Rupert Murdoch might start celebrating, the same might not be true for the government. Jeremy Hunt’s decision is almost certain to run into legal challenges in the form of – at least – Judicial Review of the decision.