UK Politicos Mull Probe into Sky's ITV Stock Snatch

08 December 2006

LONDON: British parliamentarians, increasingly concerned at the national political influence wielded by Clan Murdoch, are mulling an official enquiry into BSkyB's £940 million ($1,85bn; €1.39bn) ITV stock purchase spoiler.

In a surprise move last month, NewsCorp-controlled BSkyB snatched a 17.9% stake in ITV, Britain's largest commercial broadcaster, effectively wrecking its friendly merger negotiations with US cable group NTL.

Austin Mitchell, chairman of the all-party parliamentary media group, voiced his fears. "We're very concerned because of the effect this will have on the ecology of broadcasting and the uncertainty about what will happen."

"It's a big move in the field and yet all is quiet on the western front (and the eastern, northern and southern fronts). I find that slightly surprising. An inquiry is a possibility, but we first want to know what is happening politically."

Some see Mitchell's caution as a coded message that the dependency of the Blair administration on Clan Murdoch's electoral patronage could preclude the rocking of any political boats by an enquiry.

Nonetheless, seventy-five members of parliament across all parties have signed a motion urging the government to bring forward its review of public service broadcasting in light of Sky's stock swoop.

And, as if to prove that the art of ventriloquism can span the Atlantic ocean, London-based James Murdoch who runs Pop's BSkyB satellite monopoly, lashed out last week at the "authoritarian and elitist" UK broadcasting scene.

Data sourced from; additional content by WARC staff