Sly Bailey: Murdoch will want pound of flesh from Sky

Trinity Mirror chief executive Sly Bailey has said the proposed takeover of BSkyB by News Corp could lead to price wars and the bundling of print and online news with TV and broadband.

Bailey said News Corporation‘s plan to acquire the 61 per cent of BSkyB it does not already own for around £8bn was a ‘massive threat to media plurality in the UK”.

If the deal were to go ahead, Bailey told Press Gazette, News Corp would add to the 37 per cent of the UK national press market that it already owns by taking sole-ownership of two thirds of the pay TV market.

Quoted in the December edition of Press Gazette magazine she said: “Plurality is about making sure that there is a broad range of people who control our media and this deal would further concentrate News Corporation’s power.

‘There are very many potential news stories out there at any one time and their selection for coverage as news is widely held to be influential on public debate and on our democracy. This is literally the power to set the agenda.

‘You have to ask yourself: why does Murdoch want this enough to spend in excess of £8bn on it?

‘He will want his pound of flesh from the market. Rationalising news operations, price wars and bundling news – both print and online – with TV and broadband are what to expect. These are very real threats to plurality.”

Bailey was one of a number of leading print and broadcast media bosses who formed an unprecedented alliance by writing jointly to the Government in October asking it to look at Rupert Murdoch’s attempts to take full control of BSkyB.

The letter to business secretary Vince Cable claimed that a merger of the country’s biggest newspaper group, the Murdoch-owned News International, and Sky could harm media plurality.

In addition to Bailey, the letter was signed by the chief executives of Telegraph Media Group, Associated Newspapers and the Guardian Media Group, regional newspaper publishers Northcliffe Media, along with those of BT and Channel 4 and BBC director general Mark Thompson.

Cable then intervened last month by asking broadcast regulator Ofcom to examine the media plurality issues that could arise from the deal.

The initiation of the Ofcom investigation lead News Corp to take the offensive. Its chief executive in Europe and Asia, James Murdoch, warned the Government that blocking it could threaten UK jobs and future investment in the UK by the US media giant.

Then last month BSkyB issued its own warning, telling Ofcom in its initial submission that blocking News Corp’s takeover could place a question mark over the future of Sky News.

The satellite and digital broadcaster said blocking the takeover risked harming media plurality in the UK by undermining the commercial incentives for it to run Sky News.

Bailey and others spoke to the December issue of Press Gazette magazine on the role Rupert Murdoch plays on the UK media

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