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Murdoch may give up Sky News to acquire BSkyB

Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation may have to relinquish editorial control of its Sky News channel if it wants to take full control British Sky Broadcasting Group Plc and keep the British Government on side.

Murdoch's attempt to snaffle up the rest of BSkyB will be referred to the Competition Commission, unless News Corp. gives up some of its other media assets in the UK, the Government said yesterday.

Culture Secretary Jeremy 'rhyming slang' Hunt delayed referring News Corp.'s bid to the regulator if the outfit could propose measures that would "prevent or otherwise mitigate the merger from having effects adverse to the public interest.”

Murdoch is highly unlikely to dispose of either the Sun or the Times, control of which gives him direct access to whichever numpty happens to live at 10 Downing Street at any given time. The only concession looking likely is therefore some rejig of Sky News, if the nomadic media mogul is serious in his £7.8 billion bid for full control of BSkyB.

Ivan Lewis, shadow culture, media and sport secretary, criticised Hunt's move. He said: "The right thing to do is to refer the bid to the Competition Commission … instead [Hunt] has chosen an unprecedented course of action, which raises further doubts about the integrity of the process."

BSkyB reports its first-half year earnings tomorrow, and they're expected to be pretty healthy, meaning News Corp. will want to stitch up the deal quickly, as the company's share price is likely to keep on rising. An investigation by the Competition Commissionis likely to delay the deal by a good six months.

Murdoch is reported to want to ditch his visit to the Davos global economic summit this week in order to be on hand in London to personally bully the Government into submission.

For his part, Hunt only took charge of the review of the deal, when he took over as Business Secretary Vince Cable, who was sacked after a conversation was leaked in which he “declared war” on Murdoch.

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