News Corp wants to buy BSkyB, at least the 61% that it doesn’t already own, and given the success that the paycaster has enjoyed over the past 21 years wouldn’t anyone asks Julian Clover?
Immediately questions are raised as to what a BSkyB firmly in the control of the Murdoch family might do to the plurality of British media. James Murdoch is and will remain the chairman of BSkyB while his father Rupert is chairman of News Corp itself. As always the problem is separating fact from comment, the British press could be characterised as either being owned by Murdoch or anti-Murdoch, which leaves little room for manoeuvre.
The main regulatory hurdle may well be put up by the European Commission. The coalition government will also decide whether to launch competition reviews into the bid, which must first be officially tabled. Arguably with Ofcom’s wholesale must carry shortly to be a feature of the Sky ratecard, the wings have already been clipped.
When it launched its four-channel service (four channels, how quaint) from Astra in 1989, Sky Television was solely in the hands of Murdoch, complete with dish giveaways in The Sun. Only when the company merged with British Satellite Broadcasting to become BSkyB did other directors find themselves around the table.
But when it came to management, no one could doubt who Sam Chisholm was working for, and from technology to programming the company was branded News Corp like a stick of Osterley rock. There is no reason to imagine how this might drastically change.
Of News Corp’s two other European pay-TV operations only Sky Italia is listed entirely on the balance sheet. Staff are still able to move from one pay-TV operation to another, though at first sight there has been more movement between Italy and Germany than there has with the UK.
One of the questions that might be asked by Brussels is whether there would be any linkage between newspapers and other media. It is surely no coincidence that Sky Sports News is being made into a pay channel just as The Times puts up a paywall and begins charging for its website. There remain plenty of other ways to access News Corp content without tapping in your credit card details first.
When the paywall was first mooted there were suggestions that a Times subscription could be bundled in with a Sky TV package. Good news for your reporter, as someone who already had a Times sub, but so far nothing doing. Indeed the only obvious connection is the inclusion of Sky listings in the Culture section of the online Sunday Times, complete with Remote Record functionality back to the Sky box. Such a service can already be found on the Sky website, making The Sunday Times offer more convenience than bundle.
More likely there is nothing more to the News Corp bid for Sky that the ever astute Murdoch family having an eye for a bargain. And what better bargain can there be than one that has made investment in broadband, HD and 3D.