U.K. Newspapers Join BBC in Opposition to Murdoch BSkyB Deal

U.K. newspapers and the British Broadcasting Corp. asked the government to block Rupert Murdoch- controlled News Corp.’s bid to take over the rest of British Sky Broadcasting Group Plc, saying it harms the public interest.

In a joint letter, the director general of the BBC and the owners of newspapers including the Daily Telegraph and the Guardian demanded that Business Secretary Vince Cable challenge the deal. The companies wrote that the takeover would expand News Corp.’s control of U.K. media outlets. BBC, phone operator BT Group Plc and Channel Four Television Corp. confirmed sending the letter.

“We believe that the proposed takeover could have serious and far-reaching consequences for media plurality,” according to the letter posted on the Financial Times’ Alphaville website.

Murdoch’s News Corp. in June offered 7.8 billion pounds ($12.4 billion) in its initial bid for the 61 percent it doesn’t already own of BSkyB, the U.K.’s biggest pay-television operator. BSkyB rejected the offer as too little, and the final price of the deal won’t be negotiated until after regulatory approval is received. News Corp. owns the Times, Sunday Times and the Sun newspapers in the U.K.

Pearson Plc’s Financial Times said in an editorial last month that Cable should examine the deal. The combination of News Corp. with BSkyB would create a “formidable beast,” which “might dominate the media scene, lock out challengers and stifle diversity of debate,” it said.

BBC Director-General Mark Thompson said in an interview on the “Charlie Rose” program that the deal raises “questions that should be looked at.”

‘Potential Ownership’

“Given the scale of the potential ownership in U.K. media, there’s a strong case for looking at it systemically and deciding whether or not anything needs to be done to address the issue,” he said in the interview broadcast on Bloomberg TV.

Trinity Mirror Group Plc, the Telegraph Media Group, the Guardian Media Group, and BT, the U.K.’s biggest phone company, signed the letter. BT has expanded into TV services and offers BSkyB’s Sky Sports 1 and Sky Sports 2 at a discount.

The business department has received the letter, according to a spokeswoman, who declined to be identified in line with government policy.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jonathan Browning in London jbrowning9@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Vidya Root at vroot@bloomberg.net.

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