Murdoch holds fire on HK television bid: US regulators allow media tycoon to buy New York Post to save jobs

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The Independent Online
RUPERT MURDOCH'S News Corporation has deferred its bid to take a stake in a Hong Kong's television station following opposition within the colony and from mainland China.

The HKdollars 1.85bn ( pounds 162m) offer for a 22.2 per cent stake in Television Broadcasting was revealed two weeks ago. It was set to make Mr Murdoch a key player in the battle for Asia's growing television audiences.

Peking's views were made known by an official of the local branch of the New China News Agency, China's de facto embassy in the territory, who was quoted as saying the Hong Kong government 'must act strictly according to the existing law in dealing with the issue'.

Local opposition was expressed earlier this week in a debate held in Hong Kong's parliament, the Legislative Council.

News Corporation's surprise announcement said it needed more time to 're-examine the structure' of the proposal and had asked that consideration by regulatory bodies be deferred.

China's objections have focused on the issue of foreign ownership of Hong Kong's local television stations. But the main attraction of TVB to News Corporation is as a way into the regional market through satellite in competition with the existing player, Star TV.

Analysts were unsure whether News Corporation planned to tinker with its proposals or completely revise them. John Ure, a media expert at Hongkong University's Centre for Asian Studies, said: 'It would appear the deal had not been discussed with the Chinese side first.

'It is possible that they will restructure the bid so that News Corporation is mainly involved in the regional satellite proposals, possibly using a joint venture vehicle.'

Mr Murdoch has ambitions to become a media player inside China and would probably not want to jeopardise other plans at this stage by annoying Peking.

According to Hong Kong law, non-residents cannot own more than 10 per cent of a local television company without an exemption. Mr Murdoch, with interests in the colony's leading English and Chinese newspapers, would also fall foul of local cross-media ownership laws.

WASHINGTON - Federal regulators in a landmark decision yesterday gave Mr Murdoch permission to buy the New York Post while owning WNYW-TV in New York City - saying hundreds of jobs were at stake.

The New York Post, which Mr Murdoch rescued from almost certain closure two months ago, planned to tell a US bankruptcy court today that it would shut the paper unless the regulators approved the purchase. The Federal Communications Commission's 2-1 decision is the first time the government has waived its rules against letting a single owner hold both a daily newspaper and a television station in the same city.

Commissioner Andrew Barrett, who dissented, said he feared the waiver would start a trend among financially troubled newspapers and television networks.

(Photograph omitted)

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