Lords to pile pressure on Murdoch's BSkyB buyout

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The Independent Online

Plans by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation for a 100 per cent takeover of the satellite broadcaster BSkyB will come under concerted attack in the House of Lords today.

Lord Puttnam will tell his fellow peers that the buy-out would make Mr Murdoch the most dominant media figure in any democracy in the developed world, with a greater share of the sector than even Silvio Berlusconi's in Italy. Lord Puttnam, the deputy chairman of Channel 4, will tell the Lords that the level of control that News Corp would exert "is one that would not be tolerated in any other democracy, certainly not the United States".

Yesterday News Corp formally notified the European Commission of its intention to acquire the remaining 61 per cent of shares of BSkyB. The commission has 25 days to examine the merits of the deal on competition grounds. The House of Lords debate is designed to encourage Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, to block the deal by referring it to the media regulator Ofcom, which could recommend a plurality review by the Competition Commission. Lord Puttnam will tell the House of Lords that when he entered Parliament in 1997, the published revenues of BSkyB represented only 63 per cent of the income generated by the BBC through the licence fee. He will say that in the past 13 years BSkyB's income has grown to 163 per cent of the BBC's budget and will forecast that it will be at 220 per cent by the new licence fee settlement in 2016.

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