Murdoch declares that he is not a Euro-sceptic

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The Independent Online
RUPERT MURDOCH yesterday softened his opposition to Britain's membership of a European single currency when he declared that he was not a Euro-sceptic.

In what appeared to be a dramatic shift of opinion, Mr Murdoch said he had "always supported the idea of a European Union" and added that European- wide media could be more effective than a political union in bringing the people of Europe together.

If, as a result of his remarks, the Murdoch-owned Sun and The Times were to soften their Euro-sceptic stance, it could remove one of the main obstacles to Tony Blair's robust lead on Britain's entry to the euro.

Mr Murdoch's comments coincided with the launch of a new vehicle to invest in pay-television on the Continent. The venture, in Italy, is his latest attempt to break into the increasingly important European media market.

In June, The Sun asked whether Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, was the most dangerous man in Britain because of his plans to abolish the pound by signing up to European monetary union.

Mr Murdoch has been actively involved with anti-European movements in the UK. Earlier this year he wrote to Business for Sterling, a group of industrialists set up to campaign against EMU, pledging his support.

However, close observers of Mr Murdoch were unsurprised by the change of heart. "Murdoch has always worn his politics extremely lightly and never let it get in the way of his business interests," one said.

Mr Murdoch's change of tone took Downing Street by surprise. Mr Blair's official spokesman showed the frustration in Downing Street by accusing The Sun and The Times of spreading scare stories about the euro.

The Prime Minister's spokesman welcomed the letter in yesterday's Financial Times by more than 100 business leaders supporting an early signal towards entry.

Murdoch in Italian pay-TV venture, page 4