9 Jul 2011

Murdoch drawn to UK over fears for BSkyB bid

Rupert Murdoch is due in London as the News of the World draws to a close its 168 years in print and a storm brews over News Corporation’s takeover bid for BSkyB.

Rupert Murdoch is expected to arrive in the UK as the News of the World closes and BSkyB shares take fright (Image: Getty)

Despite Mr Murdoch’s ruthless move to close the jewel in his tabloid crown, contagion from the fallout of the phone hacking allegations at the News of the World now threatens to spread to the rest of his empire, endangering his takeover bid for UK satellite broadcaster BSkyB.

The broadcast regulator Ofcom said it would be consulting the police, MPs and the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) to establish whether the behaviour of News International means that News Corp should under go a “fit and proper” test for owning a broadcast licence.

According to Ofcom if a test is run, it would not happen until after a police investigation, which could take as long as two years.

BSkyB investors took fright on Friday, as a dramatic day of two arrests and the announcement of two public inquiries sent shares in the group tumbling almost 8 per cent.

Hedge funds began to dump their positions and investor confidence waned amid speculation that the takeover attempt may fail.

But with plans for his global empire remaining unstable, Mr Murdoch’s headache is far from over.

The day the World ended
News of the World editor Colin Myler tells staff they have made "enormous sacrifices" for their parent company News Corporation, as they prepare the tabloid's last edition.
In an emotional email to more than 200 staff at the Sunday tabloid, Mr Myler paid tribute to the hard work and dedication of his staff. The latter tweeted out comments and photos capturing the mood of the last day at the NOTW.
Read more: The day the World ended

Labour’s Ivan Lewis has called for an immediate cross-party discussion with a judge to be put in place.

In a letter to the Prime Minister, the shadow culture secretary said: “In view of the fact that the News of the World is shutting down, it is a matter of great urgency that any documentary evidence, including files and emails, is preserved to enable a proper inquiry into these serious allegations to take place.”

The letter, which stated that the inquiry’s terms of reference should be agreed with the judge “as soon as practicably possible”.

Fallout spreads beyond NOTW

Meanwhile, in a further financial blow to Mr Murdoch, Renault has announced it will also be pulling its advertising from all of Mr Murdoch’s British newspapers – The Sun, The Times and the Sunday Times, following the phone hacking allegations.

It is believed the car manufacturer spent £266,000 on advertisements from January to May this year.

The Church of England joined the fray, threatening to pull nearly £4m in investments from the News of the World’s parent company News Corp.

The Church’s ethical investment advisory group (EIAG) said it had written to News Corp insisting that the board takes “all necessary measures” to instil investor confidence in the ethical and governance standards of News Corp.

We cannot imagine circumstances in which we would be satisfied with any outcome that does not hold senior executives to account at News Corporation. News Corp investors EIAG

“We cannot imagine circumstances in which we would be satisfied with any outcome that does not hold senior executives to account at News Corporation for the gross failures of management at the News of the World,” a statement from the EIAG said.

Earlier this week big named brands such as Debenhams, Ford, Vauxhall, Mitsubishi, Virgin Holidays and the Co-operative Group were quick to pull their advertising from the red top as the scandal unfolded with unprecedented speed, all this before the paper announced its closure on Thursday.

The company also offered its final advertising space, for no charge, to a number of major charities like the Salvation Army and the RSPCA – which declined.

But the Disasters Emergency Committee, running the East Africa drought appeal accepted following consultation with their members Oxfam and Cafod.

The newstands will be furnished with an extra two million copies of the tabloid paper the News of the World – almost doubling the tabloid’s usual print run.

The final edition of the paper will not contain any commercial advertisements and its revenue is expected to go to good causes.

Mr Murdoch is expected to arrive in the UK on Sunday to confront the crisis, but there has been no confirmation by News International of his travel plans.