Monday, 22 July 2013

News Corp / BskyB news

It's been a while since I blogged about this, but things are hotting up again for a variety of reasons.

Most notably, the secret recording of Rupert Murdoch's candid chat with staff from the Sun, that was released to the world by the excellent Exaro News, has set all kinds of things moving. First Rupert Murdoch has been called back in front of the DCMS select committee to explore the differences between what he said on the tape, and what he has said previously. Personally, given what we saw in 2011, I wouldn't expect a lot from this, but worth keeping an eye on.

Second, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act continues to loom in the background. Rupert Murdoch was asked about this on an analyst call and (largely) denied a Michael Wolff article suggesting that a record settlement with the DoJ was imminent. On these points I have come across an academic expert on the FCPA who has blogged on why a News Corp settlement might not be a blockbuster, but also (an oldie) why News Corp can be caught by the Act.

Third, in turn, Ofcom has confirmed to Exaro News that it will be having another look at the 'fit and proper' test in relation to BskyB. On first glance, this might seem to pose little threat, since Murdoch Senior is not on the board (whereas James Murdoch was chair). However, it's worth remembering that as part of the recent News Corp split, the company's shareholding in BSkyB also has to be dealt with. A recent BSkyB RNS shows that this is now held by 21st Century Fox, the broadcasting bit of the Murdoch empire. The importance of this is that at Fox Rupert Murdoch is still combined chair and CEO, whereas at 'new' News Corp he is the (backseat driving?) executive chair. In other words, his personal influence is, at least formally, much stronger in the former.

That may give Ofcom a reason to have a look, but it's clear the tape that has been made public may not be the end of the story. In September the trials of current and former News International journalists, including Andy Coulson and Rebekah Brooks, begin. As the existence of the leaked recording shows, trust has broken down inside the company. This does lead you to wonder if people with nothing to lose will start talking. Indeed, some news that has made it into the papers already suggests that they will.

And I bet there is still more to come...

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