Rupert Murdoch took a swipe at rival media groups striving to block News Corp’s takeover of BSkyB and accused them of petty thinking. In what was billed as his first major speech in the UK since 1989, Murdoch tonight was the inaugural speaker of the Margaret Thatcher Lecture series at the UK’s conservative Center For Policy Studies in London. He said: “When the upstart is too successful, somehow the old interests surface, and restrictions on growth are proposed or imposed. That’s an issue for my company … These are small thinkers who believe their job is to cut the cake up rather than make it bigger.” Murdoch was referring to bosses of some of Britain’s biggest media groups — including the BBC, the Daily Mail, the Telegraph and Channel 4 — who have written a joint letter to British business secretary Vince Cable calling for him to intervene. The government minister has the power to refer News Corp’s proposal to UK media regulator Ofcom (equivalent of America’s FCC), potentially derailing the £8 billion takeover. BSkyB is likely to notify Brussels officially of News Corp’s takeover intentions by the end of October. That starts the clock for the business secretary, who has to make a decision on whether to intervene within 2 weeks after that.
In what at times was a self-effacing speech — at one point he referred to himself as a “parvenu” — Murdoch paid tribute to the former British prime minister and her legacy. Murdoch also hinted at the ongoing scandal over his News of the World journalists having tapped the phones of celebrities and politicians. Talking about News Corp journalists, he said: “Occasionally, I have had cause for regret.” U.S. media analyst Rich Greenfield today commented that “the timing of Murdoch’s speech is quite intriguing”, given the current political storm surrounding News Corp.’s attempted bid to acquire the remaining 61% of BSkyB that it does not already own and its relation to the phone hacking scandal. “We continue to expect News Corp. and BSkyB to formally submit their proposed transaction to EU and UK regulators in the coming weeks. We expect a very lengthy approval process, with OFCOM likely to weigh in and require detailed analysis.”