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Citizen Murdoch to be caned?

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I worked for BSkyB from 1995-1997 when I created what was to become, a computer television channel for families. I was lucky enough to travel to Seattle, Washington, DC, NY, LA and Silicon Valley to witness the birth of the Net Generation and the launch of Netscape then the largest IPO in history. I raised $20m for my channel but it was sequestered by News Corp at a News International board meeting by the boss himself.

BSkyB was the fastest moving media company in the UK in the late 1990s and has kept that position for over 10 years whilst at different times ITV and C4 seemed to have been led by headless chickens whilst the BBC's arrogance and over-paid executives couldn't see the wood for the cheque books.

BSkyB has shown a clean pair of heals to all of the rest of the UK's television media players - a first with HD, with 3D, with playback, with apps topped off with a  range of other products including broadband. It still leads the way in sport and films and its inward investment is programming has reached £300m p.a.

I met Rupert Murdoch on the Fox lot in LA for lunch in either 2004 or 2005 along with other MPs. He was accompanied by two minders just in case he needed to revert to them (they remained silent as lambs). He fielded our questions without hesitation and with profound understanding of the new media landscape. he could even tell us what the price per minute of the broadcast costs for different satellite systems. No other media mogul could have carried such information at his finger tips. That's what's so impressive about him. An outsider in Australia, in America and in the UK, he may have been, but goodness he has shaken the world.  

And yet, before Christmas, I wrote to Vince Cable MP, Secretary of State for Business, opposing News Corp's take-over of BSkyB. I want UK media to be owned by UK citizens. I think it wrong one player has so much control over content even if convergence is moving finally to some kind of end game.   

Today, Citizen Murdoch arrives in London to save his company's reputation and financial future.

He will have to delay the launch of SUNday - the Sunday newspaper which will replace the News of the World creating finally a seven day newspaper based on the Sun. He could take a hit on his bottom line of over £100m for the withdrawal of the NotW (loss of profits and a possible class action by sacked journos). He cannot launch SUNday (would he dare call it the SUNday World?) until he has resolved his purchase of the remaining shares in BSkyB.

Jeremy Hunt MP, SoS for Culture, has already put back his decision until the Autumn by which time we might have started to see the full consequences of the hacking culture inside the NofW. The two inquiries announced this week (but postponed until after the police have finished their's) will be brought forward next week (otherwise Cameron is toast).

This is a defining moment for the PM.

He thought he had saved the NHS debate three weeks ago but his closeness to the Murdoch clan (though Rupert M has never been that impressed with him) could mean headlines for another two years as the police inquiry leads to court convictions. Hacking Murdoch is the new MPs Expenses crisis writ large.

If Cameron's star has finally begun to wane, Ed Miliband and his team has had a much more fruitful week. He has led the charge on Rebecca Brooks, on the PCC, on a judicial inquiry, on BSkyB and on the PM's closeness to the Clan. He may just have come of age.


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