Malone, Murdoch pull out of Brit TV confab

Gov't decision on BBC channels up in air

LONDON — Rupert Murdoch and John Malone have pulled out of the Royal Television Society’s Cambridge Convention due to the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.

The duo’s heavily-trailed appearance at the U.K. TV industry’s top talking shop – which runs Sept. 13-15 – was to have been the centerpiece of the event, which takes place every two years.

The prospect of the News Corp chief and Liberty Media chairman, two of the world’s leading media players, speaking on the same platform had made the convention a hot ticket.

But Murdoch and Malone opting out was to be expected. American execs in the U.K. have expressed concern over what impact unfolding events might have – air travel within Europe, for example.

“We’re trying to maintain business as usual, as much as that’s possible in these times,” Josh Berger, senior VP and MD for Warner Bros international television Europe, said. “We do have sufficient lead times in terms of delivery of materials, so business at hand is not in question.”

“The future, however, is a matter of great concern for those in the television business outside of America. People are genuinely concerned about [President] Bush’s next move and how that will impact their lives and work.”

U.K. culture secretary Tessa Jowell, however, is still expected to appear at Cambridge. Whether she will announce the government’s long-awaited decision on whether the BBC can launch four new digital TV channels – BBC3, BBC4 and two kids services – is unknown.

It is also believed that some senior British TV execs, particularly those who work in news, will withdraw from the confab due to increased work load.

Steven Gaydos in London contributed to this story.

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