U.K. opposition leader seeks to delay BSkyB deal

Rupert Murdoch arrived Sunday at the London offices of News Intl., the U.K. publishing arm of News Corp., to manage the crisis that has threatened to derail News Corp.’s proposed takeover of paybox BSkyB.

Murdoch was clutching the last edition of tabloid newspaper the News of the World, which ceased business Sunday after 168 years’ existence following mounting allegations of phone hacking and police bribery by its journalists and private investigators working on its behalf.

When asked whose decision it was to close the paper, Murdoch said, “It was a collective decision.”The News Corp. topper needs to turn the tide of public opinion that gained momentum last week as further revelations of alleged criminality by News of the World staff came to light, including the alleged hacking of phones of young murder victims and the families of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

News Corp. has been battling to win political approval for its proposed takeover of BSkyB. It had hoped the U.K. government would approve its purchase of the £12 billion ($19 billion) buyup of the 61% share of BSkyB stock it does not already own on Friday, but instead the government opted to delay its decision until September.

On Sunday leader of the U.K. Labour Party, Ed Miliband, announced he would introduce a motion in Parliament to seek to delay the BSkyB purchase still further.

The motion, if passed, would stop the deal from taking place until criminal investigations into the activities of News of the World staff have been concluded. The motion, which will be put before Parliament on Wednesday, is said to have the support of several leading members among the Liberal Democrats.

Media regulator Ofcom is also monitoring the situation. It has the power to remove News Corp.’s license to broadcast in the U.K., if it deems the company’s directors and controlling shareholders are not “fit and proper” people to hold a license.

Late last week, as the value of the paybox’s stock price continued to fall and advertiser, Renault, as well as the Church of England announced they were pulling advertisements from all News Intl. titles, analysts in the City of London were beginning to wonder if News Corp. might ever recover in its battle to own BSkyB outright.

Sam Hart, media analyst at broker Charles Stanley, told Media Guardian: “It could take years before the various inquiries have wound up.”

(Steve Clarke and the Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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