Murdoch’s Asia foray dealt blow

Rupert Murdoch’s plans to expand his satellite-delivered entertainment empire into Asia were struck a blow last week with the Chinese signaling disapproval of News Corp.’s recent bid for a piece of Hong Kong-based Television Broadcasts Ltd. (TVB).

News Corps. is awaiting Hong Kong government permission to buy a 22% — or $ 240 million — stake of the TV entertainment group founded by aging showbiz tycoon Sir Run Run Shaw.

Murdoch was hoping through TVB to participate in an informal alliance of English-language program channels, including CNN and HBO, which would rival Star TV’s satellite dominance in the Pacific Rim.

China and its 1.2 billion inhabitants are considered the long-range target for Murdoch’s foray into the Far East.

Any decision by the Hong Kong authorities is bound to be influenced by China, which has warned Britain’s colonial administrators repeatedly that contracts and agreements made without its approval will be revoked when the colony is retaken in l997.

In what sources say is a pointed reference to News Corp., a statement issued late Thursday by the New China News Agency suggested the colony’s government should examine “the impact of bringing in foreign forces to internationalize Hong Kong.”

The statement also advised the Hong Kong government to check if bringing in “foreign forces” would either contravene the spirit of existing legislation or not serve the public interest.

The NCNA is China’s de facto consulate in Hong Kong and regularly issues official statements on behalf of the mainland government.

Hong Kong Broadcasting Authority official Kan Ho Hau-wan said Hong Kong’s media policy generally frowned upon excessive media cross-ownership.

Kan also said laws were currently being drafted to address the inconsistency in banning ownership of both TV and radio stations, while allowing cross-ownership of newspapers with either a TV or a radio station.

News Corp. already has major stakes in local newspapers, the English-lingo South China Morning Post and the Chinese-language Wah Kiu Yat Po.