Some say it can (The BBC’s Robert Peston who points out that the putative deal with BSkyB is likely to mean a 14-year news provider’s licence in practice), others, like former Sky News boss Andrew Neil, speaking on the BBC, are more doubtful.
Sky News is going to be hived off as a separate UK listed company if Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation succeeds in buying the 61 per cent of BSkyB it doesn’t already own. As Pesto also points out at even 850p a share (the shares are trading north of 800p) this will require Murdoch to shell out £9.1bn, which he may not agree to do.
BSkyB will account for 85 per cent of Sky News’ revenues under such an arrangement so it’s a funny sort of independence (a bit like Ocado delivering for Waitrose). Andrew Neil, for one, thinks that’s not really tenable and reminds us that, under these arrangements, the shareholding within Sky News will mirror those at BSkyB currently, which means that News will still own 39 per cent.
And, in a delicious phrase, the former Sunday Times editor says that Murdoch took an ‘Italian’ attitude to negotiations (I hope he wasn’t thinking of ‘bunga bunga’ fan Silvio Berlusconi), meaning that the hard negotiations began after the deal was supposedly done.
Under this scenario Sky News would remain a handmaiden of the Murdochs (even though they’re not allowed to chair the company) and, sooner or later, would be brought back into the News Corporation fold to prevent its collapse.
And culture secretary Jeremy Hunt who’s waved the deal through (and to be fair Hunt’s been pretty impressive under fire so far) will have been duped by the wily Australian.
Well we’ll see. But first we have to see the colour of Rupert’s money.