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British rival media say BSkyB go ahead is whitewash

LONDON, March 3, 2011 – An alliance of British media groups including BT, the Telegraph Media Group and Guardian Media Group said Thursday that the government go-ahead for News Corp.\’s bid for full control of BSkyB was a "whitewash."

The group, which bitterly opposes the deal, said it will "vigorously contest" the government\’s decision to allow News Corp. to proceed with a bid that rivals believe should be blocked on competition grounds.

A spokesman for the alliance dismissed the proposal by Rupert Murdoch\’s News Corp. to spin off its Sky News TV channel to allay such concerns as "pure window-dressing.

"Smoke and mirrors will not protect media plurality in the UK from the overweening influence of News Corporation," the spokesman said.

"In addition, the undertaking does nothing to address the profound concerns that the takeover would give News Corporation greater power to restrict or distort competition through cross-promotion, bundling, banning rivals\’ advertisements and distorting the advertising market with cross-platform deals."

The spokesman added: "We shall be vigorously contesting this whitewash of a proposal during the consultation period, as well as examining all legal options."

The proposal to spin off the loss-making Sky News allowed Britain\’s Culture Minister Jeremy Hunt to give the green light for News Corp.\’s bid to take control of the some 60 percent of the shares in BSkyB it does not already own.

The deal now faces a period of consultations before Hunt announces his final decision on March 21.

The alliance of those opposed to the deal also includes Trinity Mirror, publishers of The Mirror tabloids which are in close competition with The Sun and the Sunday tabloid News of the World, both owned by News Corp.

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Associated Newspapers, owners of the popular Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday tabloids, and Northcliffe Media also oppose the deal.

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