By Ray Fleming

THOSE opposing the proposal by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation to take control of the 61 per cent of BSkyB that it does not already own will claim that yesterday's decision by the Business Secretary Vince Cable means that they have won round one. The opposition includes the owners of the Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail, Daily Mirror, Guardian, Channel 4 TV and the BBC.

Three weeks ago this group asked Mr Cable to refer News Corporation's application for approval of its 12bn pound bid to the independent quango Ofcom and yesterday he did just that by using his powers under the Enterprise Act and asking for a report by 31 December. The European Commission also has an interest in this matter and has asked its experts for a preliminary opinion before the end of the year.

For Mr Murdoch the issue is money. For his opponents it is media plurality in Britain which they believe will be seriously reduced by a further strengthening of News Corporation's stake; it owns 37 per cent of the national newspaper market -- from The Times and Sunday Times to the Sun and News of the World -- and the proposed deal would add to its existing dominance in the pay TV market. The range of differing interests and political outlooks among the newspapers and TV organisations that have come together on this matter shows how important it is.


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