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Media briefs: Murdoch deal … A-teams … keeping the embargo …

The Murdochs stand to benefit from a new mega-deal…. Plus the papers’ budget A-teams, and why we can’t break the budget embargo…

Sky mega-merger deal for Murdochs. It’s a typical Rupert Murdoch deal — using other people’s money to further the family’s corporate and dynastic ambitions. It has happened in all arms of the company: buying the Shine TV production company (which was the plaything of daughter Elisabeth) and handing her US$248 million in profits was a recent example. And 21st Century Fox has so far used more than US$9 billion of its money (which is owned by all the shareholders, not just the Murdoch family and their 12% stake in both the voting and non-voting shares) since mid-2011 (when it was the original News Corp) to buy back shares and boost the share price.

Now the family wants the 39% owned London-based BSkyB to be the vehicle to rationalise the family company’s (21st Century Fox) satellite TV businesses in Germany (Sky Deutschland) and Italy (Sky Italia) into one giant business — which would return Murdoch to his original ambition of a pan-European Sky TV empire three decades ago. It’s a deal that could hand more than US$7.5 billion to the Murdoch family company 21st Century Fox. The estimated US$10 billion cost of the deal will be borne by the 60% of BSkyB shareholders who aren’t members or associates of the Murdoch family. No wonder shares in 21st Century Fox Inc jumped 3.1 overnight Monday in New York — investors rightly picked it as the big winner if the deal goes ahead because Fox won’t be required to take on debt to help finance the deal, and will get billions of dollars from BSkyB to add to its already substantial cash pile of US$5.5 billion at the end of the March 2014 quarter.

Some of that cash can then be reinvested in BSkyB to help finance any equity issue needed to support the huge deal. It’s a win-win situation for the Murdochs — Rupert, sons Lachlan and James (who are on the board of Fox) and second daughter Elisabeth, who isn’t. Shares in Sky Deutschland, 57% owned by Fox, jumped 9.5%, and BSkyB shares fell 2.4% as investors smartly sorted out who would be the winners and losers from the latest grandiose mega-merger plan. The 3.1% rise in Fox shares was the real signal from the market that the deal is a winner for the Murdoch family. But London investment analysts and shareholders in BSkyB aren’t happy with the deal and the mooted plan to load billions of dollars of debt onto BSkyB (which had around US$2.7 billion in debt at the end of March). Funding a cash deal for Sky Deutschland (57% owned by Fox) and Sky Italia (100% owned) could cause BSkyB’s debt to jump to more than US$10 billion. —  Glenn Dyer

Papers roll out the A-team for budget. It’s that special time of year when the best and brightest of our media outlets are locked deep in the bowels of Parliament House for six-and-a-half hours to pore over (and produce sparkling copy explaining) the budget. Not surprisingly, every outlet claims its journalists will deliver the best budget coverage in Australia (which is ludicrous, as we know the best budget coverage will come from Crikey). Most papers have fanned their writers out, newsreader-style, in graphics spruiking their expertise. Let’s take a look at who’s covering Joe Hockey’s night of nights …

First up we have The Australian’s posse, in human pyramid form, with heavy hitters Peter van Onselen, Judith Sloan and Alan Kohler joined by economist Henry Ergas  …

The Australian budget

The Daily Telegraph is sending chief political reporter Simon Benson and state political reporter Andrew Clennell, along with conservative commentators Miranda Devine and Piers Akerman …

Telegraph budget

Over at Fairfax, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age are sending superstars Adele Ferguson, Mark Kenny and Peter Martin (the SMH is spruiking Peter Hartcher and Ross Gittins along with Ferguson, but we’re tipping much of the copy will be shared across titles) …

The Age budget

And the Herald Sun spruiks analysis by Terry McCrann and Andrew Bolt, but the picture would have you believe that the most important players in its budget coverage will be ordinary mums and dads, just like you …

Herald Sun budget

Why you have to wait until 7.30. Why not just break the embargo on the budget and release information from the lock-up? Well, because they’re not mucking around with enforcing the cone of silence. Journalists entering the Parliament House lock-down this afternoon have to sign up to strict criteria …

And the penalty for breaking the embargo? Potential imprisonment for two years. Sorry, but we just don’t think we’d do well in the slammer — you’ll have to be patient.

Video of the day. So what’s life like for journalists locked up today? The ABC’s Mark Simkin explains …

2
  • 1
    klewso
    Posted Tuesday, 13 May 2014 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

    Clackerman will handle the white-wash?

  • 2
    Electric Lardyland
    Posted Tuesday, 13 May 2014 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

    If that’s the Australian’s A-team, I’d hate to see their B-team.
    Oh! I’ve just seen it on the cover of the Telegraph. I’m sure we’ll get some nice fair and balanced reporting there.

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