Rupert makes a deal with John Malone. According to a report on The New York Times website today Rupert Murdoch and John Malone have done a deal. The paper reported that “News Corp had agreed to buy out Mr. Malone’s big stake in the company in exchange for a controlling stake in DirecTV, cash and other assets valued at $US11 billion, according to people briefed on the transaction.” The agreement came after more than two years of on-and-off talks. Malone raided News Corp when Murdoch moved the company’s domicile to the US from Australia in late 2004, a move that exposed him and his fortune in a way he and his advisers had not foreseen. Barring any last minutes problems Malone’s Liberty Media group will acquire News Corp’s 39% stake in DirecTV as well as some $US550 million in cash and other operating assets in a transaction that will allow both sides to avoid paying taxes. News will simultaneously retire Liberty’s 19% voting stake in it, in what amounts to a huge stock buyback, meaning his stake in News will rise from 31% to 36%. It means Murdoch is out of the satellite TV business in the world’s biggest media market. — Glenn Dyer

James Murdoch shows he’s a chip of the old block. Rupert Murdoch’s son, James, is a “made man” after proving himself a chip off the old man by seeing off Richard Branson’s attempts to take control of Britain’s commercial TV broadcaster, ITV. Through BSkyB young James splurged $2.3 billion to snatch a defensive 17% of ITV, as Branson’s NTL cable and Telco group moved to merge with ITV. Branson’s merger would have been worth around $11.5 billion. Not helping Branson’s chances was the defection of the head of the BBC, Sir Michael Grade, to ITV as executive chairman. He is a very experienced commercial and public broadcasting executive from a famous British film and TV family. NTL said it doubted acceptable terms could be struck on which to transact the merger after Murdoch’s raid. That will please James and position him nicely to succeed Dad. After all he used the old Murdoch charm last week to give British media law and regulation a good self-interested kicking and then accused the BBC of being paranoid. — Glenn Dyer

Citizen Murdoch speaks. It looks like Rupert’s citizenship change has finally filtered down to the Oz rural desk. This byline-less piece on plunging cattle prices twice refers to “ranchers” having trouble with the drought and being unsure of whether they can feed their animals. After the auction they no doubt drive their pickups to the local saloon for a couple of Buds, unless they have to get back to the ranch to feed their hogs. — Michael Pascoe

Seven’s Sydney weatherperson sets sail. Are we about to see a significant change in the on-air staff of the weeknight Seven 6pm News in Sydney? I don’t mean reader Ian Ross or any of the sports hosts: I mean the second most important person in the team – the person reading the weather. There are stories around Seven’s Martin Place newsroom that Nula Hafner, the ebullient, highly entertaining and very competent weatherperson, is leaving and going to London. It would seem the lack of any serious attempt to keep her has surprised some who work at Seven. Her partner, Sydney reporter, Phil Black is also said to be London bound. Her replacement isn’t Laura Csortan, who was flicked as a presenter of Seven’s struggling travel program The Great Outdoors. It is said to be a reporter from Beyond Tomorrow, Sara Groen. — Glenn Dyer

Last night’s TV ratings. After the thrills of the final hour and a bit of the second Ashes Test on Tuesday, and audiences of more than two million people for the Nine Network, it was back to summer viewing last night for everyone. The Nine Network won a narrow victory last night in the prime time battle, 25.2% to Seven’s 25.1% in what was a very even night’s viewing, with the ABC close up for third with 23.1%. Ten was on 19.9% and SBS on 6.7%. Nine won Sydney and Melbourne: Seven was second in Sydney and third in Melbourne behind the ABC. In Brisbane Nine and Seven dead heated in share terms with 25.1% each. But Seven won Adelaide 27.3% to 23.8% for Nine and in Perth Seven won with 29.3% from the ABC with 24.6%, Ten on 19.7% and Nine with 19.3%. — Glenn Dyer

Peter Fray

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