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November 15, 2003Murdoch flexes his muscles. Rupert Murdoch came back to town - London town that is. The media magnate whose empire embraces the US, the UK and his native Australia arrived for the coronation of son James as CEO of satellite broadcaster BSkyB - one of two big beasts (along with the BBC, of course) on the British media landscape. A rumoured shareholder rebellion against the Rupert-James combination failed to materialize.
In separate interviews Rupert told BBC Economics Editor Jeff Randall (November 14) that, if James didn't measure up he would "of course" have to go. And James told Money Telegraph's Robert Peston in "Facing Down Dad" that he worked for the Board and not his father.
Now the pair (and the BSky Board) can contemplate a possible takeover of Channel 5 following the UK's recent relaxation of cross-media ownership rules: The bigger prize of the now combined (Carlton-Granada) ITV Plc, open to operators not already active in UK broadcasting, is still denied him.
In the Randall interview Mr Murdoch also flexed his newspaper proprietor's political muscles. Welcoming new Tory leader Michael Howard in term's of the offical Opposition party's credibility, Murdoch hinted that his best-selling Sun daily tabloid- a key element in the PR strategy associated with Tony Blair's 1997 and 2001 New Labour election landslides - could not be counted on for support next time. Murdoch also owns the Times and Sunday Times, two of the most influential broadsheets.
Whilst acknowledging the British PM's "courage in the international sphere"(a reference to the Bush-Blair alliance over Iraq), he implied that the Tories might have more attractive policies to resist intrusion on British sovereignty by the new EU constitution.
Teasingly he said he had good relations with both Tony Blair and Michael Howard, adding "the jury is out".