Murdoch Jr. gets approval for Australia TV network bid

Sydney (AFP) –


News Corporation co-chair Lachlan Murdoch got the green light to bid for Australia's third-largest television network on Thursday, a deal that would see his media empire extend its huge reach Down Under.

Australia's competition watchdog said it would not oppose the potential takeover of troubled broadcaster Ten Network but added approval would be subject to a shake-up in Canberra's strict media ownership laws.

Ten has been on air since 1964 but like other media organisations has struggled with slumping advertising revenues and in June was placed in voluntary administration.

The network posted a net loss in September-February of Aus$232 million (US$183 million).

Murdoch, the son of media titan Rupert, said in July he was eyeing a joint bid for the company alongside media mogul Bruce Gordon, who owns regional network WIN.

A takeover by Murdoch's investment company Illyria and Gordon's Birketu would give them each a 50 percent share.

"While this transaction will result in some reduction in diversity across the Australian media landscape, we have concluded it would not substantially lessen competition," said Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) chairman Rod Sims.

Murdoch is co-chair of News Corp, whose Australian division is the country's largest publisher and owner of major metropolitan newspapers The Australian, Sydney's The Daily Telegraph and Melbourne's Herald Sun.

But he and others remain restricted in the country by tough media ownership laws introduced in the 1980s.

Under existing legislation, proprietors are blocked from owning television, radio and newspaper assets in the same city, while metropolitan and regional broadcasters are barred from merging.

Several companies have called for the laws to be scrapped, arguing they do not account for digital media platforms and new publishers like Google.

The Australian government unveiled plans to change the rules in March, with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull agreeing they had been "out of date for years".

In Britain, News Corp's 21st Fox is awaiting approval for its proposed buyout of European television giant Sky.