Consumer 'Never Had It So Good' - Murdoch; No Problem: Rupert Murdoch Dismissed Worries over His Company's 18% Stake in ITV

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Byline: NICK GOODWAY

RUPERT MURDOCH today shrugged off claims that BSkyB's stake in ITV wasbad for competition and consumers.

The Competition Commission is likely to tell the satellite broadcaster it mustsell all or part of the 18% stake it bought for [pounds sterling]940 million a year ago, butMurdoch claimed the British consumer has never had more choice.

The BSkyB chairman, who is a 39% shareholder through his News Corp, toldshareholders at today's annual meeting: "Competition is great for consumers.

History has shown that it is competition and free markets which deliver real,sustainable value." BSkyB chief executive James Murdoch has offered to put someof the ITV stake into an independent trust to cut the group's voting rights toless than 15%. That was rejected by rival Virgin Media, which believes Skyshould be forced to sell its entire stake.

If that were to happen, Sky would take a loss of more than [pounds sterling]200 million.

Sky effectively blocked Virgin's plans to merge with ITV last year, and hassince taken its basic channels off the cable firm's network. That has cost itabout [pounds sterling]15 million of profit each quarter.

Murdoch Snr said: "Our beliefs are simple but powerful. We believe in better.

Better choice for our customers, better quality for our customers, betterservice for our customers and better value. British consumers enjoy betterchoice, better quality and better value in entertainment and communicationsthan ever before. This is a direct result of the dynamic and competitive marketplace that Sky has helped create. …